Questions to Ask to Find Holes in Your Clients’ Insurance Coverage

As the statutory insurance industry prepares for July 1 renewals, it’s a good time for insurance brokers to help them identify gaps in coverage that may be filled by ancillary benefits.

The introduction of paid family and medical leave programs in a growing number of states opens new markets to statutory brokers. DBL Center brokers who specialize in short-term disability in New York and New Jersey understand what it’s like to roll out a new benefit program based on experience with New York PFL.

As such, you are uniquely qualified to help your clients with these new benefits in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and beyond. Plus, you have the advantage of the DBL Center’s proprietary Broker Dashboard: Net Revenue Tracker to keep your clients aware of renewals and pending cancellations.

Guiding Your Clients to Enhanced Benefits Packages

As you’re reviewing benefits for third quarter DBL and TDB renewals in July, take some time to ask your clients about their other employee benefits to identify holes in their coverage or areas – especially in regard to executive benefits packages, ancillary benefits, and long-term disability insurance (DI).

You can list some of the most common ancillary benefits and ask your clients if they offer these options to their employees. But it’s better to start a dialogue that discusses their needs.

Questions to Ask

You might start by asking about the demographics of their employees.

  • Do they have mostly older workers who may be thinking about long-term care coverage?
  • Do they have millennial and GenX employees who are anticipating braces for growing children on the horizon and need a good dental and vision package?
  • Do they have Group Life / AD&D coverage that can help attract employees with families?

Then, move on to the specifics of today’s economy:

  • Do their current short-term and long-term disability insurance packages meet their employees’ needs in these times of high inflation?
  • Could stand-alone PFL benefits help New York employers save money on this statutory benefit?
  • In light of PFL and FMLA laws, does the company offer enough in the way of benefits for employees who would never take advantage of these benefits?
  • Can accident insurance and enriched DBL help provide more to employees who don’t have any need for family-related benefits?

Finally, look to the upper level of employees and the business, itself:

  • What about the executives: Are top employees covered well enough in the event of illness or injury?
  • Can the business survive the loss of key employees, either temporarily or permanently?

Once you’ve determined the make-up of the workforce and the business owner’s biggest concerns regarding the future of their business, you can make the best recommendations.

When Cost Is a Factor: How Much Insurance Coverage Can Your Clients Afford?

Of course, budgets are always a consideration when you’re optimizing employee benefits packages. It helps to remind clients that many benefits can be offered as completely voluntary and employee funded, funded by the employer, or on a cost-shared basis.

Having these options allows business owners to deliver competitive benefits without a dent in their bottom line. Even executive packages for life insurance and long-term disability can be written as buy-up coverage, fully funded by the executive with no cost to the company.

Using Paid Family and Medical Benefits as a Doorway to High-Commission Ancillary Benefits

Every quarter also brings new opportunities to write new business and expand your reach as an insurance broker. There is no easier way to get your foot in the door than with statutory benefits that every business owner needs to provide, by law.

DBL in New York and TDB in New Jersey have been on the books for decades. There are always new businesses entering the market in need of coverage. Plus, opportunities to privatize these benefits along with Family Leave Insurance in New Jersey and Paid Family Leave in New York opens doors for brokers.

It all starts with education about the products and presenting your insurance brokerage as an authoritative resource for statutory benefits. That’s where the DBL Center comes in as your back-office staff with the knowledge and experience to write Paid Family Leave in NY and other states now offering family and medical leave benefits.

From there, you can continue to ask the right questions to help benefits supervisors, HR directors and company owners develop the best benefits package to achieve their business goals. Disability insurance is just the beginning. Today’s workforce needs so much more in the way of insurance coverage.

When you pinpoint the holes in your clients’ coverage packages and show them ways they can affordably recruit and retain talent through the benefits today’s businesses and employees need most, they will rely on you as a trusted resource. The time to start is today.

 

 

 


NYS Disability Benefits Are Not Keeping Pace with Inflation – Here’s How You Can Help

As the economy continues to recover from the shutdowns forced by the pandemic, the U.S. is facing inflation rates like those we haven’t seen since the late 1970s. At last report, the inflation rate was 7.5%, with increases this monthly largely driven by oil and fuel prices. Higher energy costs affect the price of virtually everything else, as it costs more to move goods through the country. Whether you follow the news closely or not, you’ll probably seen the increases not just at gas pumps but at grocery stores and other retailers.

But for New York business owners and their employees, one number has not gone up in recent years: The amount you’ll receive if you have to claim short-term NYS disability benefits. The rate that claimants with an off-the-job illness or injury can receive in NYS disability benefits tops out at just $170 per week for 26 weeks. That rate has not increased since 1989, when Governor Mario Cuomo was in office.

