Last-Minute Open Enrollment Considerations

The COVID-19 pandemic has upturned everything this year. So, it’s understandable if you are a little less prepared for open enrollment at this point. However, there’s still time to address open enrollment with employees in meaningful ways. Doing so will help them get the most from their benefits, which are especially valuable in these uncertain times.

This article outlines a few last-minute strategies for maximizing open enrollment for your employees.

Keep the Communications Coming

If you haven’t already, be sure that all employees know that open enrollment is approaching. This is one of the most important times of the year, and it’s even more important now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Your communications should reflect that. More specifically, they should detail action items for employees prior to enrollment.

Between remote work, kids learning from home, sick relatives and potential family job losses, employees may be struggling to stay afloat. Open enrollment is a time for adjusting benefits based on significant life events, such as a need for increased medical coverage.

With that in mind, your communications should touch on:

  • The importance of considering lifestyle changes and the potential need for additional coverage
  • The different plan options available
  • Any voluntary benefits that may help during the COVID-19 pandemic

Don’t be afraid to bring up other topics that may be affecting employees, like their workloads or mental health. In fact, employees should be encouraged to reach out about those types of issues.

Assign a Point Person

Employees will almost certainly have questions about their open enrollment, especially if it’s happening virtually this year. As such, you should have a designated person tasked with answering all employee questions. Their contact information should be provided in all employee enrollment communications.

Change Up the Medium

People retain information differently, so email communications aren’t always sufficient for conveying a message. Instead, consider diversifying your approaches. Sending an email alongside a video or PDF flyer can be more effective. If time allows, consider sending mailers to employees as well.

Going further, hosting a virtual enrollment webinar could help employee retention even more than individual messages. This would be a time when employees learn about available plan options and notable changes, and ask questions to the moderator.

Summary

Open enrollment may almost be here, but you still have time to help employees maximize their benefits. Speak with Morris & Reynolds Insurance for more open enrollment strategies, guidance and employee deliverables.

As has been the case since 1950, the professional agents and underwriters at Morris & Reynolds Insurance are happy to help you. Whether you have a question about this topic or need help with any form of insurance, please contact us at any time at 305.238.1000.

How the 2020 Election Could Affect Health Care

The 2020 presidential election could bring significant changes to the U.S. health care system. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump hold varying views on topics such as the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which the U.S. Supreme Court will consider in November 2020.

The chart below provides a brief overview of each candidate’s health care platform, planned COVID-19 response and stance on the open U.S Supreme Court seat, so that you can better understand how this election may affect the employee benefits landscape.

As has been the case since 1950, the professional agents and underwriters at Morris & Reynolds Insurance are happy to help you. Whether you have a question about this topic or need help with any form of insurance, please contact us at any time at 305.238.1000.

Preparing for Flu Season During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Each year, the seasonal flu has a marked impact on businesses and employers, causing increased absenteeism, decreased productivity and higher health care costs. The past few flu seasons have seen high hospitalization and mortality rates, which has public health experts fearing another deadly flu season.

Unfortunately, the 2020-21 flu season isn’t the only health crisis employers and employees have to address this year. The COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting the workforce, and the combination of another potentially bad flu season and the pandemic has public health experts worried.

As an employer, you are well-positioned to help keep your employees healthy and minimize the impact that influenza has on your business. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends strategies to help employers fight the flu and talk to employees about what a flu season during the pandemic looks like.

Educate Employees on the Flu vs. COVID-19

Unfortunately, because the flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, some of the symptoms are similar. For example, common flu symptoms include the sudden onset of fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, congestion, cough and sore throat. All of those are currently considered symptoms of COVID-19.

One of the difficult aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the symptoms are wide-ranging and vary in severity. Some with COVID-19 may experience little to no symptoms, while others may be severely ill and require hospitalization.

Due to the similarity in symptoms between COVID-19 and the flu, it may be difficult to determine whether an employee has the flu or COVID-19 without being tested. As such, it’s important to encourage employees to stay home if they are sick.

Consider allowing employees to work from home, if they’re healthy enough to complete their work or while they wait for test results, and encouraging employees to take paid time off if they need to. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 and needs to take time off to recover, they may be eligible for leave under a multitude of federal and state laws.

