Tag Archives: modmaster

No More Apples-to-Apples Comparisons

I don’t know about you, but if I never hear another client, or prospective client, say they “just want an apples-to-apples comparison,” it will be too soon! 

As insurance agents, we don’t just hate that expression, we also know it’s a terrible idea for our clients. They ask for the comparison simply because insurance is complex, and they want to simplify information so they can make a decision and get on with their business. Unfortunately, many in the agent community have cooperated with this poor risk management strategy, which serves neither the client nor the agency, whether for personal or commercial lines. It reduces insurance and risk transfer to a commodity, which it is not and never will be, and results in inadequate or inappropriate coverage that rears its ugly head when a claim arises. 

In the future, agents who cooperate with apples-to-apples quoting will struggle. To understand why, we need only look at how technology is changing the rules of doing business.

Technology-Driven Winners

Technology, driven largely by artificial intelligence, will make it possible for customers to be better-educated, not only on their risks but on the various risk transfer mechanisms available to them. Smart systems will allow both consumer and commercial insurance purchasers to match their needs with available policy coverage in new and unprecedented ways. Also, relentless pressure for improved bottom lines fostered by competition in the marketplace will put an ever-increasing spotlight on the cost of insurance, forcing businesses to make more informed decisions. All of this means that agents must up their game from a technological perspective to prosper. Fortunately, technology will help in at least two ways. 

First, the improving technical tools available to agents will make it easier for them to select specific policy coverage and language for unique client needs. And improving integration between agency management systems and carrier technology will allow better product selection. Within a few years, this integration will increasingly be done automatically, freeing agents’ time. Additionally, as insurance companies continue to learn how to analyze the massive data they are collecting, their pricing methodologies will change. It will become easier for them, and their agency partners, to propose bespoke coverage with tailored pricing for smaller and smaller risks.

Second, a technology that can make a profound difference in moving agents away from commoditized selling is virtual transportation systems. Think Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other widely adopted platforms. Dan Sullivan of the Strategic Coach points out that Zoom is really a transportation technology in that it allows you to transport yourself over endless distance, and enables face-to-face communication with virtually no time or expense. 

But Zoom and similar products are merely the Model T version. Within five years, there will be widespread adoption of augmented reality systems that allow full, 360-degree, three-dimensional, almost physical communication between people at any distance. Agents will be able to market much more broadly than ever before. Agents will be able to fine tune and narrow the niche or target markets in which they work. This will result in increased collaboration among agents, clients and insurance companies as all three seek to fine tune not only coverage, but pricing, as well. 

Agents who adopt these technologies and master them will win. They will write the most profitable business and experience the highest growth rates while leaving other agencies using old technology and outdated mindsets to increasingly fight over the less profitable scraps of business. While this future, which is coming rapidly, is exciting, it is also potentially frightening because busy agents often aren’t sure what to do to prepare. 

See also: 2021: The Great Reset in Insurance

Preparing for Change

The first thing to do to be ready for this impending future is simple: Master your agency management system (AMS) so that data is uniform and complete. Most agencies, according to all major AMS companies, use only a fraction of the software capabilities already at their disposal. Worse, agency employees are not consistent in how they enter, preserve and manipulate data. This data is the raw material for the customized coverage and pricing model of the future. But if it is not accurate, complete and consistent, that future will be much harder to achieve. So, agents should start now by learning how to maximize the capability that is already present in their AMS and working on data collection and discipline. 

A second cultural objective to consider is implementing and enforcing consistent, careful annual coverage reviews with both prospects and clients. While this is standard practice in many agencies, it is often overlooked or involves only a cursory review of changes in business exposure or coverage needs. In the future, when clients know more about their own risks and coverage options, this won’t be adequate. Agents should begin now to increase their thoroughness. 

Third, understand, use and maximize your current carrier’s technology tools. Hartford Insurance Senior Vice President Matthew Kirk said in a recent podcast that using the tools that carriers already provide is one of the biggest opportunities for both agents and companies to reduce costs, increase speed and deliver appropriate solutions. By having serious conversations with carriers about capabilities, agencies can find another way to prepare for a future in which technology increasingly dominates competitiveness.

Finally, agencies should consider adding tools now from those that already exist. For example, many agencies find that tools like Risk Match allow them to do a better and faster job of matching client risk to carrier appetite. And tools like ModMaster allow agents to help their clients understand what drives their workers’ compensation costs and allows for agent/client conversations to move past price — to collaboration on risk reduction and cost elimination. There are many other similar tools in the market now that may be of use to agencies and their specific situation. The key is to become aware of these tools and add them to your arsenal as soon as possible. 

Taking these steps, which appear deceptively simple, will prepare agencies for a future in which the client/agent conversation shifts from fruit comparisons to one that is more like the tailor and his clients while preparing a bespoke suit.

What’s the Cost of the Polar Vortex?

Long-range forecasts don’t all agree on the weather or how we label it, but another winter of extreme cold may be upon much of the nation. I’m personally convinced one is because even where I live, in Tennessee, my dog, Max, is vocally rejecting his outdoor house at night — and that doesn’t usually happen until January. While Max and I, having lived in the South all our lives, may be wimps when it comes to the cold, conditions are clearly calling for an alternate plan. And that brings me to today’s topic: From a workers’ comp and safety perspective, did last year’s polar vortex provide any important lessons?

