EPIC Risk Advisory Bulletin
Volume 1, Issue 13
The global COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic remains both dynamic and fluid. We continue to see unprecedented disruptions at home and abroad. In this issue, we take a focused look at:
- General Information on Coronavirus
- Insurance Products and Coverage Information
- Medical Malpractice Updates
- Cyber Attacks Test Business Resiliency
- Forming Partnerships During a Pandemic
- Legislation and Litigation Roundup
- Human Resources and Employee Benefits
- The Future of Meetings and Events
- Preventing Video Conferencing Burnout
- Insights from Across the Firm
How has the pandemic changed your approach to this year’s open enrollment, and what do you think will be your biggest challenges?
Has your new work environment impacted your productivity and connection with your colleagues, and do you see your organization moving toward more electronic/digital communication going forward?
Assessing Financial Risk
Do you have the ability to assess financial risk to your health and welfare plans as a result of the pandemic, and what changes have you made related to cost-sharing and budgeting for medical and prescription drug expenses?
General Information on Coronavirus
The best sources overall for timely information on the coronavirus pandemic remain the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
EPIC continues to compile resources to aid in understanding the impact of the pandemic on employers, their workforces and the management of risk.
Insurance Products & Coverage
Medical Malpractice Update
Entering 2020, the global healthcare insurance industry was under significant pressure to return to profitability. This is in stark contrast to today’s marketplace where underwriters are making calculated decisions about the deployment of available capacity. The increased scrutiny includes a focus on insureds’ strategic plans for coronavirus management, among other things. Most underwriters are significantly reducing capacity, with many capping limits on programs and some adding pandemic exclusions.
Learn about current conditions in EPIC’s newly released Medical Malpractice Market Update
As the busy season of July 1 renewals approaches, it is essential for healthcare organizations to be well prepared. Reach out to your EPIC broker for assistance.
Cyber Attacks Test Business Resiliency
Business resiliency is always critical, yet even more now as now businesses face challenges on two fronts – responding to the coronavirus pandemic amidst the threat of increasing and evolving criminal cyber activity.
Sadly, cyberthreats are continuing during the coronavirus crisis. Attackers are targeting organizations across all industries, potentially catching those that are unprepared off-guard. The Oracle and KPMG Cloud Threat Report 2020 found that IT professionals are three times more concerned about the security of their companies’ financials and intellectual property than the security of their own home. They have right to be concerned; activities commonly occurring now include the following actions.
- Foreign state-backed hackers are targeting America’s coronavirus response.
- Crisis-related disinformation and social engineering campaigns are on the rise.
- Cyber criminals are phishing for credentials and are using coronavirus-themed lures for malware distribution.
- Attack surfaces are expanded due to remote work and potentially hostile environments.
According to CISA (the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency), hackers are attacking remote working environment platforms with known vulnerabilities that include the potentially hasty deployment of Microsoft Office 365. The single best action organizations and professional firms can take to guard against cybercrime is to train employees to recognize and resist phishing and other common tactics cybercriminals employ.
Beyond securing virtual environments, businesses should also consider steps to take to secure their physical working environments. A colocation space to house servers and IT equipment with redundant power, cooling and internet in a carrier-neutral facility offering a 99.999 percent service level agreement can help support resiliency and business continuity.
Backup office environments for critical employees should have dedicated office space, onsite security, monitored video cameras, managed access control systems and backup generators to cover any utility power issues that may arise.
Firms should remain vigilant and work closely with IT vendors and staff to maintain the safest working environment that is possible.
Maximizing Partnerships During a Pandemic
EPIC’s Executive Broker Carl Cincotta recently participated in a panel discussion sponsored by the RIMS New York Chapter. Overall, Carl’s discussion points focused on the importance of optimizing broker relationships to benefit clients. This includes evaluating what’s working and what isn’t in this evolving marketplace, and moving forward towards optimizing communication, preparation and results.
In order to achieve the most productive outcome possible, some of the tactics discussed, to be addressed mutually by brokers and clients alike, include the following:
- Engage C-suite executives early and provide customized, real-time and condensed information. Their time is more limited than ever.
- Prepare accurate, critical and tactical information for underwriters. Submissions with the best, most complete material available will get underwriters’ attention. There may be no second chances to tell the story.
- Keep in mind that clients are interested in today forward. Lagging indicator information is mostly irrelevant in the current marketplace. Focus on what’s applicable in the current environment and what is a client-specific representation of the risk.
- Pro-actively work with clients to develop budgets and strategies that could involve reevaluating and reforecasting as the market rapidly evolves. Have honest conversations about realistic expectations.
