Give Employees Cash to Purchase Their Own Insurance | Shield Insurance Agency

Give Employees Cash for Insurance

Give Employees Cash to Purchase Their Own Insurance

Employers’ and employee’s health care costs continue to skyrocket. A solution is to allow employers to give employees pre-tax cash to purchase their own health insurance. This move, enabled by a newly enacted federal rule, would put competitive pressure on insurers, driving down costs, and leave more cash in employees’ pockets.

In 2018, American corporations spent $962 billion on health care, a mammoth sum that should significantly influence the health care system. Despite this leverage, U.S. firms continue to struggle with spiraling costs. From 2013 to 2019, the price of health insurance premiums for corporate family plans grew by 22%, dwarfing the growth in overall inflation (8%) and workers’ earnings (14%) as a percentage of income.

In response to these price hikes, all too many firms have sought better prices from health insurers by increasing out-of-pocket employee payments, yet have not passed on the savings to employees. By 2019, employees’ share of health insurance premiums had grown from 26% (in 2005) to 30%, and deductibles had more than tripled. Thirty percent of covered employees were in plans with deductibles averaging a hefty $4,673 to $5,335 for various family high-deductible health plans. Underinsurance grew, with 28% of workers lacking complete financial protection.

The diversion of employee money to pay for health insurance is a little-discussed factor in stagnant wages among wage-earning employees. Because premiums are not adjusted for income, lower-income employees have been hit especially hard, exacerbating income inequality. The cost-shifting may also have affected a considerable decrease in lower-income employees accepting employers’ health insurance.

There is a ready solution to the combined problem of spiraling employer and employee health-care costs: Allow employers to give employees pre-tax cash to purchase their own health insurance. This move, enabled by a newly-enacted federal rule, would put competitive pressure on insurers, driving down costs, and leave more cash in employees’ pockets. Before we describe how this can work, some history is required.

ESI: Accident of History

Although the funds employers use to purchase insurance are widely recognized to come partially from reductions in employees’ take-home pay, the purchase is known as Employer-Sponsored Insurance (ESI), likely because employers chose the plans offered to employees. Employees thought that “good jobs” included health care benefits, although employers in effect paid for insurance through reductions in employee compensation.

ESI was created with an obscure post-World War II regulation that enabled employers to purchase health insurance for their employees using tax-free income.Yet, people who bought health insurance individually could not deduct the expense from their income taxes, except under rare circumstances. Tax policy changes behavior, and so it was for the health insurance market. Businesses thrive when the right personnel are doing the right jobs, but ESI forced the HR VPs to become health insurance shoppers.

They got their best deal from the big insurance companies and offered a few plans they hoped could meet their employees’ diverse needs. In 2019, only one-fifth of insured workers in all firms had a choice of more than two plans and 36% overall had no choice.  Although substantial research indicates that increasing the selection of plans and insurers increases employee welfare and controls costs, some employers may worry that increasing choice will increase administrative costs. But the fees for defined contribution pensions, typically with 27 choices, decreased over time.

By 2019, this tax preference caused up to 153 million employees and their families to obtain their health insurance through their employer, rather than in markets for individual health insurance as they do for most other goods and services. It also stopped one of five adults who said that they or a partner who lost their ESI coverage due to Covid-19 reductions from buying health insurance on a tax-free basis.

A New Approach

We propose a new approach that would give American workers and their families greater choice of insurers and plans, with the potential benefit of putting more dollars in their pocket. This approach would also enable employers to offer more attractive compensation packages to recruit employees in the war for talent.

We can do this based on a newly enacted federal rule that grants workers control, pre-tax, of their ESI funds. The law allows employers to give employees a lump sum of cash for purchasing health insurance, pre-tax, through health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). Until recently, any lump-sum payment to an employee, even if intended exclusively for buying health insurance, would count as taxable income. We would add a wider variety of Affordable Care Act (ACA)-compliant, pre-tax health insurance plans, and increased transparency that reveals the impact of different choices on their after-tax income and coverage.  Our proposal would enable the employee to keep whatever dollars not spent on health insurance after taxes.

This structurally modest but economically significant platform would give workers fuller control of ESI funds, introduce substantial competition among plans/insurers, and enable shopping and navigation tools to allow more effective expenditures of ESI dollars. When applying these control, choice, and transparency reforms to all American workers receiving ESI, our simulation projects 2018 increases in total annual after-tax worker income of $101 billion to $252 billion and of federal income and most federal payroll taxes of $39 billion to $163 billion, depending on the concentration of risk in the employer’s pool of insured employees.  (The plan pricing includes a “holdback” of the funds needed to maintain cross-subsidies from members of the pool of insured employees with lower health care costs to those with higher health care expenses. The holdback also spares self-insured employers from paying substantially more for ESI if healthier employees cash out an amount once used to subsidize higher-cost ones.)