Slips and falls

Slips, trips and falls, according to OSHA, contribute to 15% of all workplace fatalities — second only to motor vehicle accidents. WorkCompWire recently reported that nearly one-third of all workers’ comp claims in the Midwest last year were because of slips and falls on ice and snow, doubling the rate of the previous year.

This data, from the Accident Fund and United Heartland, represents only five states, so I don’t want to say we have a national trend — but I am eager to see 2013-2014 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics or other major sources. Would it be surprising if percentages were even higher in areas where extreme winter weather is rare?

While it will be another year before the first “polar vortex” slips and falls from late 2013 show up on experience mods, I thought it would be interesting to set up a few scenarios and with the help of ModMaster illustrate how an increase in these accidents might affect an employer’s experience mod and premium.

The cost in terms of mod points – and increased premium

For the following scenarios, I assumed an average slip and fall on the ice would cost $22,000, which is in range of varied statistics I found on the web. Of course, an actual slip-and-fall expense could vary from very little to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on complications and time away from work. As you see below, whether the loss is kept as a medical-only loss or involves indemnity makes quite a difference – although, in actuality, an indemnity claim is probably going to be quite a bit higher than $22,000. As a reminder, in most states, medical-only losses are reduced by 70% because of the experience rating adjustment (ERA) rule of the experience rating formula.

For the first scenario, let’s imagine a relatively small machine shop with about $1.5 million in annual payroll. This company’s minimum mod is 0.79, and the manual premium is $75,000. As you can see below, a single average slip and fall would increase the mod by 8 points (on a scale of 100) and increase the premium by 10% – unless the claim is kept medical-only, in which case the impact would be only 3 mod points and about 3% of the premium.

Polar1

In a second scenario, let’s imagine another small company, one that consists of office workers. Because this company’s expected losses (not shown) are much less than in the first scenario, the company’s minimum mod isn’t as low as our first example. Furthermore, the impact of a single slip and fall is much more significant in terms of mod points. However, this company’s manual premium is only $5,000 — so while the premium impact of the slip and fall may not seem too significant in dollars, the percentage increase of their premium is notable.

Polar2

Finally, I wanted to see what kind of impact  several slips and falls might have on a larger company. My mind is already on holiday baking, so let’s imagine a cookie factory of several hundred employees and about $20 million in annual payroll. Then let’s imagine that, during a particularly bad patch of weather, seven people slip and fall in the parking lot and three more slip and fall in an entryway that has become wet with melting ice. For this company, which has a minimum mod of 0.43 and a manual premium of $500,000, those 10 slips are still a hefty impact if they’re not held to type 6.

Polar3

For the examples above, I’ve depicted companies whose workers are not primarily assigned to environmentally challenging conditions. Imagine the spike in injuries and cost for companies whose employees are exposed to cold stress.

‘The tip of the iceberg’

Slips and falls certainly aren’t the only winter issue. Workers’ comp and insurance news and blogs are populated with lists and stories of all types. Consider just a couple:

1.  A recent story in Business Insurance concerns an employee injured when her employer gave her a ride in the floor of a company van during a snowstorm. While the employer was clearly trying to help out its employees, this employee is due benefits, a NY court ruled, because she was still on the clock, and the employer “took responsibility for the inherent risks of transporting its employees from the worksite.”

2.  Although it’s not mentioned as a weather-related issue, it’s easy     to imagine that a situation like this wet floor case could have developed because of rain or snow. The moral of this particular story? A “wet floor” sign is a safety device that an employer must ensure is utilized, not just made available to custodians.

Regardless of the cause of any injury, a popular analogy in risk management is that the cost of workers’ compensation insurance is just the “tip of the iceberg.” In addition to direct insurance, medical and indemnity costs, the full costs include administrative expenses, potentially significant impacts to a company’s productivity and the injured employee’s overall well-being. By the most conservative estimates, an average slip of $22,000 may actually cost twice that — and by some estimates may approach $100,000 in total costs.

Summary

As the examples above show, the experience mod and cost impact of winter-related accidents are sure to vary considerably from one accident and one company to the next. Regardless of exact cost, the reported uptick in slips and falls on ice and snow should serve as a flare on a snowy roadside, reminding us that every company, regardless of its size or geographic location or the type of work it does, needs some level of preparation for extreme weather in terms of policy, operations and equipment. (Broker Briefcase is a good resource to help.)

Even before I read the news about the increase in Midwestern slips and falls, a prevalence of winter-related slips and falls had stood out to me in loss runs that I occasionally see in the process of assisting clients. Have you seen evidence of this, as well? How are you helping your client or company understand the potential cost of just one winter weather loss, and to prepare as much as possible for avoiding or mitigating that loss?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Is Paying Small Work Comp Claims Out of Pocket Ever Smart?

