COVID: Chance to Rethink Work Comp

As insurers worry that the pandemic is depressing premiums, here is a way to rethink workers' comp -- and two entirely new product ideas.

Workers' compensation pre-COVID was an extremely competitive market and now, as we’re in the midst of COVID, continues to be a highly competitive line of business. With declining payrolls, insurers are looking for ways to differentiate and retain their existing book of business while finding ways to attract and grow new business.

Well, I have an idea for you. It’s an entirely new product for workers' compensation.

You may be asking: How can that be? Workers' compensation is defined by law, right? It’s a state-mandated program consisting of payments required to be made to an employee who is injured or disabled in connection with work. The coverage is mandated by law, the benefits are defined by law and the rates are determined by law. So how can you create a new workers' compensation product?

Well, what if you redefined the product? What if instead of saying, “Our goal is to provide employers with the means to meet their legally mandated requirements,” you instead said, “Our goal is to help the citizens of our state(s) recover when an employee is injured”? That change in wording suddenly opens up a wide variety of other benefits that could be provided. You can think of it as two new endorsements that wrap around the traditional workers' compensation coverage.

The first endorsement is what you can think of as Employee Plus. Similar to accident insurance, which wraps around a traditional health policy and provides additional benefits for a fee, Employee Plus could provide additional benefits for a fee – for the kinds of expenses that employee incur when injured. For example:

  • Transportation expenses for family members trying to get to the hospital or to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription or for the injured worker to get to physical therapy visits.
  • Childcare reimbursement for family members who are at the hospital with their injured family member and are unable to care for children.
  • Costs for food delivery for family members who no longer have time to prepare meals. Even just a few meals could help.
  • Housekeeping, gardening or laundry services that may be needed when a family member is either injured and unable to perform these tasks themselves or are spending their time caring for the injured family member.
  • Family therapy – to deal with the aftermath of the injury.
  • Spousal retraining – for those who now have to go back to work or find new ways of generating more income as the employee is injured.
  • Remodeling expenses for a home – if the injured worker is severely disabled and can no longer easily navigate through a home. Ramps, wider doors and remodeled showers can all be key to allowing an injured worker to stay in their home.
  • College scholarships for the children of injured workers

You get it: the kinds of out-of-pocket costs that only occur if someone is injured. There’s probably a zillion other options that could be provided – or an insurer could choose a subset of these to provide. These benefits would be small fixed limits and may be triggered by the level of injury. A permanent total injury might trigger a $10,000 scholarship where a temporary partial would not. The employer could choose to offer one or more of these and could choose the limit it wants to provide injured employees. What a great employee benefit an employer could offer to attract or retain employees.

Similar to Employee Plus, an insurer could launch Employer Plus, to cover the kinds of additional expenses an employer incurs when an employee is injured. Examples might be:

  • Public relations support should the accident hit the news and create a reputation risk.
  • Therapy for employees who witnessed the accident.
  • Costs for equipment needed if a job needs to be redesigned to accommodate the worker.
  • Staff augmentation reimbursement to cover the salary of a temporary replacement worker.
  • Head hunter fees – to cover the costs of finding a permanent replacement.

There are likely a number of additional options that could be provided on a fixed limits basis and triggered by the severity of the injury. Today, workers' compensation provides no recovery solutions for the employer - it only covers the injured workers. But put yourself in the place of the employer or the injured worker, identify all the hidden costs and irritants -- and, voila, you've found a new product.

See also: Big Changes Coming for Workers’ Comp

Our work on customer experience shows that while many insurers are focused on making the process fast and easy, customers also expect help recovering from their losses -beyond a simple check. And while some insurers provide some of these services outside of the contract when they feel it is warranted, there is no reason that you couldn’t explicitly offer these coverages and generate a little revenue while demonstrating that you truly care about their recovery.

Hoping this idea triggers some insurers to consider new ways of differentiating themselves in a highly regulated product line. And feel free to reach out if you want to brainstorm on this some more!

This blog entry has been reprinted with permission from Celent.

Karlyn Carnahan

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Karlyn Carnahan

Karlyn Carnahan is the head of the Americas Property Casualty practice for Celent. She focuses on issues related to digital transformation. Carnahan is the lead analyst for questions related to distribution management, underwriting and claims, core systems and operational excellence.


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