Roberto Ceniceros

Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and co-chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at rceniceros@lrp.com. Read more of his columns and features.

2015 NWC&DC

Speaker Proposal Deadline Looming

The deadline is approaching for proposals to speak at the 24th Annual National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo.
By: | January 26, 2015 • 2 min read

The deadline is nearing for submitting proposals to speak at the 24 annual National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo held in Las Vegas.

WCconf_24thAnnualThe conference is looking for panels and individual speakers to present strategies that will help worker’s comp payers solve claims challenges, teach best practices for selecting and managing service providers, or can enlighten on industry trends.

Those are just a few of the general topic areas we are interested in hearing employers, vendors, attorneys, medical providers, regulators and other workers’ comp professionals address. We are eager to hear other great topic ideas.

Presentation proposals can focus on new, innovative strategies that reduce injuries and costs. But risk managers, workers’ comp managers, and disability managers are also welcome, for example, to share their unique experiences with adopting tried-and-true practices at their companies.

Integrated disability strategies combing solutions for workers’ comp and non-occupational drivers of employee absence are of particular interest to us this year.

Conference speaker proposals are due by February 5th, 2015. The event will be held November 11-13 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Speaker proposal forms are available at http://www.wcconference.com/speak.html

If you or your company plans to submit a proposal for a session presentation, please keep in mind that we do prioritize those submissions that include an employer on the panel.

However, we also understand that not all presentations can include an employer speaker and we value the knowledge and information that other workers’ comp professionals serving the payer community bring to the conference.

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Here is some advice to increase the potential for having your RFP selected:

  • Consider submitting multiple RFPs because we sometimes receive several proposals from different companies wishing to speak on the same topic. We may only select one presentation per topic in such cases. Submitting multiple RFPs provides an alternative when one of your ideas is a popular one among several submitters.
  • Select topics with relevance for a broad range of workers’ comp professionals. The greater the relevance and the stronger the speaker’s experience and knowledge the greater the possibility of being selected.
  • Avoid submitting proposals that are mere product or service pitches featuring company personnel responsible for sales or marketing.
  • Review additional advice available in a past advisory http://www.riskandinsurance.com/2015-nwcdc-call-proposals/.

I am also available via telephone or email for anyone wishing to discuss their proposal content ideas before submitting.

Roberto Ceniceros, conference chairman 208 286-1425
rceniceros@lrp.com

Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and co-chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at rceniceros@lrp.com. Read more of his columns and features.
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Rate Outlook

Workers’ Comp Insurance Prices Improve for Employers

Pricing for workers' comp coverage is not quite flat, but it's much closer to it now than it has been in recent years.
By: | January 15, 2015 • 4 min read
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Policyholders renewing workers’ compensation coverage are finding relatively flat pricing in many instances along with competitive underwriters accommodating lower deductibles, several brokers said.

Even in troublesome California, accounts with a solid loss experience are seeing dramatically improved workers’ comp policy renewal pricing, said Mark Zwickel, executive VP in the Los Angeles office of Lockton.

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“The work comp renewal market in California has improved significantly, certainly from three years ago and even last year,” he said. California accounts that saw 9 percent increases a year ago are experiencing 3 percent increases with their January renewals.

“Significantly challenged [California] accounts, both in terms of losses and lack of management controls, can still see increases in the teens,” Zwickel said. “But the general market has certainly improved. Going from 9 percent down to 3 percent is a pretty dramatic improvement.”

Nationwide, decreases in renewal pricing are possible for some accounts while many others are seeing increases of 1 percent to 2 percent, on average, the brokers said.

Insurers “right sized their books” over the last few years, said Stephen Allen, director, commercial insurance services in New York for Crystal & Company.

The underwriters did so by increasing their pricing to account for the ongoing low-interest rate returns on their investments. Additionally, medical inflation has moderated and their combined ratios are much improved.

Underwriters’ combined ratio is projected to drop to 96 for 2014, according to an NCCI Holdings Inc. estimate released in November. If realized, a 96 combined ratio would mark the first underwriting profitability since 2006.

Insurers are now comfortable with their pricing levels and “they are not looking for increases on everything while decreases are possible now,” Allen said.