Preparing Your Workplace for Flu Season During the Pandemic

There are a variety of steps employers can take to protect employees and prepare for flu season—which may include steps you’ve taken in response to COVID-19—regardless of whether employees are in the office or working remotely.

Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Host an on-site, socially distanced vaccination clinic—One of the most important steps for preventing the flu is to get an annual flu vaccination. The CDC
  • recommends that all people over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccine each year. Hosting an on-site flu vaccination clinic can help educate employees about the importance of vaccination and make it easier for them to get vaccinated.
  • Encourage employees to get the flu vaccine—If you choose not to or are unable to provide an on-site flu vaccination clinic, you can still emphasize the importance of vaccination to your employees and educate them about local opportunities to get vaccinated.
  • Disinfect and clean the office—Because the flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 can remain on surfaces long after they’ve been touched, it’s important that your business frequently cleans and disinfects the facility. Some best practices include:
  • Cleaning and disinfecting all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails and doorknobs.
  • Discouraging workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other tools and equipment, when possible. If necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use.
  • Providing disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down by employees before each use.
  • Implement and enforce social distancing protocols—Social distancing is the practice of deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Social distancing best practices for businesses can include:
    • Avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people
    • Instructing workers to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other people
    • Hosting meetings virtually when possible
    • Limiting the number of people on the job site to essential personnel only
    • Leveraging work-from-home arrangements and staggered shifts when possible
    • Discouraging people from shaking hands
  • Employee safety training—Ensure that all employees understand how they can prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the flu, taking into account:
    • Respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene—Businesses should encourage good hygiene to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19. This can involve:
      • Providing tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles
      • Providing soap and water in the workplace
      • Placing hand sanitizers in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene
      • Reminding employees to not touch their eyes, nose or mouth
      • Asking employees to wear a mask or face covering when social distancing is not possible
    • Staying home when sick—Encourage employees to err on the side of caution if they’re not feeling well, and stay home when they’re sick or are exhibiting common symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu.

These strategies may not be right for every organization. Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to implement additional prevention strategies. Contact Morris & Reynolds Insurance to discuss your organization’s situation.

For More Information

The combination of COVID-19 and flu season could have a significant impact on your business this fall and winter. Contact Morris & Reynolds Insurance and request employee educational materials regarding flu prevention, vaccination promotion and good hygiene to start protecting your business and employees today.

As has been the case since 1950, the professional agents and underwriters at Morris & Reynolds Insurance are happy to help you. Whether you have a question about this topic or need help with any form of insurance, please contact us at any time at 305.238.1000.

Flu Season and the COVID-19 Pandemic

The arrival of the fall and winter months signals many things, including the beginning of flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu activity peaks between December and February. This means that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the only public health concern as we approach the winter months.

This combination has public health experts fearing a potential “twindemic” in surges of COVID-19 cases and another deadly flu season. As such, the CDC is urging the public to take action to avoid another deadly flu season and prevent further spread of COVID-19 cases.

Flu vs. COVID-19 Symptoms

Because both the flu and COVID-19 affect the respiratory system, it can be difficult to determine whether you have the flu or COVID-19.

The flu is most often associated with the sudden onset of fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, congestion, cough and sore throat. Most people recover within a few days to less than two weeks. Occasionally, complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis or other infections can occur. Seasonal influenza can cause serious complications for people of any age, but children and the elderly are more vulnerable.

The list of COVID-19 symptoms is vast, and the disease affects people differently, with some experiencing little to no symptoms and others experiencing severe illness. Generally, symptoms can appear two to 14 days following exposure to COVID-19. According to the CDC, the most common COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Because there is some overlap between the symptoms, it may be difficult to determine whether you have the flu or COVID-19 without being tested. As such, if you believe you have the flu or COVID-19, please call your doctor and explain your symptoms before going to a facility to seek care. Doing so will ensure that you receive the care you need without risking the spread of COVID-19.

