MONEY Insurance

Why Even a Fair Insurance Claim Will Send Customers Packing

The insurance claims process is so painful and outdated that about half of customers who confront it bolt no matter what.

The financial services industry has been among the slowest to embrace the mobile and other technologies that many consumers crave. Within the industry, insurers probably have been slowest—and their old-fashioned ways are stirring a high level of churn.

Insurance customers are generally pleased with their provider. Only 14% of those who submitted a claim in the past two years are unhappy with how it was handled, according to a report from Accenture. As you might expect, a high rate of those—83%—plan to switch providers. But even among the vast majority who filed a claim and were satisfied, 41% say they are likely to switch insurers in the next 12 months, the report found.

Why would satisfied customers switch? In general, their claims experience, while satisfactory, left them feeling it should have been better. “The bar has been raised and insurers now need to handle claims in a way that not only satisfies policyholders but also differentiates them from other insurers,” says Michael Costonis, global head of claims services at Accenture, a research and consulting firm.

Technology exists that would greatly streamline the claims process, he says. Consumers understand that, and when they file a claim and confront the old way of doing things they resolve to look for something better. For example, Costonis says, in the case of an auto accident, sensors could summon assistance automatically, notify a garage, and get a tow truck on the scene—all without a phone call. Your car could be fixed and delivered to your door, and if any money was due to you it might be put in your account without the tedious paperwork.

Customers expect quick claims and fair pricing. But they also want transparency and this is where technology can make a big difference. “More and more, especially with younger customers, this takes the form of providing anywhere, anytime access online or through mobile apps,” Costonis says. In the study, 44% said they would switch providers to be able to use digital channels to monitor the claims process.

Broader use of technology could help in other ways too. Three in four customers are willing to share more personal information in order to get better rates, the study found. Insurers could easily gather information about the condition of cars and customer driving habits. They could also gather information collected by smoke, carbon monoxide, humidity, and motion detectors. Such data could help them help their customers manage risks and wind up filing fewer claims—and that is the Holy Grail because customers hate the process and insurers lose a high percentage of those who file a claim no matter what.

Related: How to make sure you have enough insurance coverage

TIME Healthcare

Need Your Flu Shot? Just Call an Uber

Uber Taxi App In Madrid
In this photo illustration the new smart phone taxi app 'Uber' shows how to select a pick up location next to a taxi lane on October 14, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez—Getty Images

The one-day program is available in three U.S. cities

Uber on Thursday launched a one-day pilot program to deliver free flu shots and flu prevention packs in three major U.S. cities.

The UberHEALTH service will be available only Thursday in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET, according to Uber’s blog. The service can be requested while ordering a ride on the Uber app, after which a registered nurse will administer flu shots and distribute materials for up to 10 people at no additional cost.

The free flu shot service, which is a partner project with Vaccine Finder, is only the latest of Uber’s limited time specials. Uber has previously rolled out delivery services for air conditioners and diapers, and even its own Optimus Prime.

 

TIME technology

This App Lets You Order a Pizza by Clicking Your Heels Together

"Dorothy" brings Wizard of Oz technology to life

It’s been 75 years since Judy Garland clicked her ruby red slippers in a desperate attempt to get home to Auntie Em. Now you can click your heels to do a whole lot more than travel the time-space continuum, and you don’t even need a pair of sequined shoes to do it.

Washington, D.C.-based digital agency iStrategyLabs recently unveiled a new device, aptly named Dorothy, which allows you to trigger certain actions on your iPhone by clicking your heels together three times. A micro-controller no bigger than a fun-size candy bar, Dorothy clips onto your shoe, relying on an internal Bluetooth chip and accelerometer to send signals to an app on your phone.

You can use Dorothy to help you escape a bad date by programming the app to generate a fake phone call. All you need to do is click your heels to indicate that you can’t listen to one more word about exchange-traded derivatives. It can send your exact location to friends, call a cab or even order a pizza. And the folks behind the technology are crowd-sourcing more uses for Dorothy, open to the limitless possibilities enabled by the concept of web automation service “If This, Then That.”

