Recently, I tried to get life insurance. My current policy is coming due
soon, and I thought I'd get a new policy with data and a lifestyle that is
10 years newer than the last policy. It's a simple matter on the surface,
you grant them access to your blood for a test, health records, fill out a
fairly simple questionnaire about your hobbies and work life and they give
you a quote for what it costs to insure you for a year at some level of
pay out ($50,000 to $5 million or so). Ostensibly, the money you pay every
year gets combined into a larger account, and the total amount paid into
the account is less than the amount paid out. The insurance company does
some investments to maximize their returns of the combined account. And
in x years, if you die, a check arrives to your next of kin. See, simple.
The problem I found is that I have to be completely transparent about
everything I am, I do, and are likely to do in the future. The insurance
company does not, at all.I asked some simple questions of the agent, "Can
you share with me all of the data you collect about me that influences
The answer was a very confused, "what? why? No, we cannot share that."
Mostly, I'm interested in the difference between what I give them (blood,
questionnaire answers, and health records) vs. what they collect on
their own. I imagine they collect my credit history, talk to my bank,
my 401k holder, my employer for records, driving records, and the big
data aggregators to get everything else about me (credit card history,
debt history, purchase history, travel history, etc). Do they include
whatever Internet history they can find?
I can further imagine they do a more thorough analysis of my blood than
they tell me, DNA allele analysis (similar to 23 and Me), and hormone
analysis. They probably extrapolate from these data sets probabilities of
how I'm likely to age, how healthy I'll be, and what I'll be like in 10,
20, 30+ years.
Why don't they share this data? Ostensibly, it's all my data, or my
meta-data, all derived from my existence. I didn't ask them for any trade
secrets as to how they determine the rate based upon this date, what are
the quartiles they use, and how accurate are their predictions over 5,
10, 20+ years. I asked them to give me a copy of everything they have
collected about me. I'd like to see it, and correct the data if
necessary. I'm not even talking about my opinions but simple facts like
accounts opened, closed, places lived, etc.
## Comparison to peers
A service many insurance providers offer is comparison between other
insurance providers. You see these ads everywhere. They offer comparison
quotes of their quote to their main competitors (or who they want you
to believe are their competitors). It helps to let you learn if any one
company is taking advantage of you, but otherwise, fairly useless. I'd
rather learn about how accurate their predictions and what data they
collect and store about you over the life of the policy.
I haven't found any company willing to share the collected data with
me. I talked to one company, starting their process. We stumbled at
the first call. The woman who called me to get permission to copy my
health records and schedule a blood draw. I asked her a simple question,
'Do you work for the insurance company?'
'I work for a subcontractor of the call center company that specializes
in life insurance applications.'
After further parsing of that statement, she is two layers removed from
the actual insurance company. My data is collected and stored by them,
and then shared with their upstream, which is then shared with the
underwriting insurance company, which is a subsidiary of the actual
insurance company that tried to sell me the policy. I asked the original
salesman how I could only talk to the actual insurance company, not their
subcontractors. He gave me an internal number that when called is either
a 40+ minute wait or just flat out hangs up on you. It is entirely
plausible that one reason the insurance company uses subcontractors is
to handle the calls into their own call centers (which probably aren't
theirs in the end).
In the end, I gave up and just renewed my current policy, as nontransparent
as it is.
originally published at wiki.lewman.is