Friday, January 26, 2007

Life Insurance and the Military

There was another Globe and Mail article on which I wanted to comment today. When I read this article this morning, I thought it sounded a little fishy and another attempt by the media to misrepresent the military.

CALGARY — Andrew Kirkpatrick served as a general duty medical officer with the Canadian Forces in Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Persian Gulf war. He was the camp surgeon in Kabul in 2004 when he served as a reservist mending both Canadian troops and Afghan people.

Now, the 43-year-old trauma surgeon from Calgary is thinking of heading back to Afghanistan, this time to Kandahar, to once again lend a hand in the fight against terrorism.

But with a young family at home -- a wife and two daughters -- he also started thinking about life insurance and recently applied for coverage.

"We just wanted to make provisions in case the unthinkable happens," Dr. Kirkpatrick said.

Instead, he was incensed when a letter came this month from insurance company Sun Life Financial.

"We have been advised that your plans for the near future include travelling to Afghanistan. We have therefore declined your application for life coverage," the underwriter wrote.

I assume that any military personnel would have life insurance through DND if they sign up or are deployed to Afghanistan, no matter if they were Reg Force or P Res (Reservist). Since my dad is in the military, and has been for over 30 years, I decided to ask him about this story amd I will update when I hear back.

According to Phantom Observer:

Actually, life insurance is in fact available for class-A and -B reservists, though SISIP Financial Services. This agency serves Canadian Forces members exclusively, and offers a term insurance plan for reservists.

The main problem with SISIP, however, is that they don’t advertise their services very well to reservists. So it’s entirely possible that Dr. Kirkpatrick may not have known about them. He also may have wanted to compare premium rates from other companies.

Here's the problem I have with this guy's complaint. There are two problems:

One, he's 40 years old and it wasn't until this point, that he was going to go to a country where there was a higher risk in him being killed, that he considered getting life insurance. The whole idea around insurance is that you get it ahead of time because you one day might need it. While he is thinking ahead, the fact remains, he's is considering life insurance because there is the belief that there is a higher risk of death in Afghanistan.

There is the game of probabilities, where, he could get hit by a bus tomorrow and his wife and child would be left with nothing. The fact of the matter is, in the eyes of the public, the insurance company, and Kirkpatrick himself believe that going to Afghanistan poses a higher risk of loss of life.

My part-time job while going to school is working at the student health benefits office. I've been doing this job for the past three years and have become to understand the premise of insurance. Also as a Sociology student I have taken a class about insurance and risk and I've studied the theory behind it. I'm not going to bore you with theory, so let's consider common sense.

For example, a student cannot come to my office and decide that she wants to add her family to the plan, because her kids have upcoming dental appointments. If we have an opt-in system where people just sign up for benefits when they think they will use them, the cost for insurance would be astronomical. If, on the other hand, you sign up for dental benefits at the beginning of the year during the one month window of opportunity to add family to the plan, foreseeing that you will use them, this is how we can all pay one low price. Our society, and the premise behind insurance is that you are rewarded for thinking ahead.

The second issue is that the article makes it seem like Kirkpatrick is a reservist. When in fact he seems to be a civilian (or contract worker). Who is hiring this surgeon? If it's DND, then I would argue the employer should offer him life insurance, if he can't get one througha private company. However, Sunlife, to my knowledge is the insurance company that provides insurance to all government personnel (I could be wrong about this).

On a matter of principle, it's irresponsible to put someone in a war zone (who is voluntaring his services to go as a civilian) and being denied life insurance and offering nothing to the family, if God forbid, the worst could happen. This guy is willing to go and pay for life insurance (and probably the highest premium, knowing the risk), but is being denied, then why should he go?

Those workers are important to the mission, according to DND spokesman Lieutenant Adam Thomson, but they also must secure their own insurance coverage.


He's a surgeon, and likely won't be on the front lines like an infantry soldier, he should still be able to have life insurance. This man is wanting to provide his services, (and getting paid very well for it), to help mission.

Let's consider this another way. Would there be such an outcry if he wasn't a surgeon though? What if it was a Tim Horton's or cleaning personnel?

Another group of civilians -- 66 who work at locations such as the Tim Hortons outlet at the base -- are in Afghanistan as part of the Canadian Forces Personnel Support Agency. They are considered federal employees.


Anyway, just my two cents...

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