It’s Not the 1980s – But It May Feel Like It

It’s worth noting that 1989 followed an inflationary era in the U.S.

Cuomo’s NYS disability benefits increase may have been “too little, too late,” even then. New Yorkers at the time were struggling with high prices and high interest rates. Those high interest rates made it painful – or impossible – for New Yorkers who lost income due to illness or injury to make ends meet by tapping into investments or by borrowing money. They would have been forced to cash out or borrow against high-yield investments, which could put them behind when it came to saving for retirement. Or they could have borrowed money at high interest rates, also putting them financially behind.

Rising Costs Remain a Problem – Enriched DBL Is The Answer

Of course, this is not the 1980s or early ‘90s. But that $170 per week doesn’t even stretch as far as it did back then. And while interest rates remain low right now, that could change in the next quarter of 2022. That makes it even more critical for employers and employees to review their finances now.

If they should become ill or injured, how will they pay their bills and provide for their family?

Certainly not on $170 per week, when the average price of gas (as an example) in New York metro areas is $4.43 / gallon, according to AAA.com figures.

As a New York disability insurance broker, you are probably experiencing many of the same cost challenges your clients have in New York. But, as an educated broker working with The DBL Center, you also have a solution for these concerns: Enriched DBL coverage.

By enriching DBL insurance coverage for your clients with over 50 lives, you can provide peace-of-mind that they can maintain their standard of living in New York, even if they suffer a non-work-related illness or injury.

Enriched DBL benefits packages written through The DBL Center can provide weekly maximum payouts of $200 to $850, offering between 50% to 60% of salary replacement for workers.

Why Does Paid Family Leave Pay More Than NYS Disability Benefits?   

Enriched DBL is especially critical with today’s high costs of living in New York State. It’s also important to provide this benefit to your workers in light of the recent increases in Paid Family Leave coverage. New York State-mandated PFL benefits reached their maximum rates in 2021, providing 67% of an employee’s annual average weekly wage, up to a maximum benefit of $74,509.

That means you receive more money if you have to take time off to care for a child or a disabled or ill dependent than you would receive if you were injured or ill yourself and could not work.

PFL is undoubtedly an important benefit that helps with workplace equity and helps bridge the gap of income inequality often experienced by working women, who are often the primary caregivers in a household.

But enriched DBL is a benefit that can provide every person in your organization – up to the c-level executives and owners – with peace-of-mind that they can access partial income replacement if they are ill or injured.

Maybe someday New York leaders will see that disability benefits must also keep pace with increasing costs in our state. In the meantime, savvy insurance brokers in New York can do the right thing for their clients by quoting them packages that include enriched DBL and voluntary worksite benefits like accident insurance that can help.

 

 


Skyscraper Insurance Talks with DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen

DBL Center President and CEO Michael S. Cohen recently appeared as a guest on the Poza podcast The Risk Taker, hosted by Chaim Berkovic, founder and president of Skyscraper Insurance. The podcast focuses on business leaders who take on unusual challenges, step outside their comfort zones, and achieve success.

During the 40-minute interview, Berkovic and Cohen discussed how DBL Center was founded more than 45 years ago by David Cohen and how he brought privatized short-term disability benefits to Hawaii. You’ll learn how Michael Cohen got into the family business, and the many lanes Cohen has now expanded into as The DBL Center leads the charge in terms of technology in the statutory disability industry.

Below, we share a few highlights from their conversation. But it’s worth tuning into the full podcast here.

You’ll hear the two business leaders talk about connecting with clients of different cultures, taking risks in sales, and treating every account as if it’s a $1 million deal.

Cohen on Educating Brokers on Short Term Disability Coverage

As risks go, selling DBL is one not many insurance brokers take on. Cohen told Berkovic, “They don’t think there’s enough money in it. They don’t know what to ask. They’re not asking the right questions. I know how to help brokers like you get in the door to ask the right questions about disability insurance. Everybody asks about major medical, worker’s comp, or personal lines, but right in the middle between that is the state-mandated short-term disability. The introduction of paid family leave has just blown that door wide open and raised awareness about statutory benefits.”

Cohen on Leveraging Technology for Increased Sales

Although his father David Cohen, laid the groundwork decades ago, Michael Cohen never wanted to be viewed as just “the owners’ son.” In the past several years since taking over the company, Cohen catapulted The DBL Center not just to the top of Google rankings through his team’s marketing efforts, but to rapid growth and expansion across the New England states.