Some variation in renewal pricing remains, however, depending on a client’s risk profile, company size and whether they maintain a deductible, he added.

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But overall, “pricing is coming down much closer to flat than it was a year, two or three years ago,” Allen elaborated. “We are seeing slight increases to flat renewal on workers compensation right now.”

He is seeing a push for rate increase of around 5 percent, however, for “very large, million-dollar plus, guaranteed cost workers’ comp accounts” where taking a deductible is not an option due to private equity ownership. The same goes for employers seeking mono-line workers’ comp insurance.

But for large-deductible programs, purchased by “truly large buyers,” and for middle-market guaranteed cost accounts he is seeing flat to 1 percent renewal increases.

Market conditions are “pretty consistent” with a “very tight trading range,” said John J. Liston, area president in Tampa, Fla. for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

A review of clients with guaranteed-cost programs who renewed coverage in 25 states on January 1, revealed that two-thirds of them experienced a decrease while the remainder saw an increase. Those were accounts paying about $250,000 in annual premiums for their workers’ comp policies.

While flat pricing is common, single-digit decreases are possible for accounts that go out to bid, Liston said.

Pamela F. Ferrandino, national casualty practice leader for Willis North America in New York expects the stable market environment to hold for upcoming renewals. While some large and middle-market insureds saw price decreases during year-end renewals, most experienced flat pricing or increases of 1 percent to 2 percent as insurers looked to cover their own cost increases.

For California, Ferrandino agrees that the state’s employers are seeing some of the smallest renewal price increases in years. Senate Bill 863 — reform legislation signed into law in 2012 — is beginning to favorably impact workers’ comp pricing, she said.

Meanwhile, nationwide insurer competition is also favoring employers wanting to adjust their retention levels.

While some insureds have learned to benefit from larger retentions assumed when market conditions were less favorable, others are taking advantage of an improved situation to return to a lower deductible, the brokers said.

“It’s those clients that started looking at bigger retentions a few years back to save premium dollars,” Ferrandino said.

Those purchasing lower retentions are typically “upper middle-market, small national accounts,” she elaborated. They are generally accounts that have found competing insurers offering a lower retention than their incumbent underwriter provided them.

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“There is no shortage of hungry underwriters in workers’ compensation,” Ferrandino added.

Zwickel said he is not seeing policyholders return to smaller deductibles as much as he is witnessing the number of accounts moving from guaranteed-cost arrangements to loss-sensitive programs decline.

But other employers grown comfortable with managing their exposures are selecting to reduce their premiums by increasing their retentions further.

“They are getting some pretty significant pricing relief if they will move from, say, a $250,000 retention to a $500,000,” deductible, he said.

Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and co-chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at rceniceros@lrp.com. Read more of his columns and features.
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Public Sector Risk

Ambush Killings Put WC Cover for Cops at Risk

The increase in ambush-style assaults on police officers could make it challenging to obtain workers' comp coverage for law enforcement.
By: | January 12, 2015 • 5 min read
police car

While not immediately reacting to a spike in ambush-style killings of law-enforcement officers, workers’ compensation underwriters concerned about police risks were already pushing public entities to increase their self-insured retentions.

Other underwriters stopped providing coverage for police workers’ comp risks in recent years because of the occupation’s dangers.

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Now insurers and brokers are watching the rise in the shooting deaths of law-enforcement officers to see whether a longer-term trend will unfold.

In 2014, ambush attacks — including last month’s killing of two New York police officers shot while sitting in their patrol car — “were the number one cause of felonious officer deaths for the fifth year in a row,” according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF).

The Washington, D.C.-based organization serves as a clearinghouse of statistics on law enforcement line-of-duty fatalities.

“When you bring up the topic, underwriters will say, ‘We have not addressed this formally. We are very quietly watching it to see what will happen,’ ” said Nancy Sylvester, managing director, public sector, at broker Arthur J. Gallagher.

U.S. law-enforcement fatalities occurring in the line of duty increased 24 percent to 126 during 2014, reversing two years of declines in total fatalities, according to an NLEOMF report released last month.

