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Have you ever tuned in to "It's Your Money" on the radio?

The host of this call-in radio show is William E. Bailey, who last week was honored by the Insurance Marketing Communications Assn. as the 1998 Golden Torch Award recipient.

The award is presented annually by IMCA to a person who has contributed to the insurance business by improving standards for communication excellence and effectiveness, speaking out eloquently and convincingly on behalf of insurers and improving public understanding of insurance issues.

I am absolutely delighted that Bill has received this prestigious award. He is a most deserving recipient, particularly because he can identify insurers' faults and encourage insurers to better serve their customers.

I know this is true because I have known Bill since my early reporting days at Business Insurance more than 20 years ago. Bill was vp and senior claims counsel at Commercial Union Insurance Co. when I interviewed him, and he never quoted to me chapter and verse. He always had a slightly different perspective on the issues. I pegged Bill then as a guy who would tell it like he sees it, whether or not his viewpoint echoed insurance industry conventional thinking. I should have known then that he would become a nationally known authority and public spokesman on insurance issues.

Bill entered this phase of his career after Commercial Union, when he became a special counsel to the Insurance Information Institute. In that role, he has traveled the country to debate insurance issues. He also was codirector of the Hurricane Insurance Information Center in Miami, supervising a communications office that assisted people in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew.

Bill started his radio show in the fall of 1997 because he believes consumers want to understand insurance facts. His show, first named "Are You Protected?" started on just six radio stations on the Talk America Network of Boston. It is now broadcast daily on more than 85 stations. I'm pleased to report that Business Insurance staffers have been guests on his show. Other guests have included leaders of corporations and trade associations, government representatives and prominent attorneys, including his brother, F. Lee Bailey.

For those who are wondering, as I did, Bill says he and his brother agree far more than they disagree on public policy issues. They once had to restage an interview together to spice it up because, on the first go-around, it didn't generate enough controversy to hold the audience, Bill says.

Now Bill is holding audiences by helping consumers understand insurance issues. This, I think, is vitally important, as more and more insurance issues become public policy issues.

I am also happy to report that Bill is still telling it like he sees it.

At one point in Bill's very humble, sincere and emotional acceptance speech, he took a moment to remind the audience that insurers are not always perfect, and when they deserve criticism, he will be a critic. Specifically, he asked why insurers take a hard-nosed, no-coverage approach on claims from their clients that arguably are covered. He suggested that insurers should give their clients the benefit of the doubt when there is one.

He also challenged this audience to mentor someone as he said he had been mentored. He recalled that his insurance agent was the one who introduced him to the top management at Commercial Union. He noted, with a laugh, that at the time CU was more interested in meeting his brother.

Bill also gave special credit as a mentor to his friend Edwin S. Overman, chairman emeritus of the American Institute for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters and the Insurance Institute of America. Ed was the recipient of the Golden Torch Award last year. Bill credited Ed with convincing him of the benefits of studying for the CPCU designation, even though Bill already was a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Bill advises everyone to keep learning.

That is exactly what his talk show is helping consumers to do.

Publisher and Editorial Director Kathryn J. McIntyre and Editor Paul D. Winston publish columns on alternate weeks.