Today, The DBL Center services not just New York, New Jersey and Hawaii but also Connecticut and Massachusetts, which recently implemented statutory paid family and medical leave policies. Cohen helps brokers tap into markets they may not have considered by hiring experts in those regions, and offering a streamlined process for selling and managing statutory benefits.

“I keep it simple,” he told Berkovic. Through the Broker Dashboard, The DBL Center can show brokers the direct-billed DBL and ancillary policies and help them track renewals, cancellations, and commissions. While DBL and PFL may not be what most brokers think of as “big-ticket sales,” these products provide a foot in the door for larger policies. “The DBL Center – and our proprietary Broker Dashboard – are the conduits to helping brokers’ retention,” Cohen said.

Cohen on Absence Management

Recently, Cohen further expanded The DBL Center to offer absence management solutions to brokers’ clients. “We are offering solutions for when workers are taking intermittent leave on a standalone basis, especially in companies with over 50 lives. Most places require you have another plan, like LTD. We can do standalone policies and tie it into DBL,” he said on the podcast.

Adding yet another responsibility to his list wasn’t easy – and it wasn’t a decision Cohen took lightly. But he knew it was necessary to scale The DBL Center to the next level and provide the best service to his clients. “One of the toughest things about my job is that I feel like the brokers are my children. How do I hug all of them at one time? I don’t feel like there’s enough of me to consult and teach everybody. So, I hire people who are experts in their region or their field. I stay in my lane. And the lane has become filled – it’s now one lane, two lane, three lane, and HOV.”

Listen to the full podcast here: The Risk Taker: Skyscraper Insurance with Michael S. Cohen of The DBL Center

 


No Healthcare? Why The DBL Center Specializes in Statutory and Ancillary Benefits

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Stay in your lane.” One of DBL Center founder David Cohen’s favorite quotes was “Stick to sewing.”

Both expressions relate to finding what you’re good at, honing your skills and knowledge in that area, and not wasting time on diversions outside that field. Find the right people to support you in your business who can provide the skills you don’t have – or don’t have the time to pursue.

The DBL Center has always held to this adage, using it to build a national sales force specializing in specific regions or specific areas of coverage.  We used it to build a top-notch outsourced marketing team that works in collaboration with our president and CEO Michael Cohen to keep our website one of the top-ranked in the industry. We used it to create an IT and cybersecurity department that, in the future, will be offering tips to our brokers to help ensure their systems and security are where they should be as we enter 2022.

Most importantly, for 45+ years, we have focused on building our niche as a wholesale/General Agency for statutory insurance and ancillary benefits in a growing number of states.

When David Cohen launched The DBL Center in 1976, he chose a nascent niche that didn’t have many competitors. DBL and TDI were statutory benefits, which should have made for an easy sale. But the real challenge was customer education. No one knew they needed these benefits in New York and New Jersey. Shortly after growing in the New York tri-state area, Cohen took the business to Hawaii, becoming the only TDI insurance company on all the islands.

But: Why Not Offer Health Insurance Policies?

Over the years, many of our brokers have asked why we don’t write health insurance. Impressed by the rates we negotiate with top carriers and our concierge-level customer service, our brokers would love to write all their policies with us, giving them a one-stop shop for employee benefits.

But the nuances of the health insurance industry would require stepping out of what we’ve known for 45+ years. It would require hiring specialists in those fields and diverting our attention away from the areas where we excel.

The carriers in the health insurance field are, largely, different. The policies differ dramatically. And the products, themselves, are more complex than anything we offer today.

Our Expertise In Statutory and Ancillary Benefits Can Increase Your Profitability

By staying in our niche, we can continue to provide concierge-level service in a highly focused field. Our brokers don’t have to know everything about DBL and TDB coverage, because we do. They can turn to us with any questions and to be their full-fledged back-office staff.

When the New York State governor introduced Paid Family Leave in 2017, The DBL Center was on the cutting edge of the news. We were able to get up-to-speed quickly and guide our brokers through one of the most confusing closing periods in our history. We collected censuses, billed premiums, and wrote the necessary riders to DBL policies in New York. All while giving our brokers opportunities and tools to upsell customers to enriched DBL to provide a better benefits package to all employees – not just those who were parents or expecting to become parents soon.

We even provide a platform enabling our brokers to easily track commissions, cancellations and renewals, and we can email reports on demand or on a weekly or monthly basis so they can follow up with their clients.

Our expertise in statutory benefits and ancillary benefits and now, voluntary worksite benefits, enables our brokers to focus on health insurance and other products, knowing that statutory benefits virtually sell themselves. Ancillary benefits, too, are an in-demand addition to benefits packages right now to improve employee morale and combat high quit rates.

