Insurance Industry Information Online

Article excerpt

Insurance Industry Information Online

Should anyone ask me to name America's most schizophrenic industry, I would have to nominate the insurance industry. Consider the slogans from some major insurance companies: the "good hands" of Allstate; under the "Traveler's umbrella"; Mutual of Omaha with "people you can count on". These slogans portray the insurance industry as warm and fuzzy.

Insurance advertisements, on the other hand, often employ scare techniques. How will you pay the hospital bills after a serious accident? Who will take care of the nursing home payments for you or your elderly relative? Your life savings will be wiped out unless you buy health insurance/Medigap insurance/nursing home insurance/home health insurance, ad infinitum.

Confronted with these opposing views of the industry, the general public has reacted with hostility. The press has not been kind to the insurance industry, perhaps as a recognition of its internal schizophrenia. Business Week, in a front-page article (August 21, 1989), says the industry is "under siege." Even the insurance trade publication, National Underwriter, in an article also dated August 21st, bemoans the "long slide" of the industry's image. California's Proposition 103 revealed voters' deep-seated antagonism toward the insurance industry. As political issues, no-fault insurance and government-funded insurance have generated enormous interest.

For online searchers, this means that information on insurance can be found in both niche insurance files such as INSURANCE PERIODICALS INDEX, in related industry niche databases such as FINIS, in general business databases such as ABI/INFORM, in newsletter databases such as the IN category in NewsNet, in legal databases such as INSURLAW, in marketing and advertising databases, in general circulation newspapers, in popular magazines, and in political journals. And if you're thinking of purchasing insurance, don't overlook the CONSUMER REPORTS database.

TYPES OF INSURANCE

The types of available insurance are staggering. To some extent you can categorize insurance as being consumer-oriented or business-oriented. In the former category would be life insurance, health insurance, automobile insurance, and homeowners insurance.

Businesses are interested in life and health insurance in terms of employee benefits. They are interested in automobile and property insurance for the automobiles and property they own. But businesses are also interested in product liability insurance, business interruption insurance, directors and officers insurance, cargo insurance, and a host of others. At issue also is whether to have self-funded insurance through a captive insurance company or go with an established insurance company. Questions regarding the financial worth of an insurance company arise in mergers and acquisitions circles.

Certain industries have specific insurance concerns. Banking, for example, worries about deposit insurance. The entertainment industry takes out policies on its movies and their stars. Agribusiness cultivates crop insurance, hoping the weather will not make necessary drought or flood insurance payments. The health industry bemoans the cost of malpractice insurance. Even information brokers and librarians ponder the wisdom of acquiring errors and omissions insurance. Some types of insurance are subsets of others. For free-text searching, you will need to use the exact types of insurance about which you want information. You will need to know, for instance, that term insurance is a type of life insurance and that earthquake insurance (and the broader term hazard insurance) is part of a homeowners policy.

The industry generally divides itself into life/health insurance and property/casualty insurance. In fact, two of the leading journals publish different editions. There is Best's Review-Life/Health and Best's Review-Property/Casualty. …