Posted on 01 May 2013 by Neilson
Workers' compensation continues to be a challenged line, with historically poor results, a benign interest rate environment, and diminished prior year reserve redundancy. Another issue worth noting is the uncertainty around the potential 2014 extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (TRIPRA), which has heightened the focus on aggregation of workers' compensation risk.
For years, carriers have monitored workers' compensation exposure aggregations (their cumulative exposures in a geographic area) as a way of assessing the potential impact that an earthquake would have on their book of business. Such analysis has been commonplace in earthquake prone areas, such as California, for many years. However, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, workers' compensation carriers and reinsurers immediately began to focus on employee concentration in large cities which were deemed high risk targets for terrorist events.
Insurance carriers continue to view risks from a concentration perspective - both on an individual accounts basis as well as the aggregate across their portfolio and correlated lines of business. Some carriers will decline a risk outright simply because they are "overlined" in a particular zip code or city. Or, the carrier might impose a surcharge on the premium for the use of their limited capacity for a particularly large workers' compensation risk.
Reinsurers similarly set a maximum amount of capacity they can offer in a particular geographic area and for catastrophic loss scenarios. Insurers purchase this capacity as one way to reduce their potential to incur an outsized catastrophic loss and manage their modeled worst case scenario within their financial risk tolerance.
To that end, catastrophic models have been developed. Catastrophic models allow carriers to gauge their potential exposures in a geographic area under a variety of different event scenarios that are either probabilistic or deterministic in nature. During the last 10 years, carriers have made adjustments to their books of business according to the output of these models to limit their potential exposure to terrorist events - sometimes across multiple product lines.
A unique consideration with workers' compensation over other insurance contracts is workers' compensation policies have statutory coverage (in this case being synonymous with unlimited) rather than a stated limit which could cap a carrier's liability for a certain loss. Given the statutory nature of the coverage, it is difficult for carriers to estimate their maximum exposure to workers' compensation.
The issue of employee aggregation affects any employer with a large number of employees in a single location, but is highlighted in industries such as financial institutions, hospitals, defense contractors, higher education, hotels, professional services, and nuclear.
Impact of Pending TRIPRA Expiration
Because of the significant financial impact of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Congress created the Federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) to provide a financial backstop to the insurance industry that would cap losses in the event of another large-scale terrorist event. The Act was initially set to expire at the end of 2005, but because of the ongoing risk of terrorism, and the reliance on it by insurance carriers, it has been extended several times. It is now set to expire on December 31, 2014.
When most people think of TRIA/TRIPRA, they think of the property insurance marketplace. Without this backstop in place, many high-profile properties would not be insurable in the commercial marketplace. However, workers' compensation is also deeply impacted, as there are large amounts of people working in highly concentrated areas.
Although the expiration of TRIPRA is almost two years away, the impact of this is already being seen in the marketplace. Employers in certain industries, employers with large employee concentrations, or in certain cities can expect less available capacity with some carriers scaling because of the increased exposure to their balance sheet created by losing some or all of the protections provided under TRIA. This trend has the potential to escalate and broaden as we get closer to the TRIPRA expiration date.
In addition, more employers may face increased rates for their workers' compensation coverage because of the combination of less competition and capacity, as well as an increased potential exposure for the carriers. If a policy is being issued that provides coverage beyond the TRIPRA expiration date, and the future of the legislation is not known, carriers will likely price this under the assumption those protections will be allowed to sunset or may be significantly modified.
What to Expect at Renewal
When faced with a potentially challenging renewal and one that may be impacted by this issue, what can you do? We recommend starting the renewal process early, at least 120 days (or more) prior to the policy or program effective date. We will work with you to develop a communications strategy and presentation tactic around all key risk exposures, including modeling and risk analytics in support of your renewal objectives.
For carrier presentations and Q-and-A, insureds must be thoroughly conversant with details of exposures and operations; mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures; loss trends, safety programs, and risk management practices; and future plans, to the extent that they can be shared publicly.
We will help you be familiar with respective insurers' cost of capital and pricing strategy - understanding how carriers evaluate your firm's experience and risk profile, and how they initially develop rates and premiums.
High quality data differentiates employers in the eyes of insurance carriers. In today's environment, it is imperative that organizations provide underwriters with complete, accurate, and thorough data and analysis in order to differentiate their risk profile.
There has already been a significant increase in questions that carriers are asking at renewal that focus on the risks associated with a potential terrorist event. Employers with a large concentration of workers, especially those in major metropolitan areas, should be prepared to provide the following details to carriers:
- Information on employee marital/dependency status.
- Employee telecommuting/hospitality practices and impact on concentration.
- Physical security of the building including information about guards, surveillance cameras, parking areas, HVAC protections.
- How access to the building is controlled.
- Construction of the building and location of the offices.
- Management polices around workplace violence, weapons, and employment screening.
- Employee security procedures.
- Emergency response/crisis management plan.
- Fire/life safety program.
- Security staff.
- Crisis management procedures.
In addition, carriers may wish to send their loss control engineers for a physical inspection of larger facilities and to interview building/facility management.
The Increasing Demand for Better Data
Because both insurance carriers and reinsurers focus on catastrophic models, it is extremely important that employers provide the highest quality of employee accumulation data, as this will ensure they are favorably differentiated by insurance carriers.
If your company has multiple shifts or operates in a campus setting, make sure you report both the total number of employees and the number working during peak shifts - as well as the actual buildings where the employees are located.
The number of employees working during peak shifts is the actual exposure to a terrorist event, not the total number of employees. Also, some businesses have a large percentage of their workforce in the field or telecommuting, rather than the office where their payroll is assigned. Providing this information to carriers significantly reduces the potential exposures associated with employee concentration. In addition, identifying the actual building where employees work on a campus - rather than a single building - helps overcome pitfalls of the catastrophic model. This also better reflects an employer's exposure to catastrophic losses.
As options about future real estate plans are considered (i.e. in terms of consolidation of employees from multiple locations in a city to a single location, or the impact of closing or consolidating satellite locations and relocating employees in major metropolitan areas), it is wise to review and consider the potential impact on workers' compensation pricing and capacity.
Because of the current political and economic climate in the US, renewal of the TRIPRA by Congress is far from certain. Marsh is continuing to monitor this issue closely, and we are working with employers and insurance industry representatives to raise awareness of the important role that TRIPRA plays in the insurance marketplace.