The Dorothy team is working on smaller models that would make the device more inconspicuous, especially for those not keen on adorning their shoes with a ruby-emblazoned piece of hardware. And DJ Saul, iStrategyLabs’ managing director, envisions greater customization in the future. He illustrated what this might look like, telling the Daily Dot, “One click is ‘call my phone,’ two clicks is ‘send a message,’ three clicks is ‘order an Uber,’ four clicks is ‘order a pizza,’ five clicks is ‘open my garage door,’ and so on and so forth.”

Eliminating a few taps on our phones by clicking our heels is either a sign of our supreme and irreversible laziness or the power of technology to simplify our lives. For now, let’s stick with the latter.

TIME Research

6 Medical Breakthroughs That Matter

Medical research
Getty Images

Including an alternative cancer treatment

It’s not every day that you catch wind of a true health game changer. That’s because research is more often than not a long, slow process of trial and error, and for every bright idea there are a bunch that don’t pan out. Luckily, this year brought plenty of major steps forward, including a new cure for a deadly disease and innovative gadgets that zap your migraines. Here are the developments making a difference right now.

New tech for migraine pain

Technology is opening up a new route to much-needed headache helpers. “Current drugs just don’t do the trick for many people,” says John Delfino, MD, a headache specialist at NYU Langone Medical Center. But the FDA recently approved two gadgets for migraines: Cefaly, a band that’s worn across your forehead for 20 minutes daily, and SpringTMS, a device you hold to the back of your head at the onset of pain. Both work by stimulating certain nerves deep in the head, using electrical signals (in the case of Cefaly) or magnetic energy (for the SpringTMS). There’s also new hope for debilitating cluster headaches in the form of an electrode that’s implanted behind the jaw and controlled by a remote. In the initial trial, 68% reported relief when they turned on the electrode during a headache, and of that group, over 80% had fewer episodes.

HEALTH.COM: 18 Signs You’re Having a Migraine

A watch that tracks your health

Say good-bye to your current fit tracker: The Apple Watch, when used with your iPhone, can log your steps and even your heart rate, giving you more feedback in one gizmo than ever. (Oh, and you can ask Siri for directions during your runs.) Available early next year, the watch will sync with the Health iPhone app, which you can get now. You can use Health to import your calorie, sleep, and fitness data from apps you already use, like Nike+.

An alternative cancer treatment

Everyone knows the storied side effects of chemotherapy: hair loss, diarrhea and more. That’s because chemo drugs destroy cells that multiply quickly, whether they’re cancerous or healthy. But scientists are finally finding success with a more selective approach: immunotherapy. These treatments harness your body’s natural defenses to beat cancer back. “What we’ve discovered is that cancer cells evade your immune system by putting it into overdrive, causing it to tire out and give up. The new drugs interrupt the cycle so your body can fight,” explains J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. The results so far have been staggering: “It’s not an overstatement to say this is a turning point in cancer research, especially for patients with melanoma,” Dr. Lichtenfeld says. Treatments for cancers of the kidney, lung and pancreas could be up next.

HEALTH.COM: 15 Worst Things to Say to a Cancer Patient

A real cure for Hep C

Usually symptomless, hepatitis C kills 15,000 Americans a year. Until now, treatment helped a mere 30 to 40% of people with the virus, which is passed via infected blood and can lead to liver failure and liver cancer. But in December 2013, the FDA approved Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), a pill that cures up to 90% of hep C patients when used with another new drug, simeprevir. “Before, it was like fighting a war with flyswatters, but now the big guns have arrived,” says Douglas Dieterich, MD, professor of medicine in the division of liver disease at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, who also was involved in clinical trials of Sovaldi. More help is expected to be FDA-approved soon: ledipasvir, combined with sofosbuvir, for one form of hep C known as genotype 1, as well as a three-drug cocktail that has cured 90% of people treated with it.