Branching Out in Ways that Make Sense

However, through partnerships with other companies, The DBL Center is now in a position to make referrals for healthcare coverage. Through our vast industry connections, we can now introduce you to wholesale insurance agencies and carriers that share our philosophy and values, which we’ve upheld since 1976.

We have always guided our brokers to the best rates and coverage for their clients seeking statutory and ancillary benefits. Now, we can help you grow your business and increase commissions in other ways when it comes to employee benefits and human capital management or absence management.

Hang on, because 2022 is going to be an exciting ride for all of us. We’re glad to have you along for the journey.


Will Paid Family and Medical Leave Become a Federal Benefit?

Massachusetts Representative Richard Neal has introduced a federal paid family and medical leave program that rivals that of the program in his home state. President Joe Biden has also introduced paid family and medical leave provisions in his American Families Plan Act but is getting pushback from Republicans in both the Senate and the House.

If either Biden’s plan or Neal’s plan, which was presented by the House Ways and Means Committee, pass what will this mean for private insurance brokers and carriers who are currently writing paid family and medical leave policies? And what is a federal plan likely to look like?

Here’s what we know so far.

The American Families Plan: Paid Leave Provisions

In addition to generous child care for low-to-middle income families, extended public preschool for three and four year olds, and extended child tax credits, Biden’s plan includes a proposed 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.

The plan calls for 66% income replacement, with up to 80% for lower wage workers. There would be a monthly cap of $4,000, which means that higher wage workers would undoubtedly have to rely on additional means of income replacement to maintain their standard of living and pay their bills if they take leave because they are ill or injured or to take care of family members.

Building an Economy for Families Act: What Does Paid Leave Look Like?

Neal’s plan, called “the Building an Economy for Families Act” dives deeper into specifics for income replacement. It would be based on wages earned and provide up to 85% income replacement. Those at higher income tiers of $8,334 to $20,833 in monthly income would receive just 5% of their income as a paid benefit, while those earning less than $1,256 per month would receive 85% of their wages.

Again, higher income earners would need to plan ahead and rely on savings, investments or other income to continue bringing in the money they need.

The chart below shows the benefits.

Who Can Take Paid Family and Medical Leave?

The leave could be taken for the same reasons as FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) job protection, which includes medical leave for an accident, illness or injury that occurred off-the-job, or family leave to care for an ill or injured family member or to care for or bond with an infant in their first year of life or a newly adopted or foster child within the first 12 months.

The definition of family member, now, varies by state. Neal’s federal plan would expand family to include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, spouses of family members, and also “chosen family.” This mimics the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, which also has a brought definition of family that includes anyone the claimant considers as family.

Who Would Pay for Paid Family and Medical Leave?

As of now, details for Biden’s program aren’t clear. However, the House Ways & Means Committee proposal details three options to fund PFML. Employers could write their policy through a public program managed by the U.S. Treasury Department. In states with existing PFL or PFML programs, employers could opt to continue with these legacy programs. There may also be employer-provided coverage options, which represents an opportunity for insurance carriers and brokers. It is unclear whether the benefit would be employer-funded, employee-funded, or shared costs.

Given the lower payouts for high-wage earners, there may also be opportunities to enrich private policies, similar to the way business owners in New York enrich DBL benefits now. Should a top worker become ill or injured, enriched DBL coverage in New York is one of the best ways to supplement income without having to tap into valuable investments – especially considering new capital gains tax laws.

Additionally, in a highly competitive job market where there are not enough skilled workers to fill available positions, business owners may want to consider offering private short-term and long-term disability policies as an added benefit for managers and c-suite executives. This can help recruit and retain top employees in a variety of industries and provide added value to top talent, as federal programs ensure that lower-income workers have the benefits they need if they are unable to work.

As always, The DBL Center remains your source for news as it develops regarding employee benefits and PFML at the state and federal levels. Top finance site GoBankingRates recently interviewed me as an expert resource for an article detailing everything people need to know about state paid family and medical leave programs and potential federal programs. You can read it here.

 


New York PFL vs. New York State Sick Leave Act: What Insurance Brokers Need to Know

 

New York insurance brokers may be getting questions from customers about the New York State Sick Leave (NYSSL) act, which went into effect September 30, 2020. However, employees cannot take paid sick leave through the state law until January 1, 2021, or at a time after that date if their employer requires them to accrue paid time off.

A direct result of the coronavirus pandemic to help contain the spread of the virus by encouraging employees to stay home, with pay, if they are not feeling well, the Paid Sick Leave Law mandates that employers of any size now provide paid sick leave to employees.

Unlike New York State DBL benefits or Paid Family Leave (PFL), New York State Sick Leave  (NYSSL) is funded entirely by employers through payroll. It is not an insurance benefit.