These increases in after-tax income accrue disproportionately to lower-income employees. The simulation also shows that as employees buy lower-cost health insurance, total medical care expenses decline commensurately by 7.3% to 25.1%, generally exceeding hundreds of billions of dollars.

As it stands, the new rule reaches only a fraction of American employees because it is allotted to purchase individual health plans rather than group plans. This is a small share of the population, the market, and the problem.

Insurers sell individual plans on a “full-risk” basis in which they bear the underwriting risk of health costs, unlike the group plans of large employers that mostly carry the risk themselves (called “self-insured” or “self-funded” plans.)  Full-risk insurance is higher priced than self-insured plans. Thus, the large employers that provide the majority of U.S. ESI are unlikely to pursue the opportunities under the new rule because the shift would cause them to either spend more on health care benefits or offer fewer medical benefits.

But this shortcoming is easily remedied. The Biden administration should simply expand the rule to allow self-insured employers to issue tax-free ESI funds in HRAs so employees can purchase from an expanded menu of group plans offered by the employer. This arrangement would allow the six in 10 employees who receive health insurance through self-insured employers to purchase their health insurance more directly and weigh pre-tax health insurance against after-tax income.  If we gave 153 million employees tax-free control of what likely is their most significant annual purchase, the market would respond appropriately. These employees would be the target of insurance marketing, not the HR departments.

As for transparency, although the ACA mandated disclosure of the costs of ESI in Box 12 of the employee’s W-2, it is largely disregarded.

Have you ever read your Box 12?  Neither had we.

Although most economists accept that most funds spent on health insurance come out of employee income, all too many employees do not view the information in Box 12 as a number that cuts into their wages. The increased transparency we recommend would help insured working Americans to understand the impact of their choice of insurance on their income, and likely unleash untapped competition in the insurance market.

Results         

Our simulation assumes that employers will offer a reasonably broad choice of insurance plans, that required disclosures will adequately inform employees regarding health plan availability and prices in the market, that employees will have adequate navigational and educational support to synthesize market offerings, and that these disclosed opportunities will lead some employees to make economizing selections. The simulation assumes the adoption of this proposal by all employers with ESI. It does not incorporate the effect of federal payroll taxes other than Medicare and Social Security nor state and local taxes.

The cash a worker puts in her purse depends on the premium (which includes a holdback that corresponds to the concentration of risk in the employers’ pool). We assume the purchase of an ACA bronze-level policy, which covers 60% of expected expenses, and an employer contribution of $14,069, under three different concentrations of risk assumptions and two estimates of price elasticity.

Our results vary with the concentration of risk and elasticity estimates. The increase in worker income ranges from a high of 31.7% to a low of 4.73%. The largest percentage income increase accrues to those earning less than $50,000 annually. The lowest percentage increases accrue to those earning more than $100,000, ranging from 0.72% to 2.3%. Medical care expenses, estimated at 85% of the premium, as required by the ACA, decrease by $90 billion to $305 billion, commensurately with health insurance premiums.

The six simulations — based on three different risk estimates and two different price elasticities — yielded premium price declines ranging from 7.31% to 25.1%. We tested whether these reduced prices are sufficient to enable enrollees to buy full-risk ACA plans. Our results, which compare these reduced premium prices per household to the 2018 cost per enrollee for the ACA exchanges’ plans, indicate that the new premium prices were generally more than sufficient to buy a bronze plan.

Our simulations show that giving employees more choice and control will increase their incomes, spur additional tax revenues for Uncle Sam, and lower health care costs.

How to Make This Happen

To capitalize on the promise of employee purchasing, employers and policymakers should pursue additional objectives. Employers should ensure that employees have reasonable plans available. The ACA requires insurers participating in ACA exchanges to offer plans with actuarial values of at least 70% and 80%, depending on employer size. Because our simulation finds that many would opt for a bronze-level plan (60% of actuarial value), employees would benefit from access to such lower-cost plans. At the very least, employers should ensure that their employees may avail themselves of bronze plans in the regional ACA exchange.

Enabling employees to purchase health insurance requires arming them with the information necessary to make informed decisions, not a strength of the American health care system.

