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Your article, “Timepieces,” April 18, 2011, was a heroic and moving piece. Thank you for writing it, but more importantly for sharing it with the National Underwriter readers.

In the competitive world in which we live there is little time taken to remember and to review the human side of life. How often I think of the values we package and sell each day as a financial commodity intended to soften tax situations or to reduce fear of unplanned and burdensome debt situations.

Our business started as a people-sensitive plan of financial help, arising from sincere interests in people’s needs and sprouting from fraternal attitudes which helped create our modern insurance programs. Today it is standard that insurance plans are largely meted out by unemotional institutions instead of the warm and caring early day purveyors of financial assistance to solve problems for people.

In today’s world, many of the latter-day mutual companies have given way to a more solely money-driven way of life. This observation is not meant to critize, for the newer companies are capable of delivering excellent products at a fair price to the consumer. What is different is the corporate culture of our carriers. Many are headed by financial people, not insurance people who are energized by stories like the one you share with us.

These thoughts generate many concerns and issues relative to today’s life/health insurance industry. Thoughts such as why the industry does not consider the aspect of cash flow income to be the major concern of us in our “income society.” We have not been for many years a “saving society.” Why do we not believe a guaranteed income is more important than paying hospital and doctor fees? Why have we decimated disability income insurance to a bullet point under the heading “health insurance?” This is a lecture the world needs and awaits. Why?

Because, according to the highly respected actuarial consulting firm Milliman USA, out of 1,100 life insurance companies in 1975 we wind up with only 26 companies continuing to offer disability income insurance to our consumers. That number has not increased in the intervening six years to the present. Financial people fear risk and they foresee disability insurance as a risk they need not take!

This paradox and the deplorable and insensitive behavior of our few remaining health (medical/hospital expense) companies have given cause to ask ourselves, “Are we so myopic, looking constantly for profits that we overlook the greatness and the goodness our products can do for people and not realize that it is this value that motivates buyers and develops our profits?”

You have a big job, Bill, with many opportunities to help our industry to not lose its way.

W. Harold Petersen

I just got to my office and read your captioned article as I caught up on my reading before becoming a slave to my computer. I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. I lost my father about six years ago and although he didn’t defy the best doctors like yours did, his health issues caught up to him quickly in the last year of his life. Reading your article reminded me that yes, life is precious, and yes, time goes by more rapidly as we get older so we need to enjoy the time we do have.

George A. Whipple

I read your article “Timepieces” in National Underwriter magazine. It really resonated with me. What a wonderful view of life you have.

Mack V. Colt

Your private opinion on public issues does not show through your words. Said another way, what you write has to date been fair reporting of the subject at hand. I guess I kept looking for this from your predecessor and “it” never came through as fair reporting. I use to read his columns more to try and understand his biased nature.

Now, I am rewarded again with “Timepieces” at the end of reading what you wrote took me to remembering certain connections my father and I had, and I thank you for this.

My wife is an international travel writer and photo journalist…….she has had a weekly column in Chicago for going on fifteen years. Living in the same house with her I know what deadlines mean and sometimes such deadlines are not fun. But I know she enjoys writing and it is obvious that you do too.

Please don’t think you will hear from me often, but know that I very much like what you have added to National Underwriter.

Stanton Todd

My condolences on your fathers passing, Bill. I am sure that he is in the big Home Office in the sky looking down on you with great pride – since you took over the writing of the editorial columns for the National Underwriter it has become the 1st thing I read when the magazine arrives – you may be too young to remember Woody Woodson who used to write “the last page” but I know you are aware of Jack Bobo – in my opinion you have taken over for the both of them – congratulations and well done. (By the way the covers are also a great improvement!)

