Tag Archives: insurance thought leadership

‘Yoga Your Way’ to Better WC Results

With the advancement of telehealth and mobile workforces, an exciting concept has emerged to assist employers and employees to take control of their body and provide better quality of life. This new concept is Yoga Your Way.

Yoga popularity has grown tremendously in the past several years, and National Health Interview Survey data conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show increased usage for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments. In 2007, yoga was the seventh most commonly used CAM therapy. There has been a steady rise in the use of yoga since 2017 to treat musculoskeletal conditions; the limiting factors are cost, convenience, timing of class and access to studios.

Derived from the Sanskrit word “yuji,” meaning yoke or union, yoga is an ancient practice that brings together mind and body. Practicing yoga is said to come with many benefits for both mental and physical health. Proven yoga physical benefits are: reduced inflammation, reduced chronic pain, improved flexibility and balance, improved breathing and sleep. Yoga also has psychological benefits of decreasing stress, anxiety and depression.

If there is a work-related injury, yoga is considered self- care, as it can help prevent seeking medical care. It not only leads to better outcomes while helping to eliminate OSHA recordables and workers’ compensation claims, but it is a skill that can increase quality of life and be used to prevent work-related injuries in the future. Yoga, in comparison with spinal manipulation, physical therapy and acupuncture, may be more cost-effective because it can be delivered in a group format and self-administered at home. However, actual cost analysis of yoga interventions is needed.

This literature review suggests that yoga is effective in reducing pain and disability and improving both physical and mental function.

About one-fourth of U.S. adults report low back pain, lasting a whole day or more, with average duration of three to six months. It is the most common cause of limited activity in people below the age of 45, the second-most frequent reason for visits to a physician, the third-most common reason for surgery and the fifth-most common cause of hospital admission in the U.S., according to Spine Journal The majority of individuals with back pain and sciatica recover from an acute episode in four to eight weeks, and 80% to 90% return to work within 12 weeks post-injury. However, 25% to 80% of patients with low back pain experience some form of recurrent back problem in the following year. Among those who suffer from an episode of low back pain, one year later as many as 33% have moderate intensity pain, and 15% may have severe pain.

In other words, there is a huge opportunity for yoga to address.

See also: How to Optimize Healthcare Benefits  

Yoga Your Way is a new concept in a trend to take yoga outside of the studio and allow anyone to practice and integrate the benefits of mind-body interaction. Yoga Your Way can be brought to the worksite and paid for by the employer as a employee health benefit, providing customized yoga videos designed for a person’s ability and needs.

Studies have shown that practicing yoga 15 minutes per day leads to reduced illness and improved mental health. Yoga Your Way incorporates these principles for the  mobile workforce such as the transportation industry as well for a more stationary workforce. Custom programs can range from simple stretching done in a truck (while parked) to exercises for those overseas in a war zone.

Yoga Your Way is not only providing relief from work-related conditions but is a preventive measure to strengthen and increase endurance, overall health and mind/body awareness.

Yoga is not just stretching in a crowded studio. It it is anyone, anywhere and any time.

How to Cut Insurers’ Legal Costs

If insurers want to lower their legal costs, or at least make themselves less vulnerable to costly litigation, they need to increase their emphasis on safety. 

They need to revise their policies to align with public policy. They need to make it their policy to ensure safety before they insure clients—before they issue insurance to businesses—whose places of business are dangerous or potentially deadly. 

Absent a change, policies for all clients will become more expensive. The expense may be too much for some companies to bear, the expense may be too burdensome for most small businesses to endure, unless the seemingly inevitable becomes the easily avoidable.

That is to say, insurance can be more affordable, and insurers can afford to make more money, if safety is a national priority.

Achieving this goal is a matter not only of listening to what a lawyer says, but doing what he recommends.

According to Howard P. Lesnik, an injury law expert and member of the New Jersey Association of Justice, insurers should listen to what juries have said; insurers should listen to what juries continue to say, that accident victims deserve the damages they seek.

All juries may not say the same thing, but many say what all insurers should hear—the truth.

The truth is: When a place of business is injurious to the public, when the injuries are similar and the place where they happen is the same, when a business does nothing to prevent accidents that have a high likelihood of resulting in physical injuries, then it is no accident that that business is indifferent to the interests of the public.

Insurers must not be accomplices to such indifference. Not when a policy of do-nothingism is a prescription to lose everything. Not when the price of inaction is a possible class action lawsuit. Not when the ultimate price is bankruptcy, morally and monetarily.

See also: Visions of Safety and Pictures of Success  

A policy of conscience, on the other hand, is anything but indifferent.

It is a statement of principle, saying to the nation that insurers do acknowledge, that insurers do accept their role as leaders.