Congress can achieve meaningful transparency by requiring prior authorizations to enhance price and quality transparency. The ACA instructs exchanges to maintain “transparency in coverage” regarding all costs associated with qualified health plans and allocated funds to develop quality measurements to assess care quality. Employers, or a coalition of employers, could use this funding to institute their offerings to educate and guide their employees, much as they supply mechanisms to inform their employees through retirement offerings.

Existing law could also encourage effective navigation in the private exchanges. The ACA requires federal exchanges to establish navigator programs and nothing in the statute or its implementing regulation prohibits distributing grants to navigators for private exchanges. Therefore, these exchanges could offer employees meaningful choices while taking advantage of federal programs designed to inform employees who make such choices.

Conclusion

We propose creating a platform that builds on recently enacted federal rules and the Affordable Care Act requirements. We would give workers in large self-insured groups expanded ESI choices that would allow control of their ESI funds and tradeoff pre-tax ESI funds for taxable wages. We further propose regulations that would more thoroughly inform employees of their historical expenditures on health insurance, avail them of many choices currently available in the market, and arm them with the wherewithal to make informed choices. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Our simulation quantifies the resulting economic benefits. It found that workers, especially those earning less than $50,000 annually, could benefit substantially from trading in some health insurance for taxable take-home pay.

Each person or head of household knows best what health care coverage they need.  Our simulation indicates that nationwide annual after-tax household income would grow by $101 billion to $252 billion, and most federal tax revenues increase by more than $39 billion to $163 billion.

Further, this proposal could lead to longer-term structural reforms in the insurance marketplace. It would trigger more price competition, stimulate more affordable offerings, and usher in innovative insurance and transparency products. Our simulation conservatively pegged the downstream savings in the cost of medical care at upwards of $100 billion. Because of the ESI market’s mammoth size, these savings may well spill over to the rest of the health care system, thus eventually affecting Medicare, Medicaid, and ACA enrollees.

Americans have always preferred the private financing of health care, which is why the U.S. health system has built itself atop a network of private health insurance. But we should express disappointment that this market system of private insurance has not exerted the economic prowess we would expect. Infusing hundreds of millions of well-informed, price-sensitive Americans into the market is the swiftest and most effective way to exert market dynamism that has been sadly absent thus far. If we want to benefit from the fruits of choice and control, we should ensure that employees have what they need to make it work.

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Home-Based Business | Shield Insurance Blog

Insuring Your Home-Based Business

How Should You Insure Your Home-Based Business?

Three Basic Coverage Options Home-Based Business Owners Should Know

Home Based Business | Shield Insurance Blog
Home-Based Business | Shield Insurance Blog

 Updated November 19, 2020

Many businesses begin in the home. As of 2018, there were 30.2 million small businesses operating in the United States, and 50% of them were home-based.

A home-based business offers many advantages, including low startup costs, flexibility, tax benefits, and freedom from commuting. Like any business, a home-based operation requires insurance. Several insurance options are available so business owners can choose the one that best meets their needs.

Why You Need Home-Based Business Insurance 

While home-based businesses may operate on a small scale, they face many of the same risks as their larger counterparts. These include third-party claims, auto accidents, and damage to company-owned property. To protect themselves from losses, business owners must purchase adequate insurance.

Some home-based business owners might assume their homeowner’s insurance will cover claims arising from their business activities. This is a faulty assumption because most homeowner’s policies contain business-related exclusions and limitations. For example, many policies exclude structures not attached to the dwelling (like a detached garage or shop building) if they’re used for business purposes.

Types of Coverage

Small business owners have three basic options for insuring home-based operations. They can cover business exposures via endorsements to a homeowners policy, purchase an in-home business policy, or buy a business owner’s package policy. Which option is best depends on the size and nature of the business and the cost of insurance.

Homeowners Policy Endorsement

Many home-based businesses depend on equipment like computers and printers. Unfortunately, most homeowner’s policies provide a very low limit (typically $2,500) for equipment on the residence premises that are used for business purposes. Business owners may be able to double or triple that limit by purchasing an endorsement for a modest additional premium.

Business owners may also have the option to add a homeowners liability endorsement to their policy. The endorsement covers third-party claims by customers or delivery people for injuries sustained on their property. It’s typically available only if policyholders have few business-related visitors.

In-Home Business Policy

An in-home home business policy affords broader coverage than a homeowners endorsement and may cost less than $300 per year. It’s a middle ground between a homeowners policy and commercial insurance. Policies typically include business personal property and general liability coverages. Optional coverages like business income, valuable papers, and accounts receivable may also be available.

