Hardening in the Insurance Market

by Charles A. Touché

With the recent surge in coronavirus cases across Arizona and other parts of the country, COVID-19 remains a significant challenge for businesses, creating additional uncertainty and potential risks for their people and operations. Though a return to pre-COVID normalcy is unlikely anytime soon, businesses nevertheless must carefully and thoughtfully assess their unique risks as they relate to the ongoing pandemic to continue moving forward during these unprecedented times.

What does such an assessment look like? It will depend on the business. While the overarching approach to risk assessment is largely the same regardless of industry, specific assessment and mitigation tactics will be different from organization to organization. Every business is unique, requiring companies to perform a risk assessment specific to their unique situation, operations and how they relate to the ongoing issues from COVID-19.

Keep in mind that a COVID-related risk assessment will not be a one-time exercise. With the fast-changing nature of the pandemic, businesses must stay flexible with how they approach any plan or process in determining what’s next.

Flexibility in assessing risk also must extend to businesses’ existing insurance coverages and policies — especially as the insurance market is in flux because of COVID’s effects. Prior to the pandemic, the insurance market was hardening, or entering a state of increased premiums and lower capacities. Since the pandemic, the hardening market has only intensified, with rates increasing across a number of coverages from workers’ compensation to general liability. Not only are rates rising, but insurers have begun to limit coverages on a variety of policies, even in some cases adding language to confirm specific coverages do not exist.

Due to the wide-ranging effects of COVID-19, it is unlikely businesses will be able to avoid rate increases come renewal time. But organizations should focus on what they can control, including:

Employee health considerations: Ensuring employees’ health and safety is the most important piece for all businesses as they navigate the pandemic. Businesses must review and comply with any local ordinances related to face coverings or other health requirements. But they might also consider such other things as health screenings or temperature checks for when employees come to the office. Additionally, policies and procedures should be created or enhanced on how to address a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Employee benefits resources and considerations: Businesses ought to communicate with employees all current benefits and resources available to them, such as telehealth options, financial assistance programs or specific COVID-related health coverages. Businesses also may want to evaluate new benefits, such as providing childcare, if possible, or extending work-from-home schedules.

Work environment considerations: Assess and determine what the workplace will look like to keep employees healthy and safe while they work. Will the business have to institute a tiered shift schedule? What about spreading desks six feet apart or consolidating multiple entrances and exits into one to manage traffic?

Also, as a strategy to try and save on policy premiums, businesses should consider raising deductibles if feasible, or explore self-insurance options like creating or joining a captive insurance company.

With no end in sight for the pandemic, flexibility remains key for businesses as they maneuver through these uncertain times. Ultimately, no one knows what tomorrow will look like. But organizations that are able to stay nimble to survive in the short term will be better positioned to thrive in the long term.

Charles A. Touché
Chief Executive Officer
Lovitt & Touché, A Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC Company

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