Insurance: A Den of Thieves

Israel's insurance sector is rife with fraud. There is no other way to describe it.

Ev-er-y-body cheats everybody else. They lie, finagle, bluff, forge, steal.

The clients cheat the insurance companies by filing claims for faked damages. The companies cheat their clients by wriggling out of their duty to pay claims, using every excuse in the book and some that aren't.

Damage assessors cheat by issuing reports skewed toward the one that pays the most. Garages load costs onto the insurers and insurance companies, without thinking twice about it, vomit the whole mess onto us, the customers.

True, the insurance companies don't always cheat, and some clients are honest too. But the industry is sick and has been stumbling on that way for far too many years.

It doesn't matter which came first, the cheating chicken or its broken egg: are the enormous premiums we may the result of the penny-ante and greater cheating by the customers? Or vice versa? What matters is that this is an industry in which mutual distrust, between vendor and buyer, is extreme, and that the range of manipulation is vast.

If some way could only be found to make the insurance industry more transparent and fairer, there is no doubt that policy prices could be significantly lowered, at least in some sectors.

How could that be achieved? First of all, the cheaters at all levels must be harshly penalized, for the sake of deterrence, from the client who files a false claim to the garage or assessor abetting him. But punishment and deterrence are not the end of the story.

To create trust, an insurance company must rise to its feet (at least one), and fly the flag of fairness. It must do more than talk: it must act. It must commit to fairness, come fair or foul weather. It must fairly pay claims when due, and at the same time, pursue legal steps against the petty cheaters.