In-home business policies can vary widely from one insurer to the next. Before you buy a policy, be sure you understand what it does and doesn’t cover.

Business Owners Policy

A business that needs more coverage than an in-home policy provides can choose a business owner’s policy (BOP). A BOP is a commercial package policy designed for small businesses. It includes commercial property, business income, and general liability coverages.

The general liability section covers claims for bodily injury or property damage, including claims against the business that arise out of its products or completed work. It also covers Personal and Advertising Injury Liability and claims based on damage to rented premises. A wide variety of endorsements are available for broadening or restricting coverage. Small businesses pay an average annual premium of $1,191 for a BOP.

If your home-based business sells a product or does construction work, be sure your liability insurance includes coverage for products and completed work.

Other Coverages To Consider

Homeowner’s policies, in-home business policies, and BOPs provide general liability and property coverages only. Here are some other coverages home-based businesses should consider.

Commercial Auto Insurance

Many home-based businesses use vehicles in their day-to-day operations. Business owners should not rely on a personal auto policy to insure business-use autos unless they have verified with their insurer that those vehicles are covered. Personal auto insurers generally won’t insure vehicles registered to a business (other than a sole proprietorship). Moreover, personal policies don’t cover trucks larger than a pickup or vehicles used for delivery.

A business auto policy includes commercial auto liability and physical damage coverages. It’s a flexible policy that can be tailored to the needs of a business by the use of endorsements. It can cover vehicles the business owns or hires as well as autos it doesn’t own (like employees’ autos) that are used in its operations.

Errors and Omissions (Professional) Liability

Accountants, lawyers, engineers, consultants, and other businesses that provide a service or advice to clients may need errors and omissions (E&O) liability insurance. Also called professional liability coverage, E&O insurance covers third-party claims for financial losses that result from mistakes made by a business when serving clients. Most E&O policies are written on claims-made forms.

Small business owners typically pay between $500 and $1,000 per year for an E&O policy.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Like all businesses, home-based companies must comply with state workers’ compensation laws. The obligation to buy workers’ compensation insurance is typically determined by the number of workers a business employs. Many states require businesses to purchase coverage if they employ one or more workers.

Most states don’t require sole proprietors to purchase workers’ compensation insurance if they don’t employ any workers. Many states allow sole proprietors to purchase coverage for themselves

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Winterize your Business | Shield Insurance Agency Blog

3 Ways to Winterize Your Business

3 ways to winterize your business

For business owners, Jack Frost can nip at more than your nose. If you don’t winterize, bitter winter temperatures can cause damages that will take a chunk out of your bottom line.

But a few preventative steps can keep your business winterized and safe from the dangers posed by the cold, ice, and snow.

1. Keep the water flowing during winter.

Frozen pipes can burst, causing major damage to any business location. Prevent this from happening by winterizing:

  • Keeping your thermostats set at a minimum of 55°F when the building is empty.
  • During especially cold winter situations, running a small trickle of water through your faucets to help keep pipes from freezing.
  • Exposing pipes to warmer temperatures by keeping cabinet and utility room doors open.
  • Making sure all pipes in difficult-to-access areas—such as crawlspaces, exterior walls, or attics—are insulated. Hardware or big box stores have foam and fiberglass insulation. The more insulated, the better!
  • For unheated sprinkler control valve/fire pump rooms, using UL-approved gas or electric unit heaters to help keep temperatures warm.
  • Installing a monitored electric leak detection system for the main domestic water line along with monitored electronic sensors near water sources to help you discover leaks before they cause significant damage.

2. Keep your heating bills in check.

Maintain an efficient furnace and keep energy costs under control with a few simple steps to winterize:

  • Use a programmable thermostat to reduce heating costs by as much as 30%. During low-occupancy hours, set the thermostat several degrees lower for significant savings.
  • Check your heating ducts to see if the insulation should be replaced. Inadequate insulation could lead to higher energy bills.
  • Install energy-efficient glaze on windows and doors. Save money on your energy bills by replacing the existing glass with low-emissivity glass designed to prevent heat from escaping. As much as 20% of a facility’s heat is lost through windows and doors.
  • Clogged, dirty air filters can restrict airflow and increase your energy demands. Replace or clean your furnace filters regularly to keep your heating system efficient.
  • Alter your ceiling fans so they rotate in a clockwise direction, which can actually reduce heating costs by forcing warm air near the ceiling lower and warming the room.

