As soon as I walked into the outer office of my company’s newly appointed Insurance Company, I could tell that there was something very different about this one. In the past we the staff of my company had cleverly maneuvered around having to submit ourselves for comprehensive evaluation to enable the human resources department update our health records and amend our medical coverage as required by company policy. This is because the process was long and tedious and kind of a huge drag, with all sorts of poking and prodding, not to mention the numerous forms we had to complete which asked us all sorts of personal and cringe-worthy questions about our state of health, health history, habits, lifestyles, and even descriptions of our current sex life. We found this quite intrusive, and whenever we could avoid the annual evaluation we did…when we couldn’t avoid it, we gritted our teeth through the physical and lied like crazy on our forms.
This time I was actually quite interested in what the procedure was going to be about in this establishment. The sign right above the information desk declared boldly that this company insured its customers based on the results of their new BIOMETRIC TECHNOLOGY methods. I read the words out loud to myself as I wondered what this meant in terms of medical testing and health insurance. I was not entirely new to the use of Biometrics as a means of identifying individuals because we had thumb print scanners on the office doors in my company which read your print and allowed you access if you were registered as a staff in the system; and I was aware that there were even more advanced security measures in the President’s office that only allowed him and his vice to access the innermost rooms via a retinal scan, but I was curious as to how biometric technology applied to my getting insurance.
So I asked the cheerful young chap in the lab coat who came over to usher me into the examination rooms, how they used my finger print and features of my eyes to insure me. He chuckled at length at my question, then pulling a picture chart out of a desk drawer; he began to explain to me that Biometric Technology was much more than just finger and eye identification. He told me that Biometrics was in a nutshell, everything about a person or people that made them either the same or different. He talked about how many years ago it was discovered that every individual had a unique fingerprint, and how that discovery had gone on to revolutionize crime detection and crime solving; identification of persons, and even security protocols. I nodded and told him that I was aware of all these, but he wasn’t done.
“Biometric Technology includes traits and features that make you, you. It goes as far as your DNA, that is, the genetic information from which your physiological and psychological traits were created.” I smiled like I understood all this, but I did not say anything, hoping that he would explain further.
“I’m not going to bore you with technical details like ‘False Match Rates’ and ‘Adaptive Biometric Systems’, but I will tell you this much. As a staff of our client, we understand the need for accuracy in gathering information to enable us insure each and every one of you under coverage that is tailor made for your age, medical history and current lifestyle.
You see, in the past we have had issues with clients filling out their biodata forms and giving us a lot of false information. This has resulted in a lot of fraudulent claims and even cases improper and incomplete coverage. The use of modern Biometric Technology ensures that we accurately capture your current state of health, as well as detect warning signs of possible future illness or recurring family medical conditions.”
I thought about this for a few minutes as the lab coat guy went about taking samples of my blood and saliva and then giving me a tiny bottle to pee in. while I did my business, I grudgingly admitted that biometric technology could actually help us company staff know if we are in the best shape, or if we needed to seek a second opinion.
Yes we all lied about our alcohol and tobacco consumption, and I know that my colleague Femi would never admit on an insurance form that he liked to visit the beach regularly and have unprotected sex with the prostitutes that frequented the waterfront at night (even though he had a wife and two kids at home), so this might actually be a welcome development for us.
However I was worried about the intrusive nature of this technology. I myself had nothing to hide – since I can’t swim and so I stay well away from the beach…so to speak – but isn’t it wrong for total strangers to gather such personal information about me just because I want comprehensive insurance? .
There was a moral angle to this that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I mean, my family history could be laid bare upon examination of my DNA! I was the one being insured, not my folks, and I did not think it was really fair to them.
Yes, Nigeria was a developing nation, but such a leap in science should be discussed at length and approved by the Senate before insurance companies could use them. The good thing about Biometric Technology was that the examination was soon over, and all I had to fill out was a single page form…as opposed to the eight page, small print ones we used to fill out in the past.
A few days later I received a message from the insurance company: my exam showed no lingering illness or dangerous lifestyle. I was fully insured for the following year. But then again…are Nigerians ready to be insured using Biometric Technology?