Prevention

In preparation for a potential twindemic this fall and winter, take these steps to protect yourself and loved ones:

  • Get the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is your best chance of preventing the illness. Currently, the CDC recommends that anyone over 6 months of age receive an annual flu vaccine by the end of October. Talk to your doctor to learn more.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and stay away from others when you feel under the weather.
  • Practice social distancing, which means staying at least 6 feet away from others, when out in public.
  • Wear a protective face covering or cloth mask when out in public.
  • Avoid large gatherings, especially those that aren’t socially distanced and don’t require masks or face coverings.
  • Wash your hands often using soap and warm water to protect against germs. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that’s been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Get plenty of sleep, stay physically active and drink plenty of water to keep your immune system strong.
  • Manage your stress and eat a nutritious diet rich in healthy grains, fruits, vegetables and fiber.

Click here to learn more about the CDC’s prevention recommendations for both the flu and COVID-19.

Take Action Today Do your part to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and flu season. By taking action, you can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and another deadly flu season.

As has been the case since 1950, the professional agents and underwriters at Morris & Reynolds Insurance are happy to help you. Whether you have a question about this topic or need help with any form of insurance, please contact us at any time at 305.238.1000.

Director’s & Officer’s Market Update

The market for Director’s & Officer’s Liability has been increasingly influenced by the ongoing ‘hard’ commercial insurance market as insurers tighten terms, reduce limits and increase their pricing. The COVID19 crisis and the litigation that has begun mounting has only added to those woes and with that in mind we are pleased to share an update on the market for this important coverage.

Our friends at the CRC Group brokerage, one of America’s largest and oldest insurance intermediaries, recently wrote the following article and with thanks to them for their fine work we are happy to share it with you at this time:

Pandemic Roiling D&O Marketplace

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow, the directors and officers of public and private organizations are facing risks on two fronts: the economic impacts of COVID-19 and litigation. Adding to the challenge is a hardening insurance marketplace.

D&O liability insurance was already undergoing a market correction before the pandemic, after years of poor results and growth in claims. The uncertainties that COVID-19 is bringing to all sectors of the economy will undoubtedly lead to further changes – not only in the form of higher rates, but also tighter terms and conditions, as well as additional exclusions.

These trends will make navigating a complex line of coverage even more challenging, but they are not unprecedented. D&O insurers similarly tightened their underwriting during the financial crisis in 2008, then eased coverage restrictions after the global recession ended.

Times of crisis historically make directors and officers more frequent targets of litigation, as plaintiffs scrutinize organizations’ decisions. Generally, D&O allegations tend to fall into three categories: disclosures, particularly for public companies; mismanagement, especially when companies post results or their share prices drop precipitously; and insolvency.

Even when a lawsuit is found to have no merit, organizations still must defend it, and those expenses can quickly mount.

D&O LAWSUITS OVER COVID-19

The Securities and Exchange Commission has encouraged public companies to disclose the impact of the coronavirus on their operations and financial condition, even as the SEC notes the future impact is uncertain. But public statements can get companies into hot water, as recent litigation shows.

Several lawsuits naming organizations and their directors and officers have already been filed with allegations relating directly to the coronavirus pandemic.1 A sampling of lawsuits include class actions against:

  • Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. In March, plaintiffs filed a federal securities lawsuit alleging, among other things, that the cruise line made false and misleading statements about the impact of COVID-19 on the company’s operations and business prospects. The lawsuit also cited media reports of leaked internal memos directing the cruise line’s sales staff to lie about the coronavirus.2
  • Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. Also in March, plaintiffs filed a securities lawsuit alleging the biotechnology company made false and misleading statements that it had designed a vaccine for COVID-19 in three hours. A research firm called on the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate Inovio’s statement, suggesting it was “ludicrous and dangerous.”3

INSURANCE MARKET REACTIONS

Conditions in the D&O marketplace began hardening early in 2019, as litigation rose, losses outpaced premium growth and insurers responded to years of financial pressure. Underwriters’ reactions to higher losses in any line of business can take the form of higher rates, tighter terms and conditions, or reduced coverage. Depending on circumstances, underwriters might exercise all of those options on a given account.6

With the coronavirus, CRC Group is observing several different actions in the D&O marketplace, including:

  • Insurers withdrawing quotes. Pulling quotes off the table is a sign that insurers are uncomfortable with the level of risk.
  • Exclusions added after quoting and before binding. This is highly unusual, and it signals that insurers are worried about profitability. Bankruptcy exclusions are likely additions.
  • Pandemic-specific exclusions. Most professional liability lines, including D&O and employment practices liability, exclude coverage for claims involving bodily injury. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the overwhelming majority of liability claims will surround consequential loss.