3. Keep a roof over your head.

Your roof can take the brunt of winter’s force, whether it’s bitter cold, snow, or ice. Keep it in tip-top shape by keeping it winterized:

  • Clearing your roof of all debris, dirt, and leaves, which can block gutters and downspouts, preventing snowmelt from properly draining away from the building. It can also cause ice dams and heavy snow buildup on your roof, which can cause additional damage.
  • Inspect gutters and downspouts to see how securely they’re fastened to the building. Snow and ice can cause gutters to weaken and break away from the building, allowing water to seep into the wrong areas.
  • If a winter storm occurs, plan to have a professional snow removal service clear the roof of excess-accumulation. This will prevent excessive loads on the roof and eliminate the possibility of structural failure.

Talk to your local independent Shield agent for complete details on our business coverage. This article is for information purposes only. For specific coverage details, always refer to your policy. If the policy coverage descriptions in this article conflict with the language in the policy, the language in the policy apply.

References:
– Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS)
– Smallbiztrends.com

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Electric Space Heater Safety | Shield Insurance Blog

Are Electric Space Heaters Safe?

Are electric space heaters safe?

Electric space heaters can be used safely, but they are not the safest option for staying warm when the temperature drops.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), space heaters account for 43% of home heating fires and 85% of home heating deaths.

They can also be a hazard in the workplace. While there are no federal safety rules prohibiting space heaters at a worksite, you should follow local rules and regulations. OSHA also requires businesses to follow all manufacturer specifications on the unit’s label and in the user manual when using electrical equipment.

So, if you’ve tried other ways to warm the area, like adjusting your HVAC system or adding weather stripping, and it’s just not working, an electric space heater might be the next best option. And it can be used safely at home or in the workplace when you take the right precautions.

Here are steps you can take to increase space heater safety for your home or business.

Use your indoor electric space heater safely

Here’s how to increase safety while enjoying the warm comfort of your electric space heater indoors:

  • Follow all manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines.
  • Before you use it, do an inspection of the space heater to check for damage on its parts, knobs, coils, and legs. If any damage is detected, take the space heater out of service immediately and have it repaired by a professional.
  • Place the space heater at least six feet away from combustible materials and never place anything on top of or touching it.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher near each space heater.
  • Put your space heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface. Avoid furniture, countertops, rugs, or carpets. Keep it out of high-traffic areas, such as doorways.
  • Make sure your space heater is plugged into properly grounded outlets. Do not use extension cords or power strips.
  • Turn off the space heater when no one is occupying that area or when it is out of sight.
  • Do not use space heaters if small children are in the area.
  • Unplug space heaters at the end of each day and make sure the unit has cooled before exiting the room or job site.
  • Only use a space heater as a temporary (not permanent) heat source.
  • Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working condition.
  • For business use, require employees to request permission from a supervisor or facility manager.

When you use your electric space heater the right way, you are reducing the likelihood of property damage and injuries — keeping you and the important things around you safe and sound.

Safely use space heaters outdoors

Many restaurants, schools, offices, and other businesses use outdoor spaces during the cooler months of the year and rely on outdoor heaters to keep businesses running and people warm. Check out these safety tips for heating and storing propane cylinders and other outdoor space heaters

  • Use propane heaters in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Set up heaters in open, ventilated areas. Propane cylinders cannot be used in enclosed spaces.
  • Use the shortest possible hose to operate the propane cylinder.
  • Follow restrictions based on occupancy. For example, restaurants with 50 or more occupants cannot have propane cylinders within five feet of exits.
  • Store propane cylinders inside and in an area with minimal potential exposure to temperature increases, physical damage, etc.

There are also electric patio heater options for heating the outdoors.

NFPA recommends following these safety guidelines for electric patio heaters:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for safe use and storage.
  • Complete proper inspection, cleaning and maintenance procedures for each use.
  • Be mindful of necessary clearances from the heating element as well as installation and wiring requirements.
  • Pay attention to the power requirements and whether an electric patio heater can be plugged into an outdoor extension cord and receptacle, power tap or multiplug adapter safely.
  • Ensure any extension cords used are in good condition and free from splices or deterioration.

It’s possible to accomplish the safe use of space heaters by following the right precautions during setup, use, and storage.

Keep this article handy as a quick reference for basic space heater safety indoors and outdoors.

Things to consider before you buy or replace an electric space heater

In addition to using your space heater safely, here are other safety tips to consider for buying, maintaining, or replacing an electric space heater

  • Understand which type of space heater you have. There are convection and radiant heaters. Convection space heaters circulate air in the room. Radiant space heaters emit infrared radiation that directly heats the objects and people in line with the space heater.
  • Invest in an electric space heater with added safety features. An automatic shut-off feature if the heater falls over or heating element guards are good features to look for.
  • Consider the hours you have used your space heater as an indication for when it is time to replace it. For example, a space heater you have used daily for two years might need to be replaced due to the long hours of use. Replace your heater with a newer, safer model when possible.