However, employers may have questions about when employees can use their paid sick leave and when they need to file a claim for DBL or PFL. It helps brokers to be aware of the new legislation to reduce unnecessary or unqualified DBL and PFL claims in New York.

New York PFL v. DBL v. NYSSL

The duration of NYSSL is much shorter than New York State’s short-term disability coverage or PFL coverage.

Here are a few other differences between the three types of leave:

DBL / Enriched DBL

DBL or enriched DBL insurance provides partial pay to employees who are seriously ill or injured and cannot perform their normal job functions for up to 26 weeks. The DBL Center can help you bind DBL & Enriched coverage under 50 lives easily online here.

New York State Paid Family Leave (NYS PFL)

Written as a mandatory rider  to statutory DBL coverage, PFL in New York provides partial pay to employees taking time off to care for an ill family member, a newborn (or newly adopted or newly fostered) child within the first year, or to manage family matters while a military spouse is deployed. The maximum duration for Paid Family Leave is 12 weeks. Learn more about New York State PFL coverage, first introduced in 2017, here.

NYSSL

Introduced in September 2020 and going into effect on January 1, 2021, Paid Sick Leave provides full pay for up to 56 hours (in some cases) for employees who are:

  • Sick or injured
  • Caring for family members who are sick or injured
  • Under quarantine due to possible exposure to COVID-19
  • Caring for minor family members under quarantine

The New York State Sick Leave law (NYSSL) also covers a host of other circumstances for which employees may need time off, including:

  • Preventative care
  • Mental health
  • Medical or mental health treatments
  • Domestic violence incidents

Other Differences You Need to Know About DBL/PFL and NYSSL

The reason for Paid Family Leave or DBL must be documented on the appropriate claims form. On the other hand, the reasons for taking NYSSL can remain confidential. Employers may not require employees to disclose any confidential information regarding their need for sick time.

In addition, the definition of a family member as it relates to paid sick leave extends beyond the PFL definition to include siblings, grandchildren, grandparents, and the children or parents of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner.

How Employers Can Issue New York State Sick Leave

Business owners in New York have a choice to “frontload” employees’ sick time at the beginning of the calendar year, offering paid sick leave from day one that the benefit goes into effect (January 1, 2021). Or, employers may permit employees to accrue sick time at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 or 56 hours in total – depending on the company size.

Employers with at least 100 employees must provide 56 hours paid sick leave. Employers with fewer than 100 employees or fewer than five employees but a net income of $1 million for the prior tax year must provide 40 hours paid sick leave.

Businesses with fewer than five employees but less than $1 million in net income must allow 40 hours of unpaid sick leave with no disciplinary action permitted for employees who take that time off without pay.

Should Your Customers’ Employees File a DBL or PFL Claim?

The decision for an employee to take paid sick time or to file a DBL or PFL claim largely comes down to the duration of the time off required and, of course, the reason. See below:

  • DBL insurance claims provide partial pay for severe illnesses or injuries that require more than a few days or a week out of work.
  • PFL, on the other hand, covers employees when they need to care for someone else for an extended time period of up to 12 weeks.
  • NYSSL offers full pay up to the amount of accrued sick time. It permits parents to stay home for a short duration with a sick or feverish child without losing a day’s pay. It also makes it financially easier for employees who are feeling under the weather to call out sick and avoid spreading germs.

Help Your Customers Understand the New Laws

Until now, Paid Time Off remained the choice of New York State business owners. Many companies provided generous PTO while others didn’t. Some small business didn’t even have a written policy but trusted their workers not to take unnecessary time off.

By standardizing PTO under the NYSSL, and outlining specific permissible reasons for sick time, New York State has eliminated confusion, miscommunication, or gray areas surrounding PTO.

By understanding the new law, you can help your customers reduce unnecessary DBL or PFL claims and continue to act as a resource for them when it comes to managing employee benefits.


On the Mic with Mike: Selena Kutschera Talks About PFL, DBL and the Benefits of the Broker Dashboard

Working with the top insurance wholesaler in NY gives Selena a chance to make a difference for brokers

Selena Kutschera, DBL Center’s Director of DBL and TDB never actually applied to work at DBL Center. She joined the family when DBL Center acquired competitor Combined DBL, a competitive insurance wholesaler in NY, in 2014.

How she got the job at Combined DBL, straight out of college with no insurance industry experience, is quite a story.

“I found the job listing in the newspaper,” she tells DBL Center owner and president Michael Cohen. “I begged for an interview, but they had already closed out their interviews because they knew who they were going to hire.”