- Work together to identify and support short term cash flow/liquidity needs by analyzing program areas that could include: collateral reviews, premium deferrals and/or adjustments, accelerated audit features and other potential cost reduction or reimbursement measures. Try to reach consensus on legacy issues by agreeing on amounts not in dispute. Consider amounts that can be returned now and what can be tabled for a later conversation.
- Prepare clients to retain additional risk and/or to address possible coverage restrictions. Again, contemplate budget considerations and true coverage and limit(s) needs.
- Prepare client-specific modeling that reflects the new exposures associated with coronavirus in order to accurately address different pricing scenarios/structures, the potential for increased retention(s) and related loss projections.
- Where appropriate, engage senior carrier contacts early, to include chief credit officers, underwriting managers, etc. to discuss your clients’ insurance budget, near term cash flow and critical coverage needs.
Additionally, panelists recommended expanding market exploration beyond the U.S., to include London, Bermuda and even local markets as appropriate, to identify solutions for difficult placements. Now more than ever, it is important to canvas the marketplace and document all the non-concurrencies and coverage gaps that may emerge during the renewal process.
Overall, panelists recommended that clients perform a risk appetite assessment to coincide with budget parameters, and maintain consistent communication with all key stakeholders involved in the risk management and insurance placement process.
Clients and brokers need to collaborate now more than ever to take an enterprise wide view of their existing and anticipated risks.
Legislation and Litigation Roundup
The passage of another week has brought forth more legislation from city, county and state governmental bodies, as well as litigation. Here is a rundown of recent news stories of interest.
News of Note:
- Insurance Information Institute Says Pandemics are Fundamentally Uninsurable, Insurance Business Magazine, May 19
- E&S Insurers Were Already Raising Rates, Then Came COVID-19, Risk & Insurance, May 18
- AFL-CIO Sues OSHA, Bloomberg Law, May 18
- Global Insurance Market is Well Capitalized in Face of COVID-19, Reuters, May 18, 2020
- Companies Fear Coronavirus Liability Lawsuits. So Far, Few Exist, Business Insurance, May 15
- ASHRM President Talks About COVID-19 Impact on the Health Care Industry, Risk & Insurance, May 14
HR & Employee Benefits Insights
Murky Future Ahead for In-Person Meetings and Events
For many professionals, attending meetings, conferences and events has always been an essential part of conducting business and networking activities. When coronavirus hit, it shut down in-person gatherings in the heart of conference season, and business travel came to a halt.
Over the past few months, nearly every professional worker has become familiar with the wonders of video conferencing technology. Many firms are discovering that some, if not most, in-person meetings and events can be effectively conducted online.
Now, as cities, states and countries around the world cautiously reopen, it leaves many across the professional world wondering what the future holds for large scale meetings and events. Only one thing is certain – over the next 12 to 18 months, they will look very different than they did before the coronavirus crisis hit.
What to Expect This Fall from Large Scale Meetings and Events
In-person meetings and events will not disappear; the desire to meet face-to-face, along with the effectiveness that such encounters yield ensures, that business conduct and networking will continue in person on some level.
However, until the threat of coronavirus is neutralized, professionals are likely to see hybrid or entirely virtual forms of large scale conferences and industry events that previously were held entirely in person. Both video conferencing and virtual reality technologies are creating new ways for attendees to interact with each other and learn from speakers.
Some of the changes professionals can expect include the following:
- Limited in-person attendee spots
- Customized remote experiences, with the ability to choose language, tracks and sessions
- Virtual meetings with vendors, exhibitors and other attendees at events
- Virtual exhibit halls offering pre-recorded presentations
The move to a virtual environment brings several benefits for attendees and speakers. Little to no travel is required for all, which reduces the cost and time required to participate. For organizers, some subject matter experts who previously were unable to take time away from work to share their knowledge at an industry event will be able to participate virtually in a conference or seminar. This may ultimately provide enhanced learning opportunities for attendees.
Some conferences will continue to opt for an in-person format. Attendees should expect a drastically different experience at such events this fall or winter. Social distancing measures should be in place, and attendees may be required to wear masks and/or gloves. Reports indicate buffet style food offerings are a long way off. Instead, hotels that are offering food are doing so at reduced capacity and in to-go containers.
What Will it Take for Meetings and Events to Get Back to Normal?
Because of the limitations, many professionals may decide to wait to attend in-person events until the threat of coronavirus is neutralized. While no one knows when that will be, it is reasonable to assume five pre-conditions may need to be met before large scale in-person events can return.