Electric space heater safety is essential for you and the people around you. Practice safe use of space heaters on a regular basis to reduce the risk of fire in your home or business.

This article is for informational and suggestion purposes only. Talk to your Shield Insurance Agent to learn more about Homeowners and Business insurance coverage options

References:
– National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
– National Safety Council
– Energy.gov
– American Red Cross
– SafeElectricity.org
– Business and Legal Resources
– Safety+Health Magazine

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BOP : Business Owners Policy with Shield Insurance Agency

BOP Can Protect Your Company Assets and Save You Money

BOP: Business Owners Policy

By buying business insurance, you take a big step to secure your finances and create a strong risk management strategy. After all, you never know when a single incident like a fire or break-in could devastate your business and cost you a fortune.

One of the simplest ways to put together a strong business insurance portfolio is to start your coverage with a business owner’s policy, better known as a BOP. It’s a great way to not only get strong coverage but also to save money on your benefits. Consider just a few of the extensive property benefits that a BOP can provide with just a few simple steps.

Why BOPs are Customizable

BOPs generally offer several standard types of commercial insurance in one place. These are:

  • Property insurance to cover your company’s owned assets, including equipment and inventory.
  • Liability coverage that pays for third-party injuries or property damage that are your fault.
  • Business interruption insurance that will offer you coverage for lost income or overhead costs that continue to burden you even if you have to temporarily halt your work.

However, just because BOPs will offer you standardized coverage, that doesn’t mean they are not customizable. This is a particularly good benefit when it comes to your company property. After all, no two businesses are alike. That’s why the belongings you seek to insure are going to vary considerably, and you’ll want your BOP to be able to address them.

Within your BOP’s property insurance, you might be able to insure:

  • Your inventory and the materials used to make products if you manufacture them on-site.
  • Marketing materials.
  • Company equipment. These items might be anything that you use to manufacture products.
  • Furnishings such as shelving or storage cabinets, break-room appliances, chairs, desks, or decorative items.
  • Electronic items such as computers, printers, company mobile devices, or tablets.
  • Signage (both indoors and outdoors)

Of course, if you own the buildings that house your business, then your BOP can also insure the structure of the property itself. However, if you rent the property, then you usually don’t have any obligation to by coverage.

However, it is important to remember that all BOPs will include exclusions and limits to what they will pay for certain losses. For example, your policy won’t pay for normal wear & tear, nor will it cover any damage that costs less than the deductible on your coverage. Another common exclusion is a limitation on what your policy will pay for outdoor signage.

Still, you can work with your independent insurance agent to determine exactly how to tailor your BOP’s property coverage to your benefit. There are various coverage endorsements available which might be precisely the benefits you need for your company assets.

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Auto Fleet Insurance with Shield Agency

How to build a fleet safety program

How many vehicles in your fleet?

When you have employees driving on behalf of your business — whether or not they use a company vehicle — it’s time to take a closer look at your risk exposure and establish a fleet safety program to help protect the wellbeing of your company and your employees.

Here are five best practices for creating a risk management program for fleet vehicles:

1. Start at the top and write it down.

The best way to ensure your fleet safety program is successful is by having leadership commit to supporting it as a critical part of your company’s risk management and fleet management programs. Then, after setting expectations among your leadership, write down a formal plan with clear policies and procedures for fleet safety.

2. Identify and screen your drivers.

Safe drivers are an essential part of a fleet safety program — and you may have more drivers than you realize. Your fleet program can include company-owned, private or rented vehicles. While businesses are generally aware of their risk exposure with company-owned vehicles, many don’t know the full extent of their risk exposure from non-owned vehicles. Keep a record of everyone who currently is or will be driving on behalf of your business, whether they use a company-owned, personal or rented vehicle.

For those employees using their own personal vehicles for business purposes, it’s important to hold them to the same fleet screening standards as those employees operating company-owned vehicles. You also may need to add coverage to your commercial auto insurance, which could help your business recover in case an accident results in a business liability event for your company, which could impact both your finances and your reputation.

When hiring, carefully screen your drivers. Check the job applicant’s Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) to view past driving trends, which can help provide insight into future driving behaviors. An MVR typically shows a person’s driving history from the past three years, including driver’s license information, point history, violations, convictions and license status.

