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From firefighter to 'Survivor' to insurance sales

After winning the $1 million prize as the last man standing on the reality TV series "Survivor" in 2005, Tom Westman didn't go to Disneyland. Instead, the retired New York City firefighter opted for another type of adventure: selling insurance.

"This was the job I was looking for," Mr. Westman said.

Mr. Westman said that his relationship with the Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. predated his appearance on "Survivor" by several years when he and other firefighters who were first responders to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were invited to attend the insurer's annual Ski Spectacular in Colorado, the largest winter sports event for people with physical disabilities.

"They have a corporate mindset that matches my own," Mr. Westman said.

"Even though he didn't have a background in sales, his life experiences made him a real good candidate for us," said Bob Reiff, vp and director, distribution and field service organization in Hartford's group benefits division, who recruited Mr. Westman to be a group life and disability salesman after he returned from Palau, where the 2004 "Survivor" was filmed.

"His celebrity status is one thing, but when you take a look at his involvement with the Ski Spectacular and having a daughter with a disability, he had a lot of connection points to the product we sell," Mr. Reiff said.

Mr. Westman's 11-year-old daughter, Meghan, lost her hearing to meningitis as an infant.

Mr. Westman also became familiar with the financial services industry having had to invest his "Survivor" winnings.

After taxes, "most of the money went into three 529 plans to pay for the kids' college," he said.

Old banana peel skit yields little laughter

It's vintage slapstick: a character steps on a banana peel, his legs fly out from under him and he lands on his rear endóall to a chorus of laughs.

But slipping on banana peels isn't just something that happens in comedy routinesóthe peels really can be dangerous.

Earlier this month, the Cook County, Ill., board of commissioners said a clerk at the county-run Stroger Hospital in Chicago slipped on a banana peel outside a bathroom. The employee injured her right knee, required several injections and reportedly missed work for months.

The county board recently approved settling a workers compensation claim for the 2003 injury by paying the clerk more than $4,100.

That's no laughing matter.

Red Sox board the universal health care bandwagon

The Boston Red Sox have become the latest organization to join Massachusetts' efforts to achieve near-universal health care coverage.

The 2004 baseball World Series champions are partnering with the state in a public education campaign titled "Cover Your Bases-Connect to Health" to let uninsured residents know that health insurance in the state is not only more affordable and easier to get, but also required for most residents under the state's 2006 landmark health care insurance law.

In addition to lending the use of its logo on informational materials and adding a full-page informational insert in its home game program in September, the Red Sox also will provide a kiosk at all home games for fans to learn more about the health insurance plans being offered and to enroll. Advertising spots also will run during pre-game ceremonies throughout the season.

At the news conference held last week at Fenway Park to announce the new partnership, the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority, the agency overseeing the law, also detailed plans to launch an enrollment van, which will feature the Boston Red Sox logo, that will travel across the state this summer to help individuals with the enrollment process.

Under the law, all state residents are generally required to obtain health insurance by July 1, although there are certain exceptions. To achieve that goal, the state is heavily subsidizing premiums of eligible low-income uninsured individuals.

Insurers thumbs down on claim

Insurers believe that a man in Thailand--far from cutting off his nose to spite his face--may have cut off his thumb to line his pocket.

According to published reports, Phuket, Thailand, resident Pichet Porntantipong filed an insurance claim for accidentally chopping off his thumb during a kitchen mishap.

But Siam Commercial Samakki Insurance--from which Mr. Pichet had purchased four policies over a two-year period worth 5 million baht ($153,374)--doubted his story.

The doubts stemmed in large part from Mr. Pichet's purchase of policies from about 30 other insurance companies, worth 60 million baht ($1.8 million), for the thumb. In a display of industry solidarity, those companies joined in asking police to investigate the matter of the severed appendage.

Mr. Pichet has denied any wrongdoing. If he were to be found guilty of insurance fraud, he could face several years in jail and a fine of 6,000 baht ($184).