Selling NY State Disability Insurance: Getting Creative in the Time of Covid-19

The insurance business, especially for those involved in selling statutory benefits like NY State disability insurance (NYS DBL coverage), has always been based on relationships.

The relationships between brokers and their customers, carriers and general agencies, and the wholesale insurance agency and its brokers, all make it easier to create the best benefits packages with the lowest premiums.

Just before New York started Phase 1 of its reopening initiative, Michael Cohen, DBL Center President and CEO, sat down – remotely – with Charles Callery, Regional VP for Lincoln Financial, and Michael Pelligrino, Lincoln Financial sales representative. The three pros talked about maintaining relationships and selling NY state disability insurance in the time of Covid-19.

You can watch part 1 of the video here.

Cohen took the call to record the Remote Rep Roundtable from his Melville office before his employees had come back to work, while Callery admitted he’d been fielding video conferences from his son’s bedroom.

Pelligrino quipped, “I’m sitting here just hoping my one-year old baby doesn’t wake up crying,” reflecting one of the familiar challenges faced by parents suddenly forced into working from home, often without viable daycare for little ones.

Although they were in different locations, the NY state disability insurance experts displayed the camaraderie they’d shared over the years. They shared how they first met, and then got to talking about how they’re modifying their businesses to remain relevant – and successful – amidst the challenges of a global pandemic that requires social distancing and remote work.

Callery advised brokers and reps: “Lean into your style. Don’t do anything out of your comfort level. Don’t force it.”

Lincoln Financial began developing podcasts and increasing their social media presence, but Callery also encouraged reps to find what works for them. “The folks who were accustomed to using LinkedIn continued to do that and they enhanced their presence. We had other reps establish weekly WebEx-type meetings,” Callery said.

Pelligrino, on the ground regularly as a sales rep, said he’s seen remote work increasing over the past five to seven years, and the pandemic has accelerated the trend. “I’d been seeing a lot more offices where maybe only 50% of the people are there, because a lot more people were starting to work from home. You have to be more creative, as a rep, to get that captive audience, and WebEx is one way to do it.”

“Experiencing [the pandemic] was almost like the five stages of grieving,” said Cohen, adding that he feels the industry has entered the “acceptance” phase. “We are all entrepreneurs and driven salespeople, type A personality. Let’s get creative and figure this out, because we’re all hungry to get back to work.”

Callery said he remains optimistic about business picking up in the late third to fourth quarter. “I think we will get back to close to where we were,” he said. “I do believe some creative aspects of doing business differently will come out of this experience, for sure.”

Watch the video to learn more about the shared history between Lincoln Financial and DBL Center and to hear the rest of their tips for connecting during Covid-19.

 


DBL Center Helps Its Carriers with COVID-19 Pre-screening Software

Within the first few days of the coronavirus pandemic and the New York On Pause order, DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen felt the same as many of those in the insurance business did.

“When I first got news of this being a reality in New York, which is now a hot spot, I felt like I was back up against a wall,” he recalls. “I was nervous.”

He sprung to action immediately, though. He took what he learned from his decades in the statutory insurance industry and his knowledge of what technology can accomplish to create a solution to slow the onslaught of PFL claims. “I felt I had to do something to mitigate the claims,” Cohen says.

Within days of schools and businesses closing across New York State, and shortly after, through Massachusetts and New Jersey, Cohen and The DBL Center launched the COVID-19 Pre-Screening Software for PFL Claims.

PFL or FFCRA? COVID-19 Pre-Screening App Pre-Qualifies Claims

A tool for insurance carriers to manage PFL claims that may not qualify, the COVID-19 pre-screening software requires employers to answer a series of questions to determine if their PFL claim is valid before requesting a claim form from the carrier. Many statutory PFL claims actually qualify for federal help under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which was enacted April 2, 2020.

The DBL Center also created a document to help show when an employee may qualify for PFL and when an employee would qualify for FFCRA aid, instead.

“Even though the changes related to PFL and FMLA [in Massachusetts] have been clearly stated, you’re still going to have some confusion at the employer level in terms of what is a valid COVID claim and what is not a valid COVID claim,” says Charles Callery, Regional VP for Lincoln Financial, one of DBL Center’s many preferred carriers. “I thought the software was perfect for that scenario.”

