Rep Roundtable: Friendly Competition

Camaraderie and friendship drives success for DBL Center’s brokers and carriers

With countless DBL brokers in the New York tri-state area and several carriers for statutory benefits, there is tremendous competition for accounts. But that doesn’t stop top insurance reps on both the broker and carrier sides from becoming friends. Part 2 of DBL Center’s first-ever Rep Roundtable focuses on the spirit of friendly competition that drives the industry and sustains friendships.

We share some excerpts below, but you’ll have to watch the whole video to get all the goodies from ShelterPoint’s Director of Business Development Simon Klarides, Senior Sales Representative at Principal Financial Group Louis Ortiz, and DBL Center’s Michael Cohen.

4th Quarter Camaraderie

After talking about how the three insurance professionals met, the Rep Roundtable conversation shifted to the camaraderie and mutual respect that permeates the industry.

“We want to win all day long. But there’s enough meat on the bone where we can all eat,” Ortiz says. “It’s just a matter of being respectful and courteous to each other.”

Klarides adds, “At the end of the day, you don’t do anything to hurt each other. You do everything to support each other. You compete, but you don’t go over the line.”

This spirit of friendly competition is particularly evident at the DBL Center’s annual holiday party, now going on year three at The Founder’s Room VIP section of the famed Paramount in Huntington. Not only is it a great place for the DBL Center family to catch up with the people they haven’t seen in like an hour, Cohen says, but it’s the place for people who compete throughout the rest of the year to eat, drink, and be merry.

“Even though my brokers and carriers are all competing, they’re all friendly and work well with one another,” Cohen says.  

Changes in the Insurance Industry

The relationship-building that is so strong in the tri-state area insurance market hasn’t changed in the 45+ years since DBL Center was founded.  But virtually everything else about the industry has evolved dramatically.

“Like my father told me before he passed away, more has changed in 15 years than in my first 30 in the business,” Cohen says.

Listing just some of the changes, including Zurich exiting the market, the introduction of Paid Family Leave, and, most recently, AmTrust Wesco exiting the DBL market, Cohen points out that DBL Center is well-positioned to face the future of insurance in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, where Paid Family Medical Leave was recently introduced.

Note: Make sure to read last week’s post to learn more about AmTrust Wesco leaving the DBL market and watch Part 1 of our Rep Roundtable.

Nickels and Dimes Make Dollars

This fall, as DBL Center is prepared to shift statutory DBL policies with PFL riders from AmTrust Wesco to ShelterPoint, Cohen and Klarides agree that DBL Center’s state-of-the-art technology has made all the difference. It will be a smooth transition for brokers to write their DBL policies with ShelterPoint, and they will also gain the benefit of the DBL Center’s free Broker Dashboard.

While DBL Center introduced the Broker Dashboard technology less than a year ago, it was decades in the making. The Broker Dashboard exists as the culmination of Founder David Cohen’s emphasis on doing the math, tracking the numbers, and showing brokers exactly what they can expect from each deal. Cohen often espoused, “Nickels, dimes, and quarters make dollars.”

The Broker Dashboard brings David’s philosophy to life on the screen for brokers. But years before there was a Broker Dashboard, there was David Cohen with his calculator, pad, pen, and general ledger.

“Dave always had a calculator and a pad and a pen at every meeting,” Klarides recalls. “You knew you were having a good discussion with Dave when he started working the keys.”

“We talk about data,” Klarides continues. “That’s what you’re doing, Mike, with your Broker Dashboard. You’re telling brokers what they have, and where they want to get. There are a lot of brokers who do not line-item the DBL cases. Now you’re aggregating that data for them. And when they realize what they have, they realize it’s a pretty nice block.”

Share the Laughs and Lessons Here

Find out more about the camaraderie, technology, and people that make DBL Center a top insurance wholesaler in the New York Tri-state area for more than 45 years in Part 2 of our Rep Roundtable here.


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ShelterPoint Steps in For AmTrust Wesco in Statutory DBL and PFL Market

Founded in 1972, ShelterPoint Life, formerly First Rehabilitation Life, has provided businesses in New York with statutory DBL and enriched DBL coverage for decades. ShelterPoint’s Director of Business Development Simon Klarides notes that the book is predominantly small group business of under 100 lives. The insurance carrier also provides ancillary benefits including dental, vision, and life insurance, to these organizations.

Over the past 11 years, ShelterPoint has gone through a name change and extensive growth, standing at the leading edge of DBL and PFL coverage in New York. ShelterPoint remains a top-rated insurance carrier because of the company’s ability to stay one step ahead of change, and to be there to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Introducing… The Rep Roundtable

In a new video feature from DBL Center, The Rep Roundtable, our own Michael Cohen and ShelterPoint’s Simon Klarides talk about how they partnered when Zurich exited the statutory market seven years ago, which represented one such opportunity for ShelterPoint and DBL Center.

“I was at my desk in Great Neck, Long Island, at the time, and I got the call from [DBL Center’s] Eugene [Puleo],” Klarides recalls. “And Eugene said, “’You’re never going to believe this.’”

In an early morning meeting, Michael Cohen, his father and DBL Center Founder David Cohen, Puleo, and Klarides, along with ShelterPoint CEO Richard White, plotted a course of action that would enable ShelterPoint to take the lion’s share of Zurich’s business for statutory, which included both under and over 50 Lives.