HEALTH.COM: 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Hepatitis

A smarter pregnancy test

An upgraded pee stick from Clearblue not only tells you if you’re pregnant but also gives you an idea of how far along you might be, via an extra strip that measures the concentration (not just the presence) of human chorionic gonadotropin in your urine. “It doesn’t beat the tests your doctor will run. But it could help women with irregular periods (caused by, say, breast-feeding or polycystic ovary syndrome) begin prenatal care on time,” says Pamela Berens, MD, professor of ob-gyn at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

A new way to fight breast cancer

Women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an abnormality that can become invasive breast cancer, or a strong family history of the disease are often prescribed tamoxifen to prevent it. “But many women won’t even start taking it, because they’ve heard of side effects like hot flashes and blood clots,” says Seema Khan, MD, of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. To see if there might be a better way, Dr. Khan prescribed tamoxifen in the form of either a pill or a gel applied to the breast to 26 women awaiting surgery for DCIS. Women who used the gel showed the same decrease in abnormal cell growth as the pill group—and they had no increase in blood markers linked to clots and other symptoms. The availability of the gel is still a few years away, but Dr. Khan says a topical gel might work for other drugs as well, suggesting that this is one discovery that could lead to many more.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Things That (Probably) DON’T Cause Breast Cancer

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

MONEY apps

Don’t Want to Wait for An Inbox Invite? These Email Apps Give You Its Best Features Right Now

white glove waiter holding silver tray with place card
Gary Alvis—Getty Images

Google's new email app looks a lot like some other products that are available right now

On Wednesday, Google released Inbox, a virtual redesign of the company’s Gmail service meant to help users deal with the troves of email that floods their inboxes every day. The product looks slick: You can snooze emails for later, create reminders that will also appear in your inbox, and similar messages are grouped together to make everything easier to find.

Unfortunately, Inbox is invite only, meaning email junkies eager to get their hands on a new toy could be left refreshing their real inboxes for a while. The good news? Many of Inbox’s best features are available right now. That’s because Google’s new release isn’t quite the reinvention of email some sites are hailing it as. In reality, lesser-known companies have been putting out Inbox-like apps for a while, and they’re pretty darned good. Here are three of the best ones, all of which work on both Android and iOS.

Mailbox

Price: Free

swipesnoozes

I would certainly never call Google’s Inbox a borderline ripoff of Dropbox’s pre-existing Mailbox app, but I can’t stop other people from doing it. Mailbox was first one to bring things like email snoozing and swipeable interfaces to the mainstream. Want put off a conversation until tomorrow? Just swipe left and Mailbox will remind you the next day. The app also makes sorting and archiving mail a breeze. This one might not have the same bells and whistles as its successors, but its simplicity can be a feature in itself.

CloudMagic

Price: Free

one four

One problem with Google’s blocky app style is it feels out of place on iOS’s hyper-modern interface. CloudMagic’s award winning design doesn’t have that problem. This app offers all the email snoozing and easy swiping of Mailbox in an even better looking package. And it’s not all eye candy. CloudMagic integrates with services like Evernote, Todoist, Salesforce, Pocket, and more, through a clever card interface. That means power users get a lot functionality, like reminders and notes, while casual users don’t have to bother with extra complexity.

Boxer

Price: $5 for pro upgrade

 email app
Boxer

Boxer is the only paid download on this list, but for some people it will be worth the money. This app’s main selling point is its “actions” interface, which you can activate on one or more messages at once. Once the action panel comes up, snoozing a conversation, adding a to-do item, firing back a quick reply, or even “liking” an email is all one tap away. Even better, the action interface also integrates with other web services, meaning replying with a Dropbox attachment can also be done quickly.

TIME

Bank of America Issues Refunds to Apple Pay Users

A glitch charged users twice for purchases

Bank of America said it is refunding Apple Pay users who were charged twice for purchases due to a glitch in the system.

Approximately 1,000 transactions were impacted by a BoA app glitch, a bank spokesperson told TIME. Refunds were issued on Wednesday.

Apple launched its new mobile payment service Monday—the latest major expansion of service by the tech giant. With it, customers can use their smartphones in lieu of debit and credit cards at dozens of retailers including Macy’s, Chevron, and Walgreens. Shortly after the launch, Bank of America customers took to social media to gripe about being double charged.

TIME technology

This App Can Scan and Solve Math Equations Instantly

Doing math homework just got way easier

A viral video about a new app looks like a dream come true for anyone who struggles with math.