Such a statement would do a lot to define the insurance industry as a symbol of leadership.

To be true to that statement, insurers must listen to what an injury law expert has to say. 

In so doing, a dialogue may ensue. and new standards of excellence may emerge.

This dialogue is too important to ignore or dismiss, given the dangers that exist and the risks that threaten the lives of individuals and the livelihoods of individual workers throughout the insurance industry. 

Silence, in other words, is deadly.

Through an exchange of ideas and an attempt to achieve certain ideals, insurers can promote better business practices, superior workplace conditions and fewer accidents. They can also champion greater oversight and safety.

Let insurers strive to do these things, despite whatever challenges, criticisms or costs may arise.

Let insurers do what is right, despite whatever may happen, period.

Blockchain in Insurance: 3 Use Cases

Insurance, being one of the most conservative, centralized and walled industries, is awakening from its slumber and probing new technologies. Its shy yet solid interest in innovations, particularly in blockchain, is powered by customers’ increased distrust in centralized financial services, which has led to high rates of underinsurance. 

Driven by both curiosity and fear, insurance companies seek to hire blockchain developers to help them out. Curiosity comes from blockchain promising to save time and lower transactional costs. At the same time, insurers fear this innovation as it can open up new approaches for cyber-attacks. 

Let’s explore how insurance companies can adopt blockchain technologies safely and cease to lag behind other financial service sectors.  

What is blockchain in insurance?

First things first, let’s define what blockchain is in the context of insurance.

The blockchain technology is based on the distributed ledger principle that eliminates the need for intermediaries. Copies of the shared ledger are stored across multiple users’ locations, providing any endorsed insurance company, agent, broker or underwriter with access to the same source of data updated in real time. All the transactions registered on a blockchain are verified and encrypted, while all the changes to the records are published as additions to the original data. 

The practical application can look like this: With the help of blockchain, medical records can be encrypted and shared between hospitals and insurers (even across borders), thus cutting duplicated and erroneous records, lengthy claim processing, claim denials and excessive checkups.    

How blockchain is implemented in insurance

According to the Accenture Technology Vision 2019 survey, more than 80% of insurance companies claimed they adopted or were planning to adopt the blockchain technology. It’s true: Many blockchain insurance projects are lingering at the proof of concept stage. However, to accelerate adoption, some companies choose to collaborate and form alliances, such as the Blockchain Insurance Industry Initiative (B3i) or the Institutes’ RiskStream Collaborative. 

See also: Blockchain: Seizing the Opportunities 

These trailblazing alliances develop blockchain-based platforms to make the following blockchain use cases possible. 

Fraud and abuse prevention

Fraud costs the insurance industry monstrous amounts of money, mostly because it’s impossible to detect fraudulent activities with regular methods based on the use of publicly available data and private data sources. As a result, the accumulated data is usually fragmented due to legal constraints accompanying personally identifiable information. 

Unfortunately, these gaps in visibility are being compromised by fraudsters. For example, multiple claims can be filed for a single case of care.

When data is stored on a blockchain-based ledger, it’s secured with cryptographic signatures and granular permission settings. It means that all the parties can share data and verify its authenticity without revealing sensitive information. A shared decentralized ledger facilitates historic data consolidation and helps companies spot suspicious patterns, such as:

  • Multiple processing of the same claim    
  • An insurance policy’s ownership manipulation
  • Insurance sold by unlicensed brokers

To attain even higher security, insurance companies can provide customers with encrypted digital ID cards that can’t be faked. 

Boosted transparency and trust

Insurance companies are called walled gardens for a reason. Customers have little chance to see how their data is managed. For example, they will never know that their data is shared with third parties. It’s no wonder that customers grow distrustful of insurance companies, particularly when facing long claim processing times or receiving claim denials—while the cost of premiums is ever-increasing. 

However, when multiple insurance companies choose to contribute data to the same decentralized and shared ledger, it can lead to three big advantages:

  1. Insurance companies can build more complete customer profiles and eliminate duplicate records. As the data in the blockchain ledger is immutable, the insurance companies won’t doubt its authenticity.  
  2. Customers will get visibility into what data their insurers have on them, and how this data is processed. Plus, when blockchain is combined with machine learning and AI, claim processing can be automated, thus accelerating payouts. 
  3. Blockchain helps automatically verify third-party claims or payments made through personal devices. Further on, the insurance company will be able to see all those transactions reflected on the blockchain.

Streamlined claim management

Selling and managing insurance policies is a labor-intensive process. In the context of high competition, insurance companies that stick to slow and paperwork-heavy traditional approaches lose to more digitally savvy competitors. The latter are able to offer lower premiums by automating claim management. 

