While the property/casualty insurance industry is fighting attempts to force it to pay for the huge business income losses that it says most policies were never intended to cover, some individual insurers are finding small ways to assist the businesses and families being hurt by the coronavirus shutdowns.
Farmers Insurance has joined the growing list of insurers willing to temporarily add insurance coverage to policies of customers who are now using their personal autos to make restaurant, grocery, pharmacy and other deliveries. Customers will not be charged for this temporary additional coverage that Farmers is adding automatically.
“We want our customers to know we’re here for them during this extremely challenging situation,” said Keith Daly, president of Personal Lines for Farmers.
Allstate has also begun automatically covering customers who use their personal vehicles to deliver goods for a commercial purpose.
Although the state of Wisconsin has mandated that insurers add the delivery coverage to personal and commercial policies, and several states including Texas, Washington and Connecticut have asked insurers to consider doing so, these insurers are doing this voluntarily. Other insurers are expected to follow.
“Property/Casualty insurers recognize that American businesses are facing unprecedented disruption,” said David A. Sampson, president and CEO of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA).
“Many insurers and agents are implementing new measures to directly help policyholders. Insurers are adopting new technologies and remote solutions to minimize any interruptions in service. Meanwhile, even as insurers are protecting the safety of their employees and transitioning to remote workplaces and implementing employee travel bans, our industry is handling claims as we always have,” the trade group chief said.
Insurance for delivery persons is not the only benefit being offered voluntarily in this crisis.
The pandemic is testing some health care systems to the limit and some doctors have come out of retirement to help. Medical malpractice insurer The Doctors Co. is providing free medical professional liability coverage to retired physicians formerly insured by the company who volunteer during the crisis. To qualify, the doctor must be providing professional services for no fee, salary or other compensation.
“Today, our mission to advance, protect and reward the practice of good medicine is more important than ever. We appreciate our members’ lifesaving work during this crisis and want to make it as easy as possible for our retired members to assist,” said Richard E. Anderson, MD, chairman and CEO of The Doctors Co.
In one of the industry’s first voluntary efforts last month, Kentucky Employers Mutual Insurance Co. announced it will pay wage-replacement benefits for any first responder or employee in the medical field who is quarantined because of direct exposure to a person diagnosed with COVID-19.
“Based on our interpretation of Kentucky workers compensation laws and given the unprecedented circumstances surrounding this pandemic, KEMI policyholders needed the assurance of knowing that KEMI will provide the appropriate care and benefits for those first responders affected by COVID-19,” said Ryan Worthern, communications director for KEMI.
KEMI’s announcement followed a decision by the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries to have the state’s workers comp fund pay wage-loss and medical treatment expenses for any health care worker or first responder who is quarantined because of coronavirus exposure. That policy impacts every employee in the state who is covered by the state system.
Some insurers have moved to totally digital claims processing without in-person inspections while many are adjusting payment terms for hard-hit businesses and families.
Illinois Casualty Co., which insures restaurants and taverns, has temporarily suspended all insurance premium billing for 30 days.
Some carriers are giving families and businesses affected by the shutdowns extra time to make payments. Allstate’s plan gives auto and homeowners policyholders the choice to delay two consecutive premium payments with no penalty or pay what they can afford, with no minimum payment required. The total unpaid balance will be spread across the remaining bills.
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), the exclusive provider of workers comp insurance in the state, is allowing insurance premium installment payments due for March, April and May to be deferred until June 1. The BWC serves 249,000 public and private employers. The deferred payments are estimated to total around $200 million.
While insurers are giving to charitable causes to help those affected by this crisis in the U.S. and across the globe, as they frequently do in times of catastrophes, one insurer was in a position to contribute something unique.
QBE North America is donating 95,000 3M standard face masks to hospitals around the country. The masks were part of QBE North America’s emergency preparedness supply and are being donated to a number of hospitals and medical facilities facing shortages in communities countrywide including Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Hartford Hospital and New York Presbyterian.
“This donation serves as a sincere ‘thank you’ to our health care workers, who are working tirelessly on the front lines of this battle,” said Todd Jones, chief executive officer, QBE North America.
Reaching out to parents working and children schooling at home, The Allstate Foundation nonprofit partner, Playworks, is hosting #PlayatHome Recess live on Facebook three times a day Monday through Friday. The show offers stretching, warm-ups, interactive games, cheers and cooldown activities. Playworks also offers a free game library, where families and educators can access ideas by age and length of time, with many fun ideas for small groups.
The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) is sponsoring Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day, an online, researched-based and bilingual (English and Spanish) program providing literacy resources and activities for preschool children (ages 0-5 years) for free. It was developed through IICF’s Early Literacy Initiative in partnership with Sesame Street and is supported by the insurance industry.
Health insurers are also stepping up. Health insurers including Aetna have said they will waive all co-pays for any patients hospitalized due to the coronavirus. Cigna is waiving customer cost-sharing and co-payments for COVID-19 treatment and will reimburse health care providers at Cigna’s in-network rates or Medicare rates. A number of health insurers have also waived patient co-pays for testing, doctor visits and telemedicine appointments for people with coronavirus symptoms.
*This story appeared previously in our sister publication Insurance Journal.