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Monday, June 24, 2024

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Compass Points 3.29.2006

By Al Campbell

Remember this famous dialog from “Casablanca?”
Rick: “You know what I want to hear.”
Sam: [lying] “No, I don’t.”
Rick: “You played it for her, you can play it for me!
Sam: [lying] “Well, I don’t think I can remember… ”
Rick: “If she can stand it, I can! Play it!”
Even if you don’t recall or even care, keep on reading. This isn’t about ancient movies, but about something that has long puzzled me: Insurance.
 We citizens must fend for ourselves and find a variety of insurance coverage: homeowner’s, fire, mortgage, auto, health, personal riders for jewelry and other costly property.
 On the other hand, our municipalities have a slight edge on us; they can join what’s known as a joint insurance fund.
 Commonly referred to as “JIF,” the program has been wildly successful, which makes me wonder, if they can play it for them, why can’t they play it for us?
 Most taxpayers don’t know, or care about such money-saving programs, but it surely would be nice to have the option for us residents to join the good times, and savings along with our towns.
 According to the Atlantic County Municipal Joint Insurance Fund’s Web site, the idea to trim insurance costs was hatched in 1986. A group of 13 towns did a feasibility study to see if they could form a regional pool to “more cost effectively provide fire, liability, auto and workers’ compensation coverage.”
 “After weighing both the short term benefit of immediate savings with the long term objectives of cost stabilization, seven municipalities chartered the Atlantic County Municipal Joint Insurance Fund. The charter members of were Folsom, Pleasantville, Northfield, Longport, Hammonton, Waterford, Newfield.
 “Today the Atlantic County Municipal Joint Insurance Fund has grown considerably and stands as a successful example of what local government can do to provide solutions to complex problems,” it states.
 At present, many of Cape May County’s municipalities are members of that JIF, which translates to a savings in taxes for residents of those communities.
 The thrust is on safety and prevention. Amazing, but it works.
 So, armed with such dollar-trimming weaponry, why can’t the people do the same thing?
 Each one of us, even virtuous folks, utter obscenities when we think of how much we pay for, especially, health insurance.
 Why isn’t it possible for a “People’s Joint Insurance Fund?”
 To be sure, the insurance lobby would pounce upon the idea, and stifle it, like Secret Service agents on a gun near the president.
 However, if our hometowns are allowed to form and join a JIF, why can’t we?
 There must be a way to do this that would be advantageous to the ordinary citizen.
 As a sweetener to the JIF mix, towns that have good safety records get annual rebates from the JIF. We can all understand that six-letter word.
 Most towns which get those refunds, at least the ones I cover, Middle Township and Stone Harbor, usually put them to use by buying safety gear or safety training, to further reduce the chance of risk.
 I know there are health savings plans. In my estimation they are for the young and healthy. It is a great idea, like an individual retirement account, but only works well if it starts early in one’s life.
 To attempt to hop on the train, mid-life, is like jumping on a freight train barreling down the tracks at 60 miles an hour. It is possible, but not probable for most people with gray or white hair.
 By that time, they have some condition that would, in most cases, wipe the account dry.
 Maybe it is just a foolish idea, but it is one I pondered many times over the years, especially when I get an insurance bill.
 If we could step on the moon; create the World Wide Web; and have lens implants to help us see, we should be able to come up with an insurance answer so the little guy, too, can enjoy the same savings our hometowns routinely employ.

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