Some of the processes can be automated by means of smart contracts which are getting popular for property and casualty insurance. When used in combination with connected devices, a smart contract can trigger automatic claim processing when, for example, anti-theft sensors go off under certain pre-programmed conditions. 

However, the truly streamlined insurance management requires increased trust from both insurers and consumers. The best way to reach this balance is to create a blockchain-based ecosystem with a considerable number of high-profile participants. A model illustration is the Bank of China, which has recently partnered with leading insurance companies and launched its own blockchain. Once new records are added to the blockchain, the distributed ledger technology helps update and validate the data against other records in the network, which significantly reduces operating costs, at the same time providing high security for transactions.

The distributed ledger technology also deals with one more factor that slows down claim management—the need for bank transfers. As a rule, customers don’t see payouts in their accounts for weeks. However, when banks and insurers have a single system they trust, the payouts can be processed without considerable delays.

See also: Blockchain, Privacy and Regulation 

Final thoughts

Blockchain is a decisive factor in transforming the insurance industry and helping it break free from outdated traditions. The need for innovation in insurance is critical—customers are craving transparency, speed and cost flexibility. Blockchain is designed to deliver on these desires and meet all the participants’ particular expectations. 

When there’s little to no chance of fraud, people will trust their insurance agents more. When complex policy claims are processed 10x faster, there’s no room for friction. At the same time, when claim processing is automated, insurers have more possibilities to be flexible with pricing. 

What’s more, the covered use cases are just the beginning. With more blockchain-based applications going live and more companies entering into collaborations, the insurance industry can grow its tech ecosystem to create better products for case management, audit and risk modeling.

3 Ways AI, Telematics Revolutionize Claims

The automotive claims process has long been strenuous, time-consuming and costly both for insurers and consumers. The moment an incident occurs, a driver is placed in a world of stress. In addition to managing the emotional strain that is a car crash, the driver now has to deal with several different parties to repair the damage. Traditionally, it takes one to three days after filing a claim to initiate contact with an insurance adjuster (it takes even more time if the adjuster needs to inspect the damage).

There is suddenly an unexpected burden consuming time and money and requiring paperwork. But advancements in artificial intelligence and telematics (such as our new Claims Studio) can revolutionize the claims system by validating claims, processing them much faster and placing safety at the forefront for drivers. 

Here are three ways the insurance industry can adapt to improve the claims process: 

Validating Claims

Automotive claims have historically been a manual process, where drivers retell their side of the story following a collision. These details are then shared with insurance companies, adjusters and, at times, even courts, to resolve claims and disputes. This process leaves room for ambiguity and human error, because, as we all know, there are two sides to each story. We also have to take into consideration the shock that results from a car crash – a driver might not remember or realize immediately the need to take photos of the damages or call the insurance company to begin the claims process.

Insurers can help drivers mitigate this complicated and stressful process by implementing advanced technologies, now available, that provide accurate, unbiased crash storylines. These narratives detail key findings such as the severity of a crash, where the vehicle was hit, the driver’s speed (before, during and after a collision), the weather and more. A claims adjuster needs this information to do his or her job. When this information is incomplete or inaccurate, the process takes longer, and costs increase for the driver.

Accelerating the Claims Process

In addition to enabling insurers to settle claims more seamlessly and accurately (preventing potential fraud), these technologies aid in settling claims earlier, paving the way for better customer experiences. For example, our solution automatically populates crash insights and reporting into a web portal or directly into an insurer’s claims management system, providing insurers with many details needed to quickly process a claim. By offering claims adjusters this information within 10 minutes of an accident, insurers are empowering them to help drivers quickly resolve their issues.

Placing Safety at the Forefront

The use of artificial intelligence and telematics has brought significant benefits to insurers and consumers. Several auto insurers are already using mobile telematics to assess risk and promote safer driving behavior, but the benefits don’t start and end there. In fact, one of the most important – and life-saving – aspects of the technology is the ability to detect crashes within moments of their occurring. Technology provides real-time notifications of a vehicle crash to quickly send roadside assistance to drivers when they need it most. By providing critical details like GPS location, time and driver identification, new crash detection solutions enable insurers to save valuable time in emergency situations, offering an added level of peace of mind. 

See also: Untapped Potential of Artificial Intelligence  

In some instances, the new technologies could also save a life. One instance is Discovery Insure, a South Africa-based insurer that uses our Crash Detector to send immediate roadside assistance and paramedics to customers following collisions and life-threatening crashes. One customer, Evelyn Sadler, received immediate attention after a taxi swerved into her vehicle, causing it to go airborne. As the distracted driving epidemic increases, causing 1.25 million people to die in road crashes each year, insurers can offer drivers technologies and solutions that can keep safety at the forefront and prevent many deaths. 