He added that he also sees it having long-term applications once the pandemic ends. “In general, it can help cut down on some of the administrative costs that we incur, and that others occur, taking in paper claims. I bet the industry still sees the majority of our claims in paper form, versus electronic, and this is a good first step to enter the electronic environment. It’s something the industry could use, because it pre-qualifies a lot of claims upfront.”

Following in the Footsteps of the Broker Dashboard Net Revenue Tracker

The Broker Dashboard Net Revenue Tracker was the first technological innovation from The DBL Center, an electronic version of the paper and pen ledger that Founder David Cohen brought to every meeting.

Designed specifically for DBL Center brokers, the Broker Dashboard helps agencies track cancellations and pending cancellations, new policies, and commissions, at a glance. A cloud-based app that gives brokers actionable insights to improve retention rates, the Broker Dashboard brings David Cohen’s paper ledger into the digital age and delivers it to the hands of every broker.

Michael Pellegrino, Lincoln Financial sales representative, reminisced about the way DBL Center tracked revenue when he first entered the industry. “I remember I’d come into your father’s office,” he tells Michael Cohen in the latest Rep Roundtable video. “He’d put down his pen and paper. He was keeping everything in order, but how time-consuming it must have been. “The fact that you took that pen and paper ledger and made that electronic is awesome!”

Watch the Video to Learn More

In addition to discussing the technology that sets The DBL Center apart, Cohen, Callery, and Pellegrino reminisce about summer get-togethers and talk about how the economy and the industry have changed in the past 20 years. Michael Cohen also reveals his secret to surviving the pandemic … all in the latest Rep Roundtable, brought to you by The DBL Center.


Brokers’ Coronavirus Questions about Short Term Disability, Answered

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, business owners in New York and New Jersey may be wondering if short-term disability insurance will cover their absence from work if they are diagnosed with the virus and must stay home from work.

They might also wonder if they can make a disability claim if they have not been diagnosed with the virus but were placed under a precautionary quarantine.

Finally, with schools closing across the country, they might wonder if they can make a Paid Family Leave (PFL) claim to stay home and care for school-age children if they don’t have other childcare arrangements.

These are dilemmas many Americans are facing today. DBL Center is working hard to provide our brokers with the answers they need to give their clients’ guidance about what does, and what does not, constitute a short-term disability claim when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.

The policies of our carriers do vary, but you can always reach out to one of our team if you or your clients have urgent questions. You can reach us 24/7 through the new chat feature on our website and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Coronavirus and Short Term Disability Policies: What You Need To Know

In short, a coronavirus diagnosis or a quarantine related to the pandemic does not constitute automatic approval of a short-term disability claim in New York or New Jersey. Some policies from certain carriers, however, may carry quarantine provisions.

Short-term and long-term disability policies typically do not include treatment for a cold or the flu under short-term disability coverage. If an employee is sick and unable to work due to COVID-19, these claims will be determined on a case by case basis, depending on the severity and length of the illness. In some situations, cases requiring hospitalization may qualify for short-term disability in New York and New Jersey.

Claims submitted with a diagnosis of Coronavirus will be evaluated based on all applicable contract provisions. The insured will need to provide proof that they are under the care of a Health Care Provider that can certify the disability and unable to perform their job duties either in the work place or at home via remote access.

PFL and the Coronavirus

Similarly, covered employees cannot make PFL claims to care for children over a year old who are home from school because the school closed as a precautionary measure. Since the virus doesn’t seem to be affecting children severely, it would be unusual for a parent or guardian to require a PFL claim to care for a child who is ill from the virus, unless the child is immune compromised. Again, that would be decided on a individual basis depending on the length and severity of the illness, as with any cold or the flu.

Working from Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic

DBL Center understands that, at this time, many of our brokers may be working from home to limit the spread of the virus. Here at DBL Center, we will remain open and are doing everything to maintain the clean and sanitary conditions or our workplace and protect our employees.

Fortunately, DBL Center is also set up to work remotely. We have employees in New York and New Jersey offices who frequently connect virtually, and our cloud-based systems transition well to a work-at-home environment.

Our brokers can even Bind DBL Over 50 lives right from any internet-enabled computer, whether at home or in the office. Our exclusive broker Dashboard gives our brokers access to all their policies and preferred carriers from any internet-enabled device, as well.

Throughout the pandemic and after, the DBL Center will continue to be your back-office staff, answer any questions related to disability coverage and the coronavirus pandemic, and help you bind DBL policies from home.

 


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.