CRC Group has not yet seen any market exits or significant reductions in capacity for D&O risks at this time. We anticipate that the D&O marketplace will harden further as the impacts of the coronavirus become clearer.

WAYS TO MITIGATE D&O EXPOSURE

Stay informed. 

Directors and officers need to ensure they receive timely and accurate information regarding their organization’s operations and financial activities. Management decisions based on faulty information could prove to be costly and prompt lawsuits alleging false and misleading statements.

Be cautious about public statements. 

More than 150 companies have so far announced disruptions of their supply chains and many have indicated they will report lower revenues as a result of the pandemic. Any public statements by an organization’s executive leadership regarding the impact of the coronavirus should be based on facts. Understating the impact of COVID-19 on revenues, supply chains and so on could come back to haunt the organization’s directors and officers.7

Seek expert advice. 

D&O risks are complex, and they require expertise in law, insurance and business to manage properly.

Maintain D&O liability insurance. 

D&O coverage generally is available in three forms: Side A, which provides protection when an organization cannot indemnify its individual directors and officers; Side B, which reimburses organizations when they indemnify directors and officers; and Side C, which covers the entity when the organization and individual directors and officers are named as co-defendants.

While the vast majority of public companies already purchase Side A difference-in-conditions (DIC) excess coverage, it is now more critical than ever for private and non-profit entities to add this valuable product to their current D&O programs. The Side A DIC product maximizes person protection of directors and officers for claims that are not indemnified.

As COVID-19 slows economic growth and forces businesses to make difficult financial decisions, the value of Side A DIC coverage will increase considerably.

BOTTOM LINE

  1. The marketplace is changing, as insurers continue to analyze their exposure to D&O claims from the COVID-19 outbreak.
  2. Higher rates, tighter terms and conditions, and additional exclusions are all in play.
  3. Further hardening in the D&O marketplace is likely as the coronavirus spreads.
  4. Triggers for D&O litigation may include public disclosures, management action or inaction, and insolvency, as early lawsuits during the pandemic suggest.
  5. Private companies are not immune from D&O litigation, even though they are not required to disclose financial information.

To learn more about the current D&O/Executive Liability market please find last month’s article from the Insurance Journal,  Directors & Officers’ Insurance Rates Surge on Fears of Coronavirus Litigation can be found here or you can contact our professional agents and Underwriter’s here at Morris & Reynolds as we are most happy to help. 305.238.1000.

Contributors

  • Jason White is a Managing Director and National Leader of the ExecPro Practice, based in Los Angeles.
  • Garrett Koehn is Regional Director of CRC Group’s Western U.S. operations, based in San Francisco.

ENDNOTES

  1. “Insurers fret as company bosses face coronavirus legal claims,” Business Insurance, April 1, 2020; https:// www.businessinsurance.com/article/20200401/NEWS06/912333809/Insurers-fret-as-company-bosses- face-coronavirus-legal-claims-Mayer-Brown-Inovio
  2. Eric Douglas v. Norwegian Cruise Lines et al., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, March 12, 2020; https://www.classaction.org/media/douglas-v-norwegian-cruise-lines-et-al.pdf
  3. Patrick McDermid v. Inovio Pharmaceuticals, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, March 12, 2020; http://securities.stanford.edu/filings-documents/1073/IPI1200_12/2020312_f01c_20CV01402.pdf
  4. “Class Actions During COVID-19,” The National Law Review, March 31, 2020; https://www.natlawreview.com/article/class- actions-during-covid-19
  5. Michael Drieu et al. v. Zoom Video Communications Inc. et al., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, April 7, 2020; https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6827784-Zoom-shareholder-suit.html
  6. “State of the Market: Directors’ and Officers’ Liability,” CRC Group, October 2019; https://www.crcgroup.com/Tools- Intel/post/state-of-the-market-directors-officers-liability
  7. “What Apple, Microsoft, GE and other U.S. companies are saying about the coronavirus outbreak,” Market Watch, March 22, 2020; https://www.marketwatch.com/story/what-apple-walmart-and-other-us-companies-are-saying-about-the- coronavirus-2020-02-18