The future of the automotive claims system is already here, with several insurers realizing the impact this technology has on their bottom line. I’m excited to continue to watch this space grow – and hope that additional insurance organizations will quickly follow suit.

Answer This Before Taking Online Payment

If your customers go to your website to pay, and you use a third-party vendor to process the payment, whom are they paying: You or the vendor?

The answer to this deceptively simple question can determine whether your business handles online payments smoothly or runs afoul of state laws, landing you in legal hot water.

It turns out that, at least in some states, the answer is far from straightforward. In fact, it may even depend on how you ask the question.

As the head of a company that helps other businesses process online payments easily, I saw this up close in New York state as we navigated the complicated legal guidance on behalf of our partners.

It’s an instructive story for businesses that may be thinking of adding online payment to their websites, because it illustrates the pitfalls you could face if you hire the wrong people.

It all began on June 19, 2007, when I received an advisory opinion that had been published by the New York Insurance Department responding to a question I had asked:

“May an entity that provides a service to insurance companies that permits policyholders to pay their insurance premiums by credit card charge those policyholders an additional fee to cover credit card and other service expenses?”

The answer? No.

The department said that vendors such as my current company, Simply Easier Payments, may not charge policyholders paying insurance premiums with a credit card an additional fee.

The document ends with this statement:

“Because an insurer may not impose a credit card surcharge on a policyholder, anyone acting on an insurer’s behalf, such as the company, is similarly prohibited from imposing a surcharge on the policyholder.”

I then asked a slightly different question and received a very different answer just a few months later.

See if you can spot the difference in the second question:

“May an entity that provides a service to insurance policyholders that enables them to pay their insurance premiums electronically by credit card charge those policyholders a fee to cover credit card and other service expenses”?

The answer? Yes.

In a Feb. 25, 2008, response, the department said that nothing in New York insurance law and regulations bars a vendor that “provides a service to insurance policyholders that enables them to pay their insurance premiums electronically” from charging a fee.

If you find that confusing, you’re not alone. But it turns out there’s a world of difference between the two questions.

See also: 7 Questions on Taking Online Payments  

Who are your customers paying?

The regulators in New York were kind enough to meet with me for a discussion about our business model before they reached the second opinion. They were very clear in our meeting about the difference between the two answers.

In the first question, we were considered to be a legal representative of the insurance company. We were acting on the company’s behalf. As such, we were subject to all the same laws and regulations as the company was.

Imagine you regularly eat at a hot dog stand, and the city has a rule that the stand can’t charge you extra for condiments. The owner can’t just hire a lawyer to stand nearby and demand payment instead; it’s all the same hot dog stand.

But in the second question, we were not representing the insurance company, we were helping the policyholder. That meant we had a separate business relationship.

In this example, you’re not going to a hot dog stand. You’re giving money to a friend who’s going to bring you back a hot dog and maybe run some other errands for you. If he demands an extra dollar for the trouble of getting mustard and relish, there’s nothing stopping him.

Define your pre-existing business relationship.

The department used three criteria for determining if an existing business relationship existed between us as a vendor and the insurance carrier or agency.

  1. Is there a written contract between us and the merchant receiving the payment?
  2. Does the merchant receiving the payment pay us any amount for any service?
  3. Do we pay the merchant any other amount?

If the answer to any of these was yes, then the department would consider us to be the representative of the carrier or agency and therefore subject to all the same laws and regulations.

In addition, one other criterion was noted in the permission granted on Feb. 25, 2008:

“The payment system does not at any time hold the premium payment on behalf of the customer or any insurance company.”

The conclusion reads:

“Thus, an insurer (or anyone acting on the insurer’s behalf) may not impose a credit card surcharge on a policyholder. Your client, by contrast, is not selling insurance and is not acting on any insurer’s behalf. Rather, it is providing (and charging for) a distinct service, i.e. the making of secure payment via electronic means.”

What does this mean for your business?

The moral of the story is not what you should do if you’re running an insurance agency – or even a hot dog stand – in New York. It’s that you need to be aware of the complexity of these laws before you hire any company to help process payments for your business. The wrong decision could prove costly.

The laws on credit card surcharges vary from state to state, and not all of them are as tricky as the scenario we ran into in New York.

But in general, states now agree on those criteria for establishing a separate business relationship.

See also: 3 Reasons to Use Online Marketplaces  

As a result of that back-and-forth in New York, we at Simply Easier Payments stripped our business model down as much as possible to avoid any legal complications.

We do not have a contract with merchants. We do not charge merchants for any service, e.g. no monthly fees, no charge-back fees, no integration fees, etc. We do not pay merchants. And we never hold the premium payment in any way.

This helps us avoid any situation in which we might be considered a legal representative of the businesses we work with. The goal, as our name says, is to make things easier.