With the novel coronavirus impacting many businesses’ operations across the United States, insurance carriers are offering support when it comes to the needs of workers’ compensation insureds.
Experts from RIC Insurance General Agency, a division of Worldwide Facilities, shed some light on how carriers are responding to the ongoing crisis, firstly by providing flexibility on payroll reductions and premium payments.
“Most carriers responded immediately and announced moratoriums on cancellations. If [insureds] cannot make their payments, their policies will not cancel,” said Ana Sims, manager of workers’ compensation at RIC Insurance. However, it’s crucial that insureds are reaching out to their agents, who in turn can keep carriers in the loop on what’s going on with these accounts. Most carriers are also allowing payroll changes, but requests should be made as soon as possible so that the premium can be adjusted accordingly.
When it comes to audits, most carriers have suspended on-site visits so that auditors are not visiting insureds’ offices, and they’re conducting final audits via mail.
“If an audit produces a bill, the carrier is not going to cancel the policy for non-compliance of the audit or for not paying their premiums,” said Sims. “If the account requires an on-site visit, most carriers are pushing visits back at least 30 days and then they’ll revisit it when it is safe for people to start conducting business again.”
The pandemic has also shifted the workplace setting for many employees. A significant number of people are now working remotely while some businesses, namely restaurants, have shifted to providing delivery services. Carriers have, for the most part, been understanding of the changes to employees’ work patterns, according to Sims.
“Most carriers do not like to take on delivery exposure, nor do they like taking on employees that work from home,” she said. “However, in this situation, carriers are doing the best they can and allowing that to happen so that insureds can continue to keep their businesses going.”
For businesses moving to work-from-home, most carriers will not require employees’ home addresses. Nonetheless, the carrier should be notified if working from home becomes permanent for employees within a business. For those businesses now offering delivery, insureds need to likewise notify their agents so that the carrier can be kept in the loop on this change.
Moreover, workers’ comp related claims should continue to be reported as they occur. Carriers will continue to review claims to determine compensability, explained Sims.
Amid the pandemic, the key takeaway is to keep lines of communication between insureds, agents, and carriers open.
“We’re doing our best to keep up on all these changes. If an agent has any questions, they should reach out to their carrier or MGA,” said Sims. “Also, I think it’s important that agents reach out to their insureds because, in these types of situations, insureds aren’t focused on insurance as it’s not their first and foremost thought.”
Added Jeff Gans, senior vice president of workers’ compensation at RIC Insurance: “We’re in the early days of this crisis and I think that we should expect it to change as we learn more. So far, carriers are responding very responsibly and states are driving this too, with extending requirements for cancellation and non-renewals. I think that together, we’re all working through this.”