Based on the promo clip, PhotoMath, dubbed a “smart camera calculator,” appears to use smartphone cameras to scan a photo of a math equation in a textbook and display the answer instantly — similar to apps that scan barcodes and takes users to a link in a web browser. It looks like the app can also show step-by-step instructions for solving the problem.

PhotoMath’s parent company MicroBLINK launched the app this week at TechCrunch Disrupt Europe in London, TechCrunch reports. It is available in the App Store on iTunes.

MORE: Really Hard Math Problems With Friends: A New Way to Prep for the SAT and ACT

Read next: 50 Best iPhone Apps, 2014 Edition

TIME

Here Are The Strange Things Dudes Are Asking on Lulu’s New Messaging Service

BC9209-002
Getty Images

The once women-only app is doing some serious male outreach

Lulu — an app that allows women to rate men as if they were consumer goods, including hashtags ranging from the good (#SelfMadeMan) to the gross (#PornEducated) — has now opened up the lines of communication between female and male users. After three weeks of beta testing, the two-year-old app launched its Truth Bombs feature Wednesday, which allows men to anonymously ask women questions. This feedback just might be what they need to raise their Yelp-like score.

“This is the first time we are doing any messaging,” said Lulu co-founder Alison Schwartz. “How it works is guys can ask an anonymous question or test out a theory they want to test out with women, some sort of query, and then they get instant feedback from millions of girls.”

The new feature pointedly marks the evolving relationship Lulu has with its million-plus male users. When the app launched in Feb. 2013, it was advertised as a secret, ladies-only space to swap information about former male relations. Bros stole glances at female friends’ phones and attempted hacks to see how they were doing. After a slew of Internet backlash (and anti-Lulu petitions) deriding the app for inciting bullying and gender-based double standards, Lulu made the experience more male-friendly in 2014 by having a policy where men had to opt-in and give their full permission to be reviewed. In May, the male-outreach went a step further and Lulu allowed men to check their scores, giving them tips and affirmations. (“Girls love your kissing.”)

And now, men can go straight to the source and ask women questions. But what have the men been asking? During the beta test, these were the most popular questions verbatim (there are some pretty bad typos), some of which led to 2,500 responses, although most questions average 15 replies:

  1. How many guys have you slept with and how old are you… GO !
  2. What age did you loose your virginity?
  3. Do women like abs or arms more?
  4. How frequently do girls masterbate?
  5. Do girls find it attractive if a guy claims p***y is being thrown at him left and right?

Um, woah. Some of these misspelled questions about “loosing” virginity (“Freudian slip?” asked Scwhartz) are just the type of sophomoric musings you’d expect from a dude who gets to anonymously crowdsource information from anonymous women. But when asked how the women were responding to the questions, Schwartz said, “They are meaningfully answering what the guys are asking about. They are trying to be really helpful.”

And there are moderation protocols — “we have designed a product against bullying,” said Scwhartz — to keep things clean, relatively. Although of the 60,000 Truth Bombs that were asked during the three week beta test, averaging some 100 Truth Bombs an hour, only 800 were flagged.

For now, the messaging option is all anonymous and each thread is limited to one guy (the one who posed the question) and millions of female users. Although other men can view the threads, they can’t participate in the conversation.

“But we see on the app that there’s interested in moving to a one girl one guy dynamic,” said Schwartz. Could the next step in Lulu be one-on-one communication, perhaps enabling dating? “Anything is possible, but we would do that in a way that this is very true to Lulu.”

See Also:

This Map Shows What Guys Are Like in Each Major City

Rate The Date Online: Lulu App Lets Women Review Hookups

TIME cities

Airbnb Is Nearly Legal In San Francisco

Airbnb logo

After months of heated debate among rental platforms, hosts and lawmakers, city leaders voted to regulate and allow short-term rentals

Updated, Wednesday Oct. 22, 11:25 a.m. ET

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 Tuesday to legalize short-term rentals facilitated by companies like Airbnb, while requiring hosts who use such services to collect taxes like more typical hotel operators do. If Mayor Ed Lee approves the proposal, home-sharing will officially be legal in the City by the Bay.