Many of you are well-versed in the importance of medical-only claims to the experience modification rating process. In the vast majority of states, these claims, also known as injury or IJ code type 6 losses, are reduced by 70% for the purposes of the mod calculation. This reduction is known as the experience rating adjustment (ERA).The ERA was first implemented in many states in the late ’90s to encourage employers to report all losses, not just those involving lost-time claims. At that time, it was common for companies to pay, rather than report, their small claims to avoid having those claims count against the mod. NCCI and other stakeholders were interested in collecting all possible data for statistical actuarial purposes, so the ERA was introduced. More than 15 years later, a reduction of medical-only losses now applies in 38 states, but within the industry I still hear a fair amount of talk about employers self-paying small workers’ compensation claims — even in ERA states. The many responses to the March 9, 2014, question “Do Employers Have to Report First Aid Claims?” on the Work Comp Analysis Group on LinkedIn illustrate how complex this issue can be. (Claims designated as “first aid” often have a different connotation from “small medical-only claims” in some states and to some carriers, but the discussion definitely overlaps with this article.)

All of this talk raises the question of whether we can analytically show that it saves– or costs — the employer to pay small med-only claims “out of pocket.” With the help of ModMaster, that’s what I examine in this article. Before we look at some scenarios, let’s not forget the following points.

Key factors to keep in mind

  • Self-payment of small claims is not legal in all states, or may be subject to fines or penalties. Specific rules are determined by state workers’ compensation statutes. For example, the Missouri Department of Insurance specifically suggests taking advantage of the state’s Employers Paid Medical Program to reduce the cost of work comp coverage. Clearly, it’s important to know the rules in your state.
  • Self-payment of claims also has implications at the federal level if injured employees are eligible for Medicare.
  • Employer access to state or “reasonable and customary” fee schedules is an important consideration in the cost of self-paid claims.
  • Perhaps most important, employers paying small claims out of pocket may risk liability if those claims should develop into something more costly.

A sample scenario in states where ERA is approved

For this analysis, I’ve imagined a relatively small business, Mike’s Machine Shop, operating in Missouri and Indiana (both ERA states) with these attributes:

  • An effective date of 1/1/2014
  • Approximately $1.7 million to $1.8 million in payroll each year, in codes 3632 and 8810, generating a minimum mod of 0.73
  • Three itemized losses, all type 5: $8,000, $12,000 and $45,000
  • The assumption that the shop had one $1,000 med-only claim per month in 2012, for a total of $12,000 in type 6 losses. (I chose $1,000 as a value that’s clearly med-only and yet above what might be considered a first-aid-only claim in some states.)

The good news is that self-paying creates a lower mod and therefore a lower premium. In 2014, Mike will save three points on his mod and $1,500 on his premium if he doesn’t report those 12 small claims. And, because those claims aren’t hanging around on his mod for two more years, he’ll save about $1,500 in 2015 and 2016, too. But we’re not done with the story! The bad news is that the self-paid claims costs add considerably – in this case $12,000 – to Mike’s Year 1 total cost of risk.

Let’s look at Year 2 of this scenario and imagine that Mike has instituted some safety improvements so that the shop has had just one small claim per quarter in 2013, for a total of $4,000 in type 6 losses. Let’s also imagine, for the sake of this analysis, that payroll and the other itemized losses have stayed exactly the same, as have rating values.

If Mike is not reporting small losses, then his mod and premium are the same as in 2014. If he is reporting the small claims, then the new claims in 2013 drive his mod to 0.99 — one more point than the 2014 mod. Cumulatively, the 2012 and 2013 small reported claims are responsible for four points, or approximately $2,000 in premium. Because Mike’s self-paid claims costs are considerably lower this year — $4,000 — then the Year 2 total cost of risk differs only by $2,000 between reporting and not reporting losses. Still, though, Mike has a financial advantage to report claims, especially when considered over the cumulative two-year total cost of risk.

The same scenario in a non-ERA state

If Mike were operating in a state that has not approved the ERA reduction, then the impact on the mod of small med-only claims is certainly more significant, and it’s easier to see how the scales could tip in favor of not reporting. However, in this example, using all the same assumptions as above, the overall cumulative cost savings still favors reporting of claims.

In states that have not implemented the ERA reduction, the total cost impact of paying work comp claims out of pocket requires especially close analysis.

Summary

These, of course, are just a couple of scenarios, and there are myriad reasons that ultimate costs could vary from these simple examples. However, in all the scenarios that I’ve constructed (many more than discussed here), paying small claims out of pocket seems hard to justify in ERA states. Even in non-ERA states, deciding whether to pay small claims out of pocket demands a detailed analysis that accounts for all associated costs, such as any fines and applicable medical fee schedules. In all cases, knowing your state rules is imperative. Refer to your state’s Department of Insurance or to the NCCI’s Unit Statistical Reporting Guidebook for more information.

As an analytics enthusiast, I tend to believe that claiming all losses results in better data — not just for the bureaus or insurance carriers but also for employers. And better data, of course, leads to more meaningful analysis opportunities. If an employer is working with an agent, broker or other risk management professional to analyze and act on their mod data, then why not have the complete picture and reveal all trends and drive the most appropriate operational initiatives toward improvement?