Peter Holden

The Fat of the Land

We already rate privileged, self-centered fat people. Check out any field guide for life insurance, and you will definitely find BMI limits for being accepted in a preferred or discounted rate class. We do decline people for obesity in the life industry, and no one has a problem with that. Our health industry needs to be able to rate fat people better, but with Obamacare demanding a free guaranteed issue pass for all sick people, fat people will still gobble up far more than their share of premium dollars for their own luxurious benefit, as they are now accustomed to doing. The people who make obesity “normal” include far more people than our food industry. Our fashion industry completely disregards obesity as a negative attribute, substituting the word “curvy” for “fat,” and insisting that only prejudice and unfair discrimination would be the motivation by anyone who criticizes obesity as the new normal. Many, many enterprises make money by selling things to fat people, whether it is food, clothing, or services that make being fat enjoyable, more convenient and less stigmatized. Fat people often do not bear the literal burden of their bodies, whether physically or economically. Fat people are allowed to object strenuously when they get too obese to function at work, yet force us employers to keep them in their jobs that they no longer can perform well. If fat people do end up getting fired because they are too obese to function at work, they apply for disability so the rest of us can pay their bills. If they get injured on the job because they are too obese, the rest of us are forced to pay for their new knees or gastric band surgery because it is “not their fault” that they are fat, and we owe them medical help. Fat people have been told often and thus believe that being fat is not their fault, and that the rest of us should provide them jobs, health care and respect, no matter what we think of them. Until fat people are held to account for themselves, we will continue to see more and more and more of them, all with attitudes that being fat is our problem, not theirs. What the rest of us need to do is to start telling fat people to pull their own weight, and quit making us pull their weight for them. Until we start doing that, we will have lots of obese people living off the fat of our land, with no reason to do otherwise.


High fructose corn syrup is simply a kind of corn sugar. It has the same number of calories as sugar and is handled the same by the body. The American Medical Association stated that, “Because the composition of high fructose corn syrup and sucrose are so similar, particularly on absorption by the body, it appears unlikely that high fructose corn syrup contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose.” High fructose corn syrup is an ingredient that provides competition in the marketplace for a government protected ingredient: table sugar. Manufacturers of corn sweeteners do not receive government support payments. Our industry buys corn on the open market and has been faced with above average corn prices due to increased demand for corn. There is a widely held view that HFCS is in everything – unnecessarily. And that many of these foods/beverages never used to contain a sweetener until HFCS came along. In fact, almost all of the products that now contain HFCS used to contain another caloric sweetener (primarily sugar). Furthermore, U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows that per capita consumption of high fructose corn syrup is actually on the decline, yet obesity and diabetes rates continue to rise according to the Center for Disease Control. As many dietitians agree, all sugars should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced lifestyle. Consumers can see the latest research and learn more about high fructose corn syrup at

Audrae Erickson, President
Corn Refiners Association

I am confused; I thought you were an insurance publication. However, when I picked up the April, 18, 2011 Life & Health issue, I notice the article, “The Fat of the Land.” This is a health issue you are writing about, sir. You even mentioned Starbucks and KFC, as well as several independent food establishments in various locations throughout the country. Sir, I believe you are out of line by naming those companies in your article. Surely you can find something more interesting of which to editorialize.

Dan Hosfield

I returned last month from a 12-day trip to Corsica and France. During the entire trip, after seeing thousands of individuals, I can honestly say that I saw two people who would be classified as overweight. And it wasn’t until I arrived at the departure lounge of Charles de Gaulle Airport that I saw two obese individuals. The one person was wearing what appeared to be an American sweatshirt. So, they might not have been French. The French may die of smoking-related illnesses but cheese, croissants, coffee and wine seem to suit them – and from what I saw, they don’t overeat. After making that mental note, returning to the States, I was aware of obesity everywhere, including the 30-something, 5’8″, 350+ lb. woman I saw waddling into the supermarket. We are killing ourselves with too much food and too little exercise! Unfortunately, I see it in my own family.

Edward C. Auble

I go back to the days of Steve and was surprised when he left. However, I never grabbed the NU the nano-second it landed in my inbox the way I do now. I absolutely can’t wait to read your editorials. I think our fathers were twins of different mothers, unconcerned until the boom fell. That said, though, I had buffalo sirloin on my salad last night…no weight, blood pressure or heart issues (yet). Keep up the great thought-provoking editorials!

Janet E. Kean


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