Insurance in Uganda: “Legalized robbery” or just poor public relations?

Written by Josh Twin on . Posted in Life

I must admit I have very little faith in insurance; I usually describe it as follows:

"Friend promises to pick you from work every day for 1 year. He religiously shows up at 5pm for a few weeks, but if you work late or it rains (and thus need the ride more), he will say he's caught up or something like that. So despite having a guaranteed ride home every day, when it rains you will have to take boda in the rain or stand at taxi stop for hours. You know how it gets when it rains in Kampala!"

My relationship with a couple of health insurance providers has been like this. They have paid for run-of-the-mill medical instances, but when it comes to something more serious, or expensive, the kind that you’d be glad to have lifted off your wallet, miraculously it’s not covered by insurance. Mostly because of a certain term or condition that wasn’t brought to your attention earlier.

How are you supposed to depend on such a person? How can you avoid being suspicious of this guy even if one particular day he parked outside office and waited for you for 3 hours to hand in a certain assignment at work? How about the many other times that you needed him and he wasn’t there? That was only once. Or maybe he hasn’t even done that once. Yet he gave you his word.

Insurers have been known to expend more effort in looking for every possibility to get them out of paying a claim than in educating the insured at the time of signing the policy.

Looking at Benon Herbert Oluka's story, it seems the claim process dragged on as they tried to find a way to not pay. Then they found it. But what about the money they had already paid for the car repair? How could the car be covered when rented but not the passengers? Wouldn't that clause remove all their responsibility including the car repair? Oh, ICEA has threatened to sue him, so let me stop here before I get served.

Other examples of the irony of insurance, from comments on Facebook and Observer website on the case of Benon Herbert Oluka Vs ICEA:

* "If you die wearing a Besigye T-shirt", your life insurance policy won't pay your survivors. It will be considered political."

* "If you died of a disease related to HIV, insurance won't pay on your life policy."

* “You will not get compensated if your car is damaged during a riot, demonstration etc”

For example, on your way to work on a normal day, you happen to find Besigye supporters chanting and crowding the Wandegeya area. You had no idea there was a demo, and you aren’t taking part. But here you are at the traffic lights. And your car gets in the way of some of the rocks guys are throwing at the Police. Nope. No compensation.

Anyway, two weeks ago now, I filed a claim on my comprehensive motor vehicle insurance policy with UAP Insurance Uganda. The story of the minor traffic accident is for another day. When I tell it you'll understand why we have so many accidents on our roads. When it comes to traffic rules, Ugandan drivers are clueless!

This is the first claim I'm making despite paying premiums for several cars, different insurers over the years. Most incidences have been settled with the "knocker" so I've not bothered to go collect from insurer as well. After all "insurance is based on an assumption of goodwill between the 1st party and 2nd party, and to restore position not to profit 1st party".

In other instances I’ve absorbed the costs. Like when I was relieved of side mirrors. The irony is that the mere thought of the kind of hoops you might have to jump through and the amount of paper work involved often makes it look easier to just fork out the cash for repair/replacement than make a claim.

For example, when my mirrors were stolen, I got quotations for mirrors ranging between 150k and 450k. I ended up paying about 180k. Now to get that 180k covered by the insurer, you’ll have to take car to insurer for “inspection”, go get at least 2 quotations for the parts, fill claim form, attach quotations and a few other personal documents. Then thanks to the “Excess Clause” they’ll deduct 100k and if processed successfully, pay you 80k. So you’ll spend time (getting quotes, at least 3 visits to insurance) and money (fuel for all those runarounds), to get 80k. Most probably you’ll have used fuel worth more than 50k, and lost productivity at work trying to get the claim in. So you spend 50k to get 80k. Net compensation = 30k. That is if they decide to pay. So it’s better to call your guy to bring them, install, hand him 180k and you move on with life.

OK maybe I’ve painted a very grim picture! I’ve known people to have their entire cars replaced by the insurer after an accident. Others have been cushioned from the cost of extreme vandalism. The kind where thieves take all lights, switches/knobs/controllers, tyres etc. So it’s not all bad with Insurance.

So is Uganda’s insurance state a case of poor public relations or is insurance simply “legalized robbery” as several have put it? Is the insurance industry doing enough to educate the masses on insurance in general and the fine print at start of policy? How come the negative stories tend to be more voiced than the positive stories?

What will it take for the negative impression change? Do insurers need to pull up their “coming through” socks, or bring their A-game to ensuring customers know the policies well before signing? Have the insurers equipped their customers to be their ambassadors? Wouldn’t they gladly give testimony when they are “saved” by their insurance?

I'm trying hard to be optimistic, and hoping that my followup post will not be to rant about my insurer. My last 2 calls in the past 5 days haven’t been answered... Meanwhile when I filed claim on 5th July, I was told to expect cash in the bank by "mid next week", 14th July. Now I've not yet even gotten a useful update.

I hope there isn't a non-disclosure clause that reads "The insured agrees not to post on his Facebook wall or blog any information regarding this policy blah blah". You can never be sure with these things!

Copyright © 1986 - 2016 Joshua Twinamasiko G. Powered by TwinSource