THE METHODS OF LIFE ASSURANCE OFFICES [To the Editor of
the SPECTATOR.] SIR,—In his article in your issue of January 7th, Sir William Schooling gives two reasons why in this country life assurance is not nearly so general as across the Atlantic. Having just passed through the ordeal of getting my life insured, I can guess at a third, namely, the manners and methods of English offices. A life policy may be, as one is so often told, a more profitable investment than trustee stocks, but a postcard to one's bankers will purchase the stocks while to get a policy means weeks of annoying, not to say insulting, correspondence.
My insurance company, one of the best known in London, began by sending me a long questionnaire, so framed as to intimate that the company Were conferring a favour by considering my ease and that I was probably endeavouring to defraud them. This asked, among many other things, for the registered cause of death of those of my nearer relations who are no longer living. Seven of these have died during the s last fifty-six years, but in what sub-districts and under .what medical classification these deaths were registered I could not ascertain without long inquiries and considerable expense.
Next, the questionnaire gave a list of most of the loathsome
diseases known to science (except leprosy and hydrophobia) and asked which of them I had had ; inquired if I had ever kept a public-house, or been in a home for inebriates ; and demanded the names and addresses of two references. This last involved my troubling, with many apologies, two old friends, who presumably had to answer more questionnaires ; but as they were not on oath they could presumably suppress with impunity any awkward facts about my ways of life and
render the reference 'futile. - My own questionnaire was returned to me to be signed again before a witness and then came the medical examin- ation. The doctor brought another questionnaire and I had to answer again all the inquiries about the diseases, the home for inebriates, etc., etc., and some new ones as well. Followed-a long delay and then (my questionnaire showed that I had been many- years a widower) a special letter from the Company -asking the cause of my wife's demise !
At last came the announcement that my life would be graciously accepted on receipt of acheque for the first premium, but it took another fortnight and a reminder before I got the policy, though this was merely a printed form.
The policy says that nothing shall be payable at my death if of-my answers in the Wearisome imestionnaire is-found to be incorrect, and caps all the previous insults by providing that it shall be void if I am hanged for murder I Looking back at it all, I wonder now Why ever I went on with the Matter, which was of no particular importance to me, instead of throwing it up in disgust. It required the hide of a hippopotamus and the patience of Jos.