Mike Kueber's Blog

August 10, 2015

Donald Trump and the GOP debate

Filed under: Insurance,Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:08 pm
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Although I hadn’t planned to watch the Republican debate on Thursday, I did record it while attending a Happy Hour at Big Bob’s Burger with a bunch of former co-workers.  Then on Friday afternoon, I decided to give the debate a gander, and after getting by the awkward 10-minute preliminary event, I found the entire debate to be riveting.  Each question attacked the candidates at their most vulnerable point, and the one-minute limit for responses inexplicably kept the candidates from glossing over the question and switching to a nonresponsive talking point.

The candidates were mostly exemplary, but the 800-pound gorilla in the room was Donald Trump (a bull in the china closet).  He had a commanding lead in all of the polls and received the lion’s share of the media’s pre-debate attention.  In responding to the pointed debate questions, however, The Donald took a different tack.  To use a fencing analogy, his nature is not to bother with parrying the questioner’s attack; rather, he immediately responds with a riposte.  While the other candidates try to think of the questioners as merely doing their jobs, Trump sees it as an ad hominem attack.  Thus, the other candidates answered substantively while Trump stormed and blustered.

Even before the debate, I considered Trump to be a novelty and not a serious contender.  Surely, most Republicans would gravitate toward one of the other serious candidates.  The debate made this scenario even more likely.

But Trump’s treatment after the debate makes me want to defend him.  The media’s major post-debate criticism of Trump is that he made a childish suggestion that Megyn Kelly’s hormones caused her to ask him such nasty questions.  He said the following on CNN to Don Lemon:

  • “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”

The media almost universally assumed that Trump was suggesting that Megyn might have been on her period.  Since the media wasn’t in Trump’s mind, it should have at a minimum said that it was “inferring” that Trump was referring to her period.  Then the question could shift to the media to explain why it was inferring such nonsense.  Trump argued that only a deviant would infer such a thing.

Because I hadn’t heard the actual interview of Trump by Don Lemon, I went to You Tube and listened to it.  The quote pretty much speaks for itself, but a minute or two later on the interview, Trump shifted his pique to Chris Wallace, and charged that he, too, seemed to have blood coming out of his eyes.  I believe this second usage of blood coming out of the eyes of a questioner supports Trump’s assertion that he was using some obscure idiom involving blood coming out of a head without a misogynist intent.

Although I would never consider voting for Trump for any leadership position, I plan to speak up for him whenever the establishment treats him unfairly.

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November 8, 2013

Mental-health insurance and ObamaCare

Filed under: Insurance,Issues,Medical,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 8:11 pm
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Yesterday, an article in the New York Times proclaimed that recent ObamaCare regulations have completed “a generation-long effort to require insurers to cover care for mental health and addiction just like physical illnesses.”  Although most Americans were probably unaware of this effort, I was aware of it because I remember learning many years ago at a previous employer about the generous mental-health coverage that was required in all employer-provided health insurance (ERISA).

At that time, the federal government had already interjected itself into micro-managing the contents of ERISA-based health insurance.  ObamaCare extends that micro-management into individually-purchased health insurance.

Back then, when I heard about this mandatory coverage (I believe Senator Al Gore was a big proponent), I was opposed for both personal and economic reasons.  The personal reason was that I knew someone who had been going to a therapist almost her entire life, and this treatment didn’t seem necessary.  Instead, it seemed she enjoyed having someone she could talk to.  The economic reason was that people who wouldn’t consider obtaining mental-health treatment shouldn’t be required to contribute to the insurance pool to pay for such treatment.  Ditto – maternity coverage.

America is not ready for socialism (from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs).

August 25, 2012

How much liability insurance is enough?

Filed under: Insurance — Mike Kueber @ 5:56 pm
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An op-ed piece by Ron Lieber in today’s NY Times discusses a subject that was near and dear to my heart as a career auto-insurance attorney – i.e., how much liability insurance is enough?  The subject has renewed interest for me now because I am currently deciding whether to renew my $1 million umbrella policy that I have on top of my $300k auto-liability coverage.

I have always felt that the insurance industry and its consumers fundamentally misunderstood this subject, and I was optimistic that the august NY Times would use its renowned critical-thinking skills to develop a new framework for selecting liability limits.  Boy, was I disappointed.

The major flaw in the op-ed piece is that it unnecessarily complicates itself by including several references to uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM coverage).  UM/UIM coverage and liability coverage are fundamentally different coverages and the factors that should be considered in selecting the amounts of coverage are different.  Because the scope of this op-ed piece was to discuss the factors relevant to deciding how much liability insurance is enough, there is no good reason for discussing UM/UIM coverage other than giving Lieber an excuse to start the op-ed piece with a long description of a scandalous trial in which Progressive ostensibly fought to blame its insured for an accident and defend the actions of the uninsured/underinsured driver.  To avoid ruining the story, Lieber fails to explain that is exactly what UM/UIM insurance is designed to do – i.e., it is liability coverage that insureds buy for the uninsured or underinsured drivers so that the insureds have a source of recovery for their damages incurred in an accident with the uninsured/underinsured drivers.

After wasting much verbiage on UM/UIM coverage, Lieber provides some relevant and useful liability-coverage information regarding (a) the likelihood of large liability claims that might exceed modest liability limits, (b) the small cost to increase those limits to $1 million, (c) the amount of an individual’s current and future assets, and (d) the practical risk to individuals who are subject to large judgments that exceed their liability limits (house and 401k are usually protected).  Based on these factors, Lieber concludes that he is willing to buy peace of mind by spending an additional $25 a month.    

Although Lieber’s four-point analysis is helpful, it contains three flaws:

  1. $1 million of coverage.  Umbrella policies typically start with $1 million of coverage, but offer limits up to $5 million.  Lieber assumes peace-of-mind is achieved by $1 million of coverage, but fails to apply his factors to higher limits that are available.
  2. Coverage vis-à-vis assets.  Insurance companies often suggest there should be a direct correlation between the amount of an individual’s non-protected assets and the amount of the individual’s liability coverage.  This suggestion incorrectly assumes that a bankruptcy would be more devastating to a person who has $3 million in assets than it would be to a person with only $500k in assets.  That is not necessarily true.  A more relevant factor would be whether the bankrupted person has an opportunity to rebuild an estate.  Thus, a bankruptcy to someone approaching retirement with $500k in assets would be more devastating than a bankruptcy to a young wunderkind who already has $3 million in assets.
  3. Ability to pay.  Lieber attempts to sidestep this issue, which I think is the most important, by placing the cost of $1 million in umbrella coverage at $25 a month, which he assumes everyone can pay.  That position fails to recognize that for some individuals $25 a month is a major sacrifice.  By contrast, others can easily pay more than $25 a month and those people should consider the elevated peace-of-mind that would come with $2-5 million of umbrella coverage.  

Based on Lieber’s factors and mine, I think that continuing my umbrella policy makes economic sense.  Plus, although Lieber failed to mention it, an umbrella policy covers several types of liability claims that aren’t covered by an auto or homeowners/renters policy. 

For me, money well spent.