New digs

As of mid-July, my reign of terror at Insurance Journal will officially come to an end. I’ve enjoyed insurance reporting and hope to continue doing it on a freelance basis, but I’m moving on to new digs. American Medical News is “the newspaper for America’s physicians,” at least the ones who are members of the American Medical Association. Here is some general information about the newspaper and here’s a “descriptive profile.” Unfortunately, access to the Web site is restricted to members of the AMA, so I’m not sure how or whether I’ll be able to make my articles available on

I’ll work as a reporter covering the medical ethics and patient safety beat in the professional issues section. I look forward to working with the section’s editor, Bonnie Booth, who was a journalism instructor of mine at Columbia College Chicago. Aside from the challenge and excitement of tackling a new beat, a big plus is that I’ll be leaving home and working in a newsroom every day.

Working from a home office as an editor for IJ has definitely had its advantages, but I think that my professional and personal development was beginning to suffer a little bit from being home-bound most days. In two months, I may long for the good ol’ days when I could work in shorts and didn’t have to talk to anyone before noon if I didn’t feel like it. I think that on balance, though, I’ll benefit from the new downtown (OK, River North to be exact) work environment.

Another big plus about the new gig is that I’ll be able to focus solely on reporting. I think I’ve handled the reporting/editing juggling act well at IJ, but I haven’t really liked it all that much. So as you can tell, my reasons for leaving IJ really are personal. It’s staffed by a bunch of kind, hard-working and generous people, led by smart people with real vision, and the magazine itself serves a real need in the marketplace.

If my experience with AMNews is half as good as my tenure at IJ, I’ll have really lucked out. Of course, I’ve had more than my fair share of luck already. Thanks to the generosity and confidence of my journalism mentors and colleagues, I’ve prospered where so many beginners struggle. And thanks to the support of my wife and my family, I know that regardless of my professional travails, love is … love.

It’s not unusual to be quoted by anyone

Hey! I was quoted in a newspaper recently. The Des Moines Register’s Steve Dinnen wrote a story about Allied Insurance’s expansion plans and was wise enough to seek out my expertise:

Kevin O’Reilly, Midwest editor of Insurance Journal, said many property and casualty insurers have had hefty profits the past several years and are looking for ways to expand on that success.

“This is not unusual,” O’Reilly said.

At least my name was spelled correctly.

King of all media?

You may have often thought to yourself: “Self, I love reading Kevin’s writing about insurance, but when will I get to hear and see him talking about insurance?”

The answer, if you are willing and able, is now! Click over to the journalism Insurance Journal page for a few links to recent audio and video interviews I did for the Insurance Journal Web site. This doesn’t make me multimedia royalty, however. I’d settle for mere “peasant of all media.”

All of the video was shot in Springfield on Oct. 7. Only hours later I had my car acident. Spooky! Observe carefully for signs of drunkenness. That’s a joke, of course.

I only got drunk after we finished taping for the day. [obligatory smiley]

Incentives matter

But sometimes the incentives are so small, so lame, so pitiful that they’re just a joke. For example, the American Physicians Assurance Corp., one of the biggest medical liability insurers in the country that isn’t owned by doctors, has launched a contest to entice Michigan doctors to curtial malpractice suits.

According to this AP story in the Detroit News:

One company official tells the Detroit News that “good risk management contributes to the quality of patient care and also reduces the risk of lawsuits.”

The official also says it wanted to, “give physicians a way to reward their staff for jumping through all of those hoops.”

So what’s the big prize? The top four doctors get dinner and a plaque.

Yes — yes, I am

As I was walking home yesterday, I passed through a crowd of about three or four rambunctious teen-agers on the sidewalk. One girl — probably about 16 or 17 — looked straight at me in my Insurance Journal monogrammed dress shirt (yeah, I know; they make me wear it) and without a moment’s hesitation cooed, “Hey, baby! You an insurance journalist?!”

Stunned by the absurdity of her outburst and unsure of quite how to take it, I responded instinctively. I turned back to look at her and gave the crowd a big goofy open-mouthed grin and a thumbs-up sign.

Am I an insurance journalist? Yes — yes, I am!

IJ, you J, we all J for IJ

In case you were curious, yes, Insurance Journal is still publishing. IJ Midwest has been going well so far, though it’s a lot more work than I was doing before. It’s been a challenge, definitely.

Here’s a link to the Feb. 23 issue of IJ Midwest online, and here’s one for the March 8 issue. I’ve been busy working on a couple of longer stories that will appear in upcoming issues, so there’s not much by me in either of these issues, aside from the little editor’s note.

I did write a couple of news stories, though. One about a group of state legislators specializing in insurance affairs that moved to password-protect its Web site, much to chagrin of the self-appointed consumer representatives. And a second story concerns a Missouri insurance department study that claims to show that the practice of using credit scores in rating and underwriting discriminates against minorities and the poor.


Lost time is not found again

A few odds and ends:

  • Pedro Gomez writes for that a Latin American city (my favorite is Monterrey, Mexico) deserves the Expos. Certainly, just about any place deserves the Expos more than Washington, D.C., does — though I’m generally in favor of providing politicians with as many diversions from lawmaking as possible.
  • Out late on the town and looking for some grub? Lunarama has a growing directory of 24-hour restaurants. (Link courtesy of El Papote.)
  • Radley Balko gives it up for a guy with guts, retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald. Among other things, Fitzgerald opposed Congressional attempts to federally preempt the Illinois legislature on an issue of local concern, whether O’Hare International Airport ought to be expanded. Ultimately, the pro-expansion Democrats retook the governor’s mansion making the issue moot. They pushed expansion, which by eminent domain will result in the displacement of hundreds of residents and two cemeteries in the surrounding area. It will also result in years of public contracts to be controlled by — guess who? — Da Mare. Surprise, now the city’s original cost estimate has doubled. And that’s even before the costs of good ol’ Chicago corruption are even taken into account.
  • The Feb. 9 issue of Insurance Journal Midwest is now online.

Latest story

Here’s my latest story to become available online. It’s about a company that acts as a cooperative of agencies to help them get better contracts with the insurance companies they work for.

It’s quite innovative, actually. Meanwhile, I’ll be very hard at work this week finishing up stories and editing for the debut edition of Insurance Journal Midwest, coming out Jan. 12. It will be a challenge, but it should be well worth it. The cover story for this first issue is quite a catch, I think, and hopefully will help make a name for our magazine here in the heartland.


Here’s my latest Insurance Journal story to become available online: “Insurers question NAIC budget reserves.”

The NAIC (National Association of Insurance Commissioners) is an interesting organization. It’s a private, quasi-governmental organization that charges a fee in the thousands to file their annual statement, which is required by every state insurance department.

Then it charges anybody who wants to get that data back out of the system additional, exorbitant fees. Nice gig if you can get it. And when they take in too much money in fees they say they need it for reserves. And the insurers complain. But the difference is now that the industry’s starting to think, as sources have told me, they’d rather deal with one gorilla (the feds) than 50 monkeys.

I doubt the trade would work out very well, but they’re using that threat as leverage to get the state regulators to be more friendly, since federal regulation would remove a $12 billion annual stream of income the states get from taxing insurance premiums.

And the beat goes on.