Kutschera didn’t stop pushing for the interview, however, and, ultimately, got the job. Through her hard work and perseverance, she’s become a leader in wholesale TDB and DBL sales.

It was this tenacity that impressed DBL Center founder David Cohen at the time of the acquisition. “That was the kind of personality my father was looking for,” Michael Cohen recalls. “I remember him saying, ‘I don’t know if we’ll get the deal, but Selena will join us.’ We did make the deal and here we are, five years later.”

Read on to learn how Selena Kutschera is helping DBL Center brokers manage the challenges of PFL and prepare for new opportunities in New Jersey.

Then watch the video to find out Selena’s (second) favorite word, what musician she’s not-so-secretly obsessed with, and what she’d be doing if she wasn’t serving the DBL and TDB insurance needs at one of the top insurance wholesalers in NY.

Michael Cohen: What’s the most exciting thing that we’ve done as a team, in your opinion, since the acquisition?
Selena: The program – the Broker Dashboard. Just coming together and building something, changing the game.

Michael: How has that been an upside for you?
Selena: We can track now. We can track the business. We can track what we’ve lost, what we’ve gained, the brokers, who’s writing, who’s not writing. It just makes it easier.

Michael: Can you describe the process we use when we get together and track retention and new business?
Selena: When we look at our book through the Broker Dashboard, we look at what we can keep out of what’s lost. Our cancellations. We know DBL’s a moving target. Your DBL’s come on, they come off, there are non-pays all the time. That’s the first thing we address, the non-pays. Can we get them reinstated? If we can, that puts business back into the books.

Any time coverage is replaced, we want to find out why it was replaced. Was it something we lost? Did the broker lose it? Did they replace it on us, and why did they replace it? We have to analyze what happened—and why—to get that business back.

Michael: What has the feedback been from the brokers since we implemented the dashboard?
Selena: They’re surprised about their non-pays and what’s cancelled and what’s not.

Michael: Everyone thought Paid Family Leave was going to be a home run, but in the beginning, it wasn’t. Why? And what have you been doing to help overcome those challenges?
Selena: It just added another layer of tracking. Who doesn’t want to pay their PFL [rider]? Who didn’t think they needed Paid Family Leave? They pay the DBL; they don’t pay the PFL. That’s really been the issue. Now, we’re getting the complaints that the insured made the payment, but they only paid a portion of it, or they shortchanged it. So now it’s a matter of them understanding how to pay the bills.

Mike: What do you feel is the biggest dilemma in the overall statutory environment? You’re in the trenches and you’re also involved in commissions. What’s an issue for us that’s outside of our control as a wholesale insurance broker in NY?
Selena: I guess what’s outside of our control is just the insureds making payments. That’s out of our control as an insurance wholesaler in NY. Is the $170 [weekly] benefit in New York State for disability low? Absolutely.

What I do find is some employers want to buy up and some employers don’t want to hear it. I agree with the buying up because the reality is the Paid Family Leave is for somebody else—to take care of a baby, child, or family member—and the disability is for yourself. And if you need to go out on disability, why do you need to go out at a $170, when the PFL benefit is $750 and change? It’s $752 [for 2019].

Mike: Are you excited about what’s happening in Jersey? Explain that.
Selena: Absolutely! Jersey just lifted its signature requirement—there’s no more signature requirement to move to a private carrier. So, it makes it easier for us to write this product, as 98% of it sits with the state right now. And the benefit is going up tremendously.

If you’re shopping for a new insurance wholesaler in NY or NJ or need help writing TDB or DBL, let Selena Kutschera and DBL Center help you. Reach out today.


DBL Center’s Michael Cohen: New Broker Dashboard App Helps Agencies Keep Business

View the full Broker Dashboard video here.

DBL Center’s proprietary Broker Dashboard app enables DBL Center’s New York-based brokers to track renewals, cancellations, revenue, and commissions on NYS DBL policies with a click.

With 250 brokers now using the Broker Dashboard, and interest from insurance carriers to partner and expand the capabilities of the cloud-based software, DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen took a few minutes in his Melville, NY office to explore the history, present, and future of Broker Dashboard. He also hinted at even more advanced technology for brokers and insurance carriers on the horizon.

Where did the Broker Dashboard concept come from?

The broker dashboard evolved mainly from my father, David, Cohen, who was the founder of DBL Center. He always shared two mantras with me: “Nickels, dimes and quarters make dollars,” and “It’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep.”

After he passed away nearly two years ago, I decided to look at his tracking mechanisms with his old-school number two pencil and general ledger, take that ideology, and convert it into our own proprietary digital management system. That ultimately evolved into our broker dashboard, which we’re making available to all our sub agents across New York State.

How has the Broker Dashboard helped DBL Center?

