Sobering thoughts about a claim


Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "Guardian"

The cost of binge drinking has been put at £20bn a year. But what price do you pay? Sean Coughlan reports

Saturday March 27, 2004
The Guardian

Boozing Britain has been under fire in recent weeks, with reports of how we're becoming a nation of binge-drinkers. And a financial adviser is warning that over-indulgence in alcohol is also a threat to our financial lives, and that in an area such as insurance, the consequences can be soberingly serious.
Philippa Gee, investments director at Torquil Clark, says that many people do not realise their drinking habits - which seem quite normal to them - can render their insurance protection valueless.
A government report recently warned that alcohol abuse is costing the country £20bn a year - and it claims that 6m people are binge-drinking each week.
Philippa Gee says that insurers are ready to take a tough line on such excessive drinking when it comes to eligibility for cover, or receiving benefits from policies.
For instance, Tony Jupp, chief underwriter at Norwich Union, points to the standard exclusion for "alcohol or solvent abuse" for critical illness cover. When more than a third of young men, and a quarter of young women, regularly drink more than twice the maximum recommended daily intake, it raises the prospect of large numbers being categorised as abusers of alcohol.
"Drinking to excess, which increasingly includes women, might go with working long hours and stress," she says. But while no one in the office might worry about this, insurers will not be so forgiving. If alcohol induces a serious illness, critical illness cover will not pay out.
Income protection, which is often promoted as a safety-net against the unforeseen, can have an exclusion clause saying that it won't cover an accident caused by the "misuse of alcohol".
But how rigorously is this applied? How many drinks would you need before an injury was attributed to alcohol rather than an accident?
Travel insurance is a testing ground. People on holiday are more likely to have been drinking - but the insurance terms are unambiguously strict in their exclusion of alcohol-related claims.
But does that mean you have to have an entirely booze-free holiday? Such a requirement would be unreasonable, says Alison Hoyland of the Financial Ombudsman's service, which regularly has to resolve disputes over alcohol and insurance.
For example, a woman had to cut short her holiday because her father had been taken to hospital with serious liver damage. The insurers refused to pay out because it excluded all alcohol-related claims, even if the policyholder herself was not directly responsible.
In this case, the ombudsman found in favour of the holidaymaker, saying that the insurer's conditions were unreasonable.
But there are other complaints which have been rejected which show that insurers will apply sanctions where alcohol has been involved. In one dispute, a holidaymaker put in a claim after he had been taken to hospital and then put on a flight home - after what he said was the adverse result of eating a prawn curry. The ombudsman backed the insurer's version that he had been suffering from five days of binge-drinking.
Less clear cut will be the impact on a claim for theft on holiday, where perhaps a bag has been stolen from a restaurant where the victims might have been drinking moderately.
In such cases, Alison Hoyland says there are "no hard and fast rules". The ombudsman would consider factors such as how much a part alcohol played in the loss and whether it might have occurred regardless of whether the victims were drinking.
And in general, she says, insurers cannot apply an all-round exclusion that does not take other "common sense" factors into account. Among the biggest threats to most people's finances is losing a job. If alcohol is the cause of being made redundant, then insurers are not going to be sympathetic.
Alcohol Concern says that the annual loss to the economy because of alcohol- related absenteeism and poor performance is £6.4bn.
Some companies now test staff for alcohol, including analysing snippets of hair. Alcohol Concern says this is happening particularly in workplaces where safety is a priority, or where dangerous machinery is being used.
Even though you might have all kinds of cover guarding against redundancy, from credit card payment protection to wedding insurance - none of these is likely to pay out if the reason for losing a job is alcohol abuse.
Don't think you'll be jumping the waiting lists with private medical insurance, either, because alcohol problems are treated as self- inflicted and so not covered.
And if you have to go to hospital because of an alcohol problem, it even negates your pet insurance. Philippa Gee says the argument behind this attitude is similar to home insurance - if you deliberately set fire to your home, you can't expect an insurer to pay for the damage.
So with alcohol. If you've deliberately induced a problem through excessive drinking, it's deemed to be your responsibility and not the insurer's. But we have a deeply ambiguous attitude towards alcohol - and when we read the insurance terms, it's like seeing those maximum recommended daily intakes.
We never really think they apply to us.

absenteeism – absencja w pracy
adverse – niesprzyjający
alcohol abuse – nadużywanie alkoholu
binge drinking – picie bez umiaru
Booze - alkohol
claim - roszczenie
clear cut – jednoznaczny
cover – ubezpieczenie
to deem – uważać, uznawać
eligibility – uprawnienie
exclusion clause – klauzula wyłączająca
intake – spożycie
misuse – nadużywanie
ombudsman – rzecznik praw obywatelskich
over-indulgence – przesadna pobłażliwość
prawn – krewetka
prospect – perspektywa
regardless – bez względu na
redundant – zwolniony
to render – uczynić coś (jakimś)
self-inflicted – wyrządzony samemu sobie
snippets – strzępki, próbki
Sobering – trzeźwiący
solvent abuse – odurzanie się chemikaliami
unambiguously – jednoznacznie
unforeseen – nieprzewidziany
valueless – bezwartościowy


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