- Rules banning groups of 10+ from gathering will need to be lifted.
- Companies will need to lift travel bans.
- Pandemic status will need to be removed from coronavirus.
- Attendees will need to be able to travel safely to events.
- Participants will need to feel safe attending meetings and events.
Some of these conditions are easier to satisfy than others. Some are impossible to control; one professional will be ready to attend an in-person meeting before another, making it difficult to accurately predict attendance.
As the business world waits for a vaccine to be developed and widely distributed, the future of meetings and events, at least in the near term, appears to be virtual. Professionals should look for opportunities to attend and conduct virtual events that add value and provide opportunities for continuing education.
Preventing Video Conference Burnout
Whether Zoom, Skype, GoTo Meeting or another popular video conferencing technology, employees across America have been suddenly plunged into the world of virtual meetings.
Learning curves with video conferencing technologies have given way to a new challenge – fatigue. As teams and companies learn to use video conferencing platforms most effectively, following a few tips can help viewers avoid feeling fatigued by this new form of connecting.
- Set your app on speaker mode. Most video conferencing apps have a presenter view and a gallery view. In the latter, viewers see everyone on the call at once. This kind of stimuli overwhelms the brain, leads to eye strain and tires the viewer. The result at the end of a day or week of video calls is extreme fatigue. Simply keeping the view set to the speaker helps reduce strain on the brain and body.
- Look away every twenty minutes. Boston University recommend following the 20/20/20 rule of looking away from the computer screen every twenty minutes at something twenty feet away for twenty seconds. Staring at a computer screen all day is tiring, particularly on the eyes. Trying this tactic provides much needed eye relief.
- Try turning the camera off, when possible. There’s a surprising amount of emotional stress that accompanies video conferences. Body language is harder to read on a video call, particularly with multiple participants. Meeting organizers should consider allowing attendees to participate with screens off at certain times to avoid overstraining participants.
- Consider your nonverbal cues. Nonverbal communication is critical during video conferences. Try to look at the camera as much as possible and keep the camera zoomed out enough to allow others on the conference to see your head, shoulders and part of your chest.
- Prepare for video meetings. Take a few minutes before a videoconference starts to review the purpose of the meeting and what must be taken away from it. Identify what needs to be learned or communicated beforehand.
- Limit video calls to necessary meetings. With the additional stresses involved in video conferencing, meeting planners should try to limit video chats to only those that are essential for the medium. Consider when a call or even chat through an app like Slack would suffice.
A final tip for professionals to best manage their new work environment is to schedule stretch time into the workday. Allowing time to stand up and walk away from the computer, even for five minutes, to get a drink of water or stretch one’s legs can make a world of difference.
For more tools or guidance on managing HR needs, contact your EPIC broker.
Insights From Across the Firm
EPIC’s thought leaders have written numerous articles on matters relating to coronavirus, all of which are available on EPIC’s website. Those articles include:
- The State of the Insurance Market for Hospitality, May 20
- Liquor Laws Relaxed, But Hospitality Should Proceed With Caution, May 20
- Survey Highlights Accounting Industry’s Response to SBA Paycheck Protection Program, May 18
- Managing Business in a Complex World, May 18
- Multi-State Employers Face Complexity Surrounding Coronavirus, May 18
- Your Insurance Advisor, Your Invaluable Partner, May 14
- IRS Relaxes Section 125 Election Change Rules, Expands Grace Periods and Carryovers, May 12
Our understanding of coronavirus and its impact around the world continues to evolve at a rapid pace. This newsletter briefly touches on issues that businesses may want to consider as they approach their response to novel coronavirus. More topics will be considered in future issues as our understanding of the virus and its impact continues to evolve. Please reach out to your EPIC broker for more information.
For all of EPIC’s coronavirus coverage, visit epicbrokers.com/coronavirus
Disclaimer: This has been provided as an informational resource for EPIC clients and business partners. It is intended to provide general guidance on potential exposures and is not intended to provide medical advice or address medical concerns or specific risk circumstances. Due to the dynamic nature of infectious diseases, EPIC cannot be held liable for the guidance provided. We strongly encourage readers to seek additional safety, medical and epidemiological information from credible sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Regarding insurance coverage questions, whether coverage applies or a policy will respond to any risk or circumstance is subject to the specific terms and conditions of the policies and contracts at issue and underwriter determinations.
Sign up for our Emergency Response Alerts
With this subscription, you’ll receive important updates from our team as we continue to cover global outbreaks and natural disasters impacting the business community, both locally and abroad.