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Financial Health and Literacy
Preventative Measures a Concern for Insurers


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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.

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# Sunday, January 31, 2010
Sunday, January 31, 2010 11:27:36 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )
When it comes to reading the small print in financial contracts, very few people actually bother to read the document in whole. Whether the paperwork relates to business or personal finance, being able to have comprehensive understanding of the information included is inherent to making the best financial decisions possible. For those who cannot fully understand the language, and/or those who have difficulties with reading may suffer financial consequences if they sign a contract that is not in their best interests. For those who have competent literary skills, many tend to lose interest after a couple of pages and discontinue reading the contract.

According to the Canadian Council of Learning, almost half of Canadian adults have low literacy skills. This non-profit organization estimates that 12 million people in Canada are below the internationally accepted standard of literacy that is required to effectively cope in a modern society. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development defines literacy in five different levels; they report that the average Canadian score is 2.5 within this range. The five different levels are:

•    Level One: Very poor literacy skills. Individuals operating at this level of literacy may not be able to correctly determine medicine dosage as given on the packaging, for example.
•    Level Two: The ability to deal with only simple, clearly defined materials that involve uncomplicated tasks. Individuals operating at this level of literacy may have developed everyday coping skills but are challenged with the acquisition of new skills. Individuals at this level may find it difficult to learn new job skills, for example.
•    Level Three: The ability to adequately cope with the skills required for everyday life and work in an advanced society. Individuals at this level of literacy have about the same level needed to finish high school and enter college or university.
•    Levels Four and Five: Very strong skills. Individuals at this level of literacy can successfully process complex and demanding information. Individuals who are in this range generally experience less unemployment, earn more money and rely less on government transfers.

There is no common denominator when it comes to literacy skills. People with low scores can be seniors or young adults, employed or unemployed, etc. Surprisingly, twenty percent of university graduates have literacy skills that score below level three. Many who score low have not completed high school, although some have pursued some form of post-secondary education.

It is important to fully understand and comprehend any and all forms of financial transactions. This includes life (and health) insurance policies. When purchasing life insurance coverage, make sure to read all written materials that are provided, and have a good understanding of what those materials mean. For individuals who may have problems understanding these types of documents, make sure you have someone who is trustworthy to fully explain the material before signing the contract. Individuals may also want to inform their insurance broker that they need further clarification of the contracts and policies as well.

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# Friday, January 22, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010 7:52:28 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) ( General Life )
As Canada is now facing an aging population, insurance companies are now focusing on preventative rather than reactive measures when it comes to potential health issues. Insurers are now building comprehensive databases of health information for the clients that they insure. These databases contain the details of health issues that can range from drugs that are prescribed, chiropractic visits, etc. This information will be used for the purposes of being able to more accurately predict those who may be at risk of having and/or developing major health issues, i.e. chronic diseases.

By focusing on preventative measures, insurers hope to be able to effectively intervene before the health problem becomes severe, which usually also means more expensive, in order to help the individual take action to either manage and/or prevent the health condition from becoming worse. Not only is this strategy beneficial to the person, but also to the insurance company by keeping costs lower. Some insurers are also planning to take even more immediate action; Manulife Financial is implementing a new program that will benefit providers by setting up a workplace clinic which will be able to provide employees with the resources to test such health concerns as cholesterol levels, blood pressure rates and body mass levels.

One of the issues that insurers are hoping to accomplish is to quantify the value of good health by attaching a dollar value to activities that promote a healthy lifestyle. By using this strategy, insurers hope to be able to convince employers to establish wellness programs for their employees that would ultimately result in the cost of employee benefits being reduced. This would ultimately save money for not only the insurers, but for the business, and of course the employees benefit from being able to access services that improve their health.

With new medical breakthroughs and treatments, Canadians now have a longer lifespan. However, living longer does not necessarily mean that this population is living a healthy lifestyle. Medical costs tend to rise for people as they age; they also tend to be more expensive for health conditions that are more advanced. Healthy living as well as early detection practices are beneficial not only for the individual, but for those who cover these expenses.

As life and health insurance rates are based in part by health status, premiums are lower for those who are healthy. Consult with your employer about ways to promote health in the workplace, and ways to encourage these practices.

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