It’s helped us in two ways. The first way has been the growth aspect of it. If I go into a broker’s office who is using the Broker Dashboard, their immediate question to me is, “Why don’t I see exhibit A or this specific policy?”

The answer is: “Well, that’s because it’s not an account we service. But if you’d like us to service that account, you can roll it over. We’ll become the servicing general agent. And you’ll then see it under your broker dashboard.”

The second way has been in helping our brokers to keep accounts and monitor their retention, which results in preserving profits for everyone, including the carriers where we are acting as not only a servicing general agent but a bill collector.  Every two weeks we send out a reminder email to track their retention, so they can realize what they’re keeping. This goes back to one of my father’s mantras: “It’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep.”

In what other ways has the Broker Dashboard helped your brokers?

Tracking all their commissions. We are in a nickels and dimes business, and Paid Family Leave has emphasized that point. The Broker Dashboard helps brokers understand the status of all their policies and determines whether a policy is active or cancelled. I’m staying one step ahead of the insurance carriers by letting our brokers know their clients’ status so they can stay on top of non-pays.

Sometimes, if you lose a DBL policy, you might ultimately lose a workers’ comp policy or a major medical policy.  I’m all about helping our brokers retain their book of business through us. We have thousands of brokers and we currently insure 1.7 million lives.

How many sub-producers are currently using the Broker Dashboard?

Two hundred and fifty brokers are currently using the app. It can be three users per agency, and if they want more than that we unlock it and for a nominal fee, they can have up to 50 users. But the average right now has been between three and five users per agency.

What response have you gotten from the insurance carriers about the Broker Dashboard?

Two carriers, specifically, showed interest in wanting to partner with us through doing some technological advancements to the Broker Dashboard. Those talks evolved into a software company my business partner and I started called Net Revenue Tracker (NRT).
If anybody wants to learn more about NRT, we will do a future video and blog post about how NRT works to track retention and revenue through cloud-based software.

 

 

 


The Rule of 72 and Why Your Customers Need Enriched DBL

In our last post, we spoke about using ancillary benefits to help reduce the financial stress that’s placed on employees.

This is especially crucial for employees in the New York tri-state area, which includes regions with the highest cost of living in the country. An accident or illness can leave an employee’s finances depleted. The New York State minimum for DBL coverage hasn’t kept up with inflation and isn’t enough to live on. In fact, the statutory disability benefit in New York has not increased since 1989.

The Rule of 72, for example, states that a specific dollar amount invested at an annual fixed interest rate of 10% would take 7.2 years to double. Yet, in 30 years the DBL benefit has remained the same.

Why not enrich DBL for a very low cost, ramping up the ROI on the investment?

Enriching DBL helps this important benefit keep pace with inflation to cover more of an employer or employee’s living expenses if they are ill or injured.

Consider the Needs of Your Customers

While it’s important to consider hourly workers who may be living paycheck to paycheck, it’s also important for brokers to consider the needs of company owners and top-level employees, including CEOs, CFOs, and HR managers, who make the buying decisions when it comes to employee benefits.

Of course, c-level executives want the best benefits for their employees to improve morale, maximize productivity, and aid recruiting and retention. But if you can also sell decisionmakers on the benefits that also serve their best financial interests, you’ll earn their lifelong trust.

Twenty years ago, Governor Mario Cuomo voted to increase the statutory disability benefit. His son, Andrew Cuomo, decided not to increase DBL. Instead, he introduced Paid Family Leave as a statutory benefit in New York.

But PFL – while it’s undoubtedly an important benefit – doesn’t apply to a vast majority of workers. Many middle-aged and older employees are past child-raising years and have already faced the loss of their parents. People in these demographics, especially middle managers and top executives, need benefits that will appeal to their needs.

Enriched DBL is a “set it and forget it” benefit. Once a business owner enhances their short-term disability benefits in New York, they will renew automatically each year. They aren’t likely to go back to the state minimum benefits.

Why Is Enriched DBL Such a Good Investment for Company Executives?

Many business owners and executives have savings and investments to cover a worst-case scenario such as an accident or illness that could leave them unable to work.

But, in fact, enriching DBL can be the smartest investment company leaders can make.

If it takes 7.2 years to double your income from investments at a rate of 10%, you don’t want to pull that money out to cover your living expenses.

Enriched DBL allows employers and employees – from c-level executives to hourly wage workers – to keep their savings where it is and receive a rate-of-return on their insurance premium that is far beyond any investment.

If a company enriches DBL by 5X, they will only pay $9.75/mo/male in premium and $11.50/mo/female, and if they need to make a claim, receive $850 per week for up to 26 weeks.