Firearms were the leading cause of the 2014 fatalities with 50 law-enforcement officers killed with guns, up 56 percent over firearms deaths in 2013. Other causes included traffic fatalities and heart attacks.

But ambush attacks claimed a large human toll.

“Fifteen officers nationwide were killed in ambush assaults in 2014, matching 2012 for the highest total [of ambush-related deaths] since 1995,” according to NLEOMF, which cited anti-government sentiment and anti-law enforcement influences.

“With the increasing number of ambush-style attacks against our officers, I am deeply concerned that a growing anti-government sentiment in America is influencing weak-minded individuals to launch violent assaults,” NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd said in a statement.

For example, 2014 saw the shooting deaths of two Las Vegas police officers ambushed while lunching in a restaurant. The killers draped a “don’t tread on me” flag over one victim and authorities said the husband and wife shooters harbored militia-type ideological leanings.

The tally also included the ambush of two Pennsylvania state troopers outside of their barracks. A survivalist who evaded a manhunt for 48 days is accused of killing one of the troopers and the wounding the other.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said in November that with statistics showing “a significant uptick in ambushes and unprovoked attacks on police” it will study the crimes to help improve officer safety.

Although the human toll is tragic and heart wrenching, in strictly insurance terms the loss frequency from ambush assaults remains limited, observers said. Accordingly insurers have not increased their overall coverage pricing or changed underwriting requirements in response.

The number of law enforcement deaths across the country fluctuates annually, several insurance sources said. So while expressing concern for the human losses, industry observers are watching to see whether a trend is underway.

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“We are concerned as brokers and watching the situation because if it does become more widespread obviously there would be a (coverage) problem,” said Mark Goode, executive VP for the public entity group at broker Willis.

Some of the financial expenses for medical and workers’ comp indemnity benefits are likely falling within the self-insured retentions maintained by public entities rather than falling on insurers.

Over the past five years or so, underwriters have demanded that public entities take on increasingly larger retentions because of the severity of police injuries, Sylvester said.

After years of gradual increases, the SIRs are now substantially larger, even for smaller entities.

“Somebody who had a $250,000 SIR for workers’ comp for police — they don’t have that anymore,” Sylvester said. “The minimum I am seeing for police is somewhere close to a half a million. Some of my clients have law enforcement-related SIRs over a million. It’s intense.”

The insurers have not backed down from demanding larger retentions. And unlike in past years when public entities had only one SIR for all employee categories, insurers now require a separate, larger retention for police injuries, Sylvester added.

Insurers “are without exception driving up that SIR, which tells me they are worried about the large losses,” Sylvester said.

Large losses driven by a variety of injury causes, such as auto accidents and scuffles while apprehending suspects, drove some insurers to stop writing police workers’ comp risks in recent years, said Goode.

“It’s not just the shooting situations, but the rate of loss for police officers is higher,” he said. “The markets simply don’t want to take on that exposure.”

To help save officer lives and reduce financial losses, the Texas Municipal League of Intergovernmental Risk Pool provides awareness training for police employed among the 850 municipalities the pool insures.

The training improves decision making in high-stress situations and is in addition to skills, such weapons use, taught by police departments. Because pool members are experience-rated, the training improves their loss experience and reduces their costs, said Carol Loughlin, executive director for the risk pool.

It also helps officers working for pool members meet state law-enforcement certification standards.

Importantly, the training helps officers improve decision making so that workers’ comp and third party liability losses are both avoided.

“It helps the officers make better decisions so they are going to go home at night and also the citizens can go home at night,” said Les Horne, the pool’s loss prevention manager.

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Decision-making training is paramount for keeping deputies safe whether the risk is high-speed driving or confrontations, said Jack Bienvenu, deputy chief and chief risk officer for the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana.

“That is the most critical part, training your deputies on decision making,” he said. “The risk benefit analysis is just like if they were a risk manager in the field, but making that split second decision, weighing the cost benefit.”

Yet observers said that many of officers ambushed in 2014, such as the two Las Vegas officers eating lunch, likely thought they were in a safe situation.

Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and co-chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at rceniceros@lrp.com. Read more of his columns and features.
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