The new law, proposed by Board President David Chiu in April, also sets up a regulatory framework for this branch of the sharing economy, including a registry for all hosts and rules about who is and is not allowed to offer tourists a place on their couch. The final vote came after months of debate, hearings and lobbying on both sides.

“Everyone agrees that the status quo is not working,” Chiu told TIME shortly before the vote. “We have seen an explosion of short-term rentals without any regulatory or enforcement structure to handle this new activity. . . . This is a balanced, reasonable approach.”

An op-ed from California Sen. Dianne Feinstein arguing against the legislation, published by the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday, helped reignite previous debates about whether the legislation should include amendments limiting rentals to a total of 90 days per year (in order to help preserve the “residential character” of neighborhoods) or requiring that all hosting platforms pay back taxes before the law goes into effect.

Both amendments eventually failed. Those who supported the back tax requirement, which Feinstein called “commonsense,” said that companies like Airbnb should have been collecting and remitting hotel taxes since they started operating. Those who opposed the back taxes amendment argued that there might be drawn-out legal battles over those bills, saying the city could not afford to wait to start regulating short-term rentals—especially because, under the new law, business facilitated by companies like Airbnb will funnel an estimated $11 million per year into the city’s coffers.

Those opposed to the 90-day limit, meanwhile, argued it would limit the amount of income available to hosts who rely on short-term rentals to maintain their residence in the city. Before this law was passed, San Francisco prohibited any rentals for less than 30 days, a rule put in place to help preserve rental stock for full-time San Franciscans rather than tourists.

The new law will allow locals to rent out only their primary residences, a caveat meant to stop landlords who have taken apartments off the market to rent them out full-time on platforms like Airbnb as long-time residents struggle to find housing.

Chiu said that Airbnb fought many pieces that were in the final version of the legislation, such as the tax-collection requirement and the mandate that every host has insurance coverage. “No one got everything they wanted,” he said. Renters must also adhere to their existing contracts. The new law does not, for instance, trump any lease that prohibits a person from renting out their apartment, though it does prevent them from being evicted on their first offense.

At the Tuesday hearing, short-term rental supporters filled the seats of the hearing room in City Hall, raising their arms and twiddling their fingers in support of lawmakers who made arguments for the legislation. And they broke into cheers, despite the prohibition on noise-making, after it passed.

“This is about real, live people of San Francisco who rely on home-sharing . . . to put a new roof on their house, to put their kids through college,” Supervisor Scott Wiener said during the debate, to much finger twiddling. “What we’re doing is allowing people to actually make ends meet.”

MONEY Apple

Here’s What Happened When We Tried Apple Pay

Sure, the new payment system looks all shiny in Apple's demos, but does it really work on the streets of New York? We set off to find out.

Updated at 9:30 pm

We gave Apple Pay a real-world test run on Monday, the day the new payment system launched. And as you can see in the video, it worked pretty well. At least where we already expected it to work.

There are a few wrinkles you don’t see on camera. Setting it up wasn’t quite seamless. I deliberately tried to set it up on my new iPhone without reading in advance about how to do it—after all, that’s how most people use their iPhones in real life. I found myself roadblocked pretty quickly. The Passbook app where credit card info is supposed to be stored… didn’t seem to have any way to enter my credit card info. It turned out I had to update my phone to the latest version of iOS 8. I got the phone just last week, and have already upgraded once, so that was a bit of surprise.

Day two (Tuesday) of trying to use Apple Pay in everyday life, with no camera crew around, was less successful. At Starbucks, I watched other customers paying with smartphone apps, but learned that they were using the coffee company’s own system. Starbucks doesn’t do Apple Pay. At a Duane Reade drugstore—a New York brand of Walgreens—the reader didn’t work. But the cashier told me most of the other readers in the store did. Later on, I successfully paid for a couple of Lightning cables at a Walgreens in Brooklyn. “Wait, that thing actually works?” said the woman behind the register.

Apple Pay doesn’t feel revolutionary. You take out your phone instead of your credit card to pay for things—it just means reaching into a different pocket. But that probably counts as a success for Apple in the long run. Using Apple Pay is similar enough to what I already do that I can see it easily creeping into my everyday routine.

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