In a typical year, the topic of insurance takes up about as much room in our social discourse as discussing the wit and wisdom of Pauly Shore movies.
But 2013 was far from typical. In fact, it's no stretch to say that circumstances this year transformed insurance from social snooze inducer to unlikely life of the party.
Here are my picks for the most memorable and/or significant insurance stories of 2013:
1. Obama's 'You can keep your health plan' promise
President Richard Nixon had "I am not a crook." President Ronald Reagan had "Tear down this wall." And, like it or not, President Barack Obama may be stuck with his promise that the Affordable Care Act would not force you to forfeit your current health insurance plan. Although PolitiFact labeled it "Lie of the Year," it was no such thing. Instead, insurers, faced with the new market realities of health care reform, opted to withdraw plans that were out of step with the times.
2. HealthCare.gov: Waiting on the world to exchange
The default federal health insurance exchange for 36 states was instantly overwhelmed when it went online on Oct. 1, forcing a flurry of temporary delays for several Obamacare deadlines. Two months later, the relaunch sent policy purchases soaring.
3. Battling gadget distraction behind the wheel
Despite 3,000 texting-related and other gadget-related vehicular deaths and 100,000 accidents each year, the auto insurance industry continues to take a backseat on the issue.
4. Employer 'shape up or pay up' health plans
Companies hope to trim their insurance costs by rewarding workers who quit smoking and meet certain fitness metrics, and/or penalizing those who don't. But consumer rights groups warn that what your employer learns about your health status could be used against you.
5. Rewrite of roof and sinkhole coverage rules
A revision this year to the standard homeowners insurance form enables insurers to exclude "cosmetic damage" caused by wind and hail to parts of your home (e.g., your roof). Several high-profile sinkhole events also had insurers scrambling for ways to reduce their exposure.
6. Flood fix sinks homeowners
A well-intentioned clause in last year's flood reform law to end rock-bottom subsidized rates on older homes backfired, jeopardizing housing markets in coastal areas from Florida to Hawaii.
7. Obamacare Supreme Court rematch
This spring, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider challenges to the Obamacare provision that requires most employers to provide their female workforce with free insurance coverage for contraceptives.
8. Medicaid expansion, plan B
The feds agree to provide funds for low-income residents to purchase health insurance on the new Obamacare exchanges in states that prefer not to expand Medicaid.
9. Equal rights for mental health
Years in the making, the federal government issues final regulations on a Bush-era law that requires insurance companies to treat mental health disorders and addiction the same as physical ailments.
10. What price driving privacy?
Onboard driving-monitoring programs such as Progressive's Snapshot hit a rough patch in 2014 when the Edward Snowden/NSA kerfuffle soured Americans on surveillance.
Wishing you a happy and fully insured New Year!
Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus.
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