For many companies, a driver is considered unacceptable when the MVR shows:

  • More than three moving violations, accidents or both
  • Driving while intoxicated or under the influence of narcotics
  • License suspension and any serious violation such as reckless driving, endangering the lives of others and racing

By pre-screening drivers as part of your standard hiring practices, you’ll empower your fleet safety program, making it more reliable, effective and safer.

3. Train and manage your drivers.

Require all of your fleet drivers to learn and commit to the company’s fleet safety policies and procedures. Additionally, provide training and resources on defensive driving and other safe driving techniques. For example, there are many forms of distracted driving including talking on the phone, texting, eating, daydreaming and other things that take the driver’s attention away from driving.

It is also essential to continue to manage your drivers to help ensure they are following your fleet safety rules and driving safely. Schedule time to check the MVR of your drivers and have a plan in place for handling drivers with marginal or poor driving records.

You may also want to consider using fleet telematics to further strengthen your overall fleet safety program. Telematics is a technology that can track and monitor a variety of driver and vehicle parameters. Some examples include a vehicle’s speed, fuel consumption, harsh braking and other driving behaviors.

4. Have a formal preventive maintenance program and secure your vehicles.

Make sure all vehicles are safe to drive by having each of them on a formal preventive maintenance program. This includes routine oil changes, vehicle inspections, making repairs, and keeping vehicle records. It’s also important to ensure that all vehicles are being secured to minimize any losses related to theft or vandalism while the vehicle isn’t being used.

5. Review accidents and consult your Risk Control specialist.

Take time to review accidents involving your company’s fleet vehicles to help you pinpoint your risk exposures, identify trends, manage accident costs, and take action to avoid future accidents.

Additionally, ask your independent insurance agent about loss and risk control services that may be available to you through your commercial insurance provider. Some insurance companies, including Grange Insurance, offer Risk Control Services to their commercial insurance customers, providing expert risk management services including formalized safety programs, training and help identifying, analyzing and addressing business’s unique risks.

This article is for informational and suggestion purposes only. If the policy coverage descriptions in this article conflict with the language in the policy, the language in the policy applies.

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Shield Insurance Millennial Health 2020

Millennial Health Consumer Attitudes

Millennial Health

Consumer attitudes about health. Four surprising ways millennials approach and engage with health care

Novant Health today released findings of its first Consumer Attitudes About Health Study noting the latest trends in millennial health attitudes and behavior. The nationwide online survey of 2,104 U.S. adults aged 18 and older, including 419 millennials aged 18-35, was recently conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Novant Health.

Key takeaways and findings from the study suggest millennials approach and engage with health care in four surprising ways:

  1. Millennials indicate they would take better care of themselves if they had more time to do so (66 percent); however, they also report spending large amounts of time watching television and engaging on social media.
    The Consumer Attitudes About Health Study indicates millennials spend significantly more time on sedentary activities than they do exercising— on average, they spend almost three hours sitting at a work desk, nearly three hours watching TV, and more than two hours on social media, while exercising makes up only about one hour of a millennial’s day.
  2. Millennials are going “old school” when it comes to health information—four times as many millennials report relying on a health care professional for health information (63 percent) vs. using social media (15 percent) as a health resource.
    While millennials spend more than two hours per day on social media on average, only about 21 percent use social media to diagnose themselves or their loved ones. Three in five millennials (61 percent) reported that social media is harmful (vs. helpful) to their health.
  3. Millennials understand the importance of making end-of-life plans but do not feel equipped to do so. While 88 percent feel that planning for end-of-life care is important, millennials don’t feel they have the tools they need to do so.
    More than 60 percent of millennials (62 percent) report not knowing where to start when thinking about end-of-life care, suggesting that they may not feel equipped to start planning for end-of-life care regardless of when they plan to start thinking about it.
  4. The importance of being treated with respect by health care providers cuts across all demographics, with seven in 10 millennials indicating that being treated well/with respect is how they would define “quality health care”.
    According to the Consumer Attitudes About Health Study’s findings, similar proportions of millennials say that being treated well/with respect (69 percent) and effective treatments (73 percent) are how they would define quality health care. Quality in health care is defined multi-dimensionally, starting with effective treatment, but respect, disclosure, meeting expectations for care, and being treated as a person, not a patient, are also commonly mentioned. Around seven in 10 millennials agree with this holistic view of quality, defining health care as an effective treatment, being treated with respect, and being kept fully informed.