When you show your customers the math – and the benefit of leaving their investments growing – they will ask you to enrich DBL for their own financial peace-of-mind.

Build Relationships with the Right Advice

Smart insurance brokers are serving two customers – the employees who use the benefits, and the company owners and HR executives who are making the decisions on what benefits to offer.

When you can open doors to give them a low-cost, high-return benefit that appeals to employers and employees alike, you can gain trust and earn their business for life.

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    PFL Year Two: How to Keep Employees Engaged with Enriched DBL

    Paid Family Leave has changed the modern workplace for many New York businesses. In a blink, New York companies became more family-friendly and flexible, setting standards with one of the most generous PFL policies in the country.

    But what about employees left behind while their co-workers took leave to bond with a newborn or care for an ill, aging, or disabled family member?

    As a New York broker, you have a unique opportunity to help your clients improve retention and company morale by addressing the demographic that is least likely to need family leave benefits but may be left behind to pick up the slack for employees on leave.

    For companies who already had a generous maternity policy in place, it is probably business as usual. But companies who have never provided maternity leave for employees may have faced some challenges through the first year of PFL, which insurance brokers can help them address.

    “New York businesses should explore company operations and their existing employee benefits packages to develop a plan to help keep all employees, not just those who may be eligible for PFL, engaged and happy with what the company offers,” says DBL Center President Michael Cohen.

    Who’s Covering the Job Duties of Employees on PFL?

    When an employee informs announces they will be taking PFL – or when managers first discover that an employee or their spouse is expecting a baby – it’s time to develop a contingency plan for those who will be picking up the slack.

    Planning ahead is crucial so employees don’t feel put upon. In most cases with PFL coverage – as opposed to DBL which is available when an employee is injured or ill – employers have plenty of warning. They may not know the exact date a worker will go on leave. But the expectant parent can begin training their co-workers two-to-three months before the expected due date or adoption day to minimize frustration and ensure the employees understand how their new role will mesh with their existing duties.

    Consider Who’s Using PFL – And Who Isn’t

    Last year, 76.7% of people who used PFL through DBL carrier Shelterpoint took leave to care for a newborn baby or newly adopted child. Another 23.2% used it to care for a disabled, ill, or aging family member, and 0.1% used it to hold down the fort while a military spouse was deployed.

    Now, let’s look at who is less likely to take PFL benefits. In general, baby boomers, millennial or GenX couples not planning to have children, and (for now) most GenZ employees just entering the workforce won’t have any need for PFL.

    While Baby Boomers and child-free couples may not seem like a large percentage of the workplace, let’s consider some recent statistics:

    • People aged 55+ took 1.4 million of the 2.9 million new jobs in 2018
    • 39.2% of Americans ages 55-and-up were working in 2018
    • 65.5% of 55- to 64-year-olds are still in the workforce, and 19.6 percent of 65+ are still working, too
    • Boomers and the Silent Generation (born between 1925 and 1945) made up 27% of the workforce in 2017, according to PEW Research

    Boomers possess massive amounts of knowledge and experience in the workplace. Because of that knowledge and experience, they are well-equipped to help pick up the slack when their co-workers take PFL. “It’s important to make employees feel appreciated for their extra work, and there are many ways to do this,” Cohen says. “Enriching mandatory DBL can give employers the most bang for their buck and provide employees with an important benefit that will give them peace-of-mind if they become ill or injured.”

    Enrich NYS DBL Coverage

    The first step is for brokers to help customers examine their existing employee benefits packages. Current mandatory NY State DBL coverage only gives employees a maximum of $170 per week for 26 weeks. Very few people can live on that in New York, especially in the New York metro area.

    Employers can enrich DBL coverage to pay up to 50% of an employee’s salary up to $850 per week up to 26 weeks. This puts DBL coverage on pace with PFL. In fact, enriched DBL can exceed current PFL pay-outs, which max out at 55% of an employee’s average weekly salary for 8 weeks, with a maximum benefit of $746.41 per week.

    Your customers can also add Hospital Cash indemnity insurance through Shelterpoint to give hospitalized employees who are collecting DBL an additional $165 per day ($240 in NY metro areas) with no cap for the number of continuous days of coverage. Patients staying in Skilled Nursing Facilities receive the same benefit level, limited to a stay of 5 consecutive days.

    “Compared to neighboring New Jersey, New York’s statutory disability benefits package is lacking,” Cohen says. “Enriching DBL benefits has always been a good idea to help attract top talent and increase retention. In light of PFL, it’s more important than ever before. It’s up to brokers to educate employers, creating a win-win situation, increasing commissions for brokers while creating happier customers.”

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