    “The closer we look, the more we see how unique the millennial population is,” said Jesse Cureton, Novant Health’s Chief Consumer Officer. “This study provides new insights into how millennials think and behave when it comes to their health, and the more we understand about them, the easier it will be to maintain our commitment as a consumer-centric organization that directly meets the needs of our specific patient population.”

    The nationwide survey was conducted online among 2,104 U.S. adults aged 18 and older (including 419 millennials aged 18-35) by Harris Poll on behalf of Novant Health from March 1-9, 2016. For the complete research method, including weighting variables and additional subgroup sample sizes, visit NovantHealth.org/ConsumerAttitudes .
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Shield Insurance Millennials Health

Millennials’ health is declining

Millennials: Anyone born between 1981 and 1996

Millennials’ health is declining. Can employers and health plans help?

Millennials have seen double-digit increases in major depression and significant increases in substance use disorders over the past year. The prevalence of other chronic diseases is climbing, too. This data comes from the Blue Cross, Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® on millennial health. And it’s what prompted experts and advocates to come together recently for a Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) virtual forum about millennial health.

Health trends worsened by multiple crises

These worsening health trends were already in place when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Then came a financial crisis, which has disproportionately impacted millennials, whose unemployment numbers are higher than other groups, according to Mark Zandi with Moody’s Analytics and a speaker at the BCBSA forum. The resulting stress may be exacerbating health conditions, in particular behavioral health.

Experts in healthcare, employee wellness, demographics, and economics gathered to share ideas for supporting this generation in ways that acknowledge their needs and preferences at this critical moment.

Employers focus on wellness and engagement

Krista Larson from the law firm Morgan Lewis and Aurora Davis with Comcast shared their strategies for building a healthier workplace for millennials. Larson said Morgan Lewis has invested in fostering open dialogue among employees about mental health to reduce stigma. The firm also features a senior leader who shares personal experiences with substance use disorder. The firm has also made the most of a difficult work-from-home situation, creating virtual communities for employees to boost mental and physical wellbeing. Comcast’s Aurora Davis said the company has focused on creating a healthier environment for employees. The new campus in Philadelphia, when re-opened after the pandemic, includes an onsite healthcare clinic, wellness center, physical therapist, and dietician. The company has also focused on virtual stress relief tools for employees.

One rationale behind those strategies, said Larson and Davis, is that they acknowledge millennial values, a key consideration given a large percentage of their workforces are millennials. 

What millennials value in an employer

Kim Lear, a generational researcher with InLay Insights, sketched a portrait of those values and why Morgan Lewis and Comcast’s investments may be on track for attracting and keeping millennial talent, as well as helping them get and stay healthy. Millennials are more committed, she said, to companies that promote self-care, show leadership in social justice, and work to keep them engaged in wellbeing.

They also, said Lear, want healthcare that’s accessible and health plans that are easy to understand. That could mean expanding access to digital options, including telehealth, which has taken off during the COVID-19 pandemic. It could also mean re-thinking the design of health plans or how employers educate employees about their choices.

Health plans are making it easier for millennials to tackle chronic disease

Health plans are helping employers shape those offerings. Blue Shield of California’s David Bond said the company’s new wellness and chronic disease management and prevention platform, Wellvolution, was designed with millennials in mind. It asks users to identify their health goals and matches them to personalized, evidence-based digital health programs.

Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s (Wellmark BCBS) Julie Enga agreed that millennials need a path toward health beyond the primary care physician (PCP). The speakers agreed that millennials are interested in wellness but not necessarily relying as much on, or waiting for appointments with, PCPs as previous generations. Rather, they’re seeking information online or going to urgent care centers. That makes it difficult to address chronic issues like diabetes or depression, which require ongoing care. Digital wellness platforms can help, engaging millennials online and on-demand.

Enga also said millennials in Wellmark BCBS’ market have indicated an interest in a health plan that’s simpler to use and understand, so the company rolled out a product called BlueSimplicity℠ that simplifies choices and makes costs clearer upfront.

The biggest opportunity: engage millennials in behavioral health treatment

While chronic physical diseases remain a top concern about millennials, experts returned to the theme of behavioral health throughout the October 28, 2020, virtual forum. A significant percentage of people with a behavioral health diagnosis also have one or more chronic diseases. Treating both is difficult, and expensive. But engaging millennials with behavioral health conditions in treatment options that appeal to them will make managing chronic diseases easier. Employers, insurers, and community leaders emphasized the urgency to address millennial mental health, especially in the face of what some are calling the triple pandemic of COVID-19, a financial crisis, and systemic racism.

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