DBL Center was tasked with transferring 6000 policies, worth over $8.8 million in premium. However, with the deal coming as it did at the time of Hurricane Sandy, property & casualty brokers in New York had larger concerns. DBL Center President Michael Cohen turned this obstacle into an opportunity.

Most of the brokers permitted DBL Center to not just write the policy, but to enrich their DBL coverage at the time of the transfer to offset the minimum premiums, which makes even more sense now that PFL has become a law.

Hear the whole story from Simon and Michael starting at timestamp 3:44 in the video. You’ll also see Louis Ortiz, senior sales representative for Principal Financial Group, weigh in on changes to the industry, which we’ll cover in a future blog post.

AmTrust Wesco Exits Statutory Market in New York

Now, almost seven years to the day that Zurich exited the statutory DBL market, Wesco, a member of the AmTrust Financial Services Group, announced its exit from statutory DBL and PFL in New York.

AmTrust Wesco, however, agreed to allow ShelterPoint Life Insurance Company (Shelter Point Life) the opportunity to offer their brokers coverage to fulfill the need for New York statutory short-term disability (DBL) and Paid Family Leave (PFL).

As a result, the DBL Center replaced the DBL / PFL policies for all its brokers’ impacted clients with Shelter Point Life, effective January 1, 2020. DBL Center took this step to protect business owners from non-compliance with the State of New York’s statutory disability and PFL benefit requirements.

The transition will be much smoother than it was for brokers shopping their former Zurich policies seven years ago. DBL Center, like ShelterPoint insurance, has been growing incrementally over the past decade and is positioned to assist with all statutory DBL and PFL, enriched DBL and ancillary benefits policies.

As an added benefit, brokers will gain free access to DBL Center’s proprietary Broker Dashboard, which enables brokers to view all active cases and receive monthly reminders for cases that are pending non-pay status.

The Rep Roundtable video, where Cohen and Klarides recap Zurich’s exit, was produced weeks before AmTrust Wesco announced its exit from the statutory DBL market. Sometimes, history repeats itself in unusual ways.

Let’s just hope there are no hurricanes on the horizon for the tri-state area this time. DBL Center brokers, at least, with the support of A+ rated carrier ShelterPoint, can count on clear skies ahead.



On the Mic with Mike: DBL Center’s Annette Sperandio Reflects on What’s Important in Life and Business

DBL Center’s Ancillary Benefits Account Manager Annette Sperandio joined the company three years ago, at the start of a tremendous growth phase. In part one of this two-part interview, Annette and DBL Center President Michael Cohen discussed the company’s past and present.

This week, in Part 2, they talk about the future of the company and how, although DBL Center continues to change and grow rapidly, the company’s ethics and vision remain consistent, strong, and in line with founder David Cohen’s beliefs and philosophies.   

Keep reading to discover Annette’s passion, her favorite word, and her pet peeve. Then, watch the video to find out what Annette would be doing if she wasn’t working at DBL Center, and the one place she considers “home.”

Michael Cohen: From your point of view, what’s next for DBL Center?
Annette Sperandio:
Well, there’s always something on the horizon. There’s always the technology piece to it. We have our Broker Dashboard, which you are working on. And TDB expansion, which is huge.

Aside from that, it’s always been about honoring your dad, keeping what we have. It’s making sure the brokers know we’re thankful for their business and always showing them the proper respect. That’s something that’s very big. That’s the way I was raised. You take care of the people who take care of you.

Mike: How is that reflected in your work?
Annette: If we have a case for 15 years, we do the diligence. We make sure the market study is done and the claim issues are handled in a timely manner. Retention is huge.

As we show our broker community what we’re capable of and what we’re able to develop, the sky’s the limit. That’s really what it comes down to. I always tell you what a natural salesperson you are because it’s the truth. You’re able to sell. You’re able to talk. People don’t really have the gift of gab anymore.

Michael: And there’s that aspect of coming full circle. You said you want to pay homage, and my dad had that talent, too. Unfortunately, you lost your father, as well, before I did. There’s an undertone that resonates between the two of us, an understanding.

We’re also both fans of the arts. You’re familiar with Inside the Actor’s Studio. You may know these questions, but I trimmed them down.

Mike: What is your favorite word? Please say cook?
Annette: I’m going to quote one of my favorite –
Mike: It’s a word, not a phrase
Annette: It’s a word. It’s not an English word…
Mike: Italian or Latin?
Annette: Italian. Attraversiamo
Mike: What does that mean? That could mean anything.
Annette: To cross over. And if anyone’s watching this and they [don’] understand what it is, it’s a reference to [the book] Eat Pray Love.

Mike: What is your least favorite word?
Annette: Bulbous. I hate that word.

Mike: What motivates you?
Annette: My family. My family is everything. And anybody that knows me knows that I am fiercely in love with my family.

Mike: How many children do you have?
Annette: I have two beautiful boys, 7 and 3. [I would do] anything to make their lives better and to do better than the last generation.

Mike: What turns you off?
Annette: I just want you to be straight. I want you to always tell the truth. I want you to always be upfront, because that’s how I carry myself. And that goes for all aspects of my life. I’m an open book. If I give you that respect, I expect that in return.

And I feel like sometimes people get afraid to tell the truth. Truth isn’t always easy to talk about. And it doesn’t hurt to tell someone and be upfront.

I’d rather a broker tell me, “Look I’m shopping [the policy], too.”

If you do that, then I’m aware, and the hunger is there. And maybe we can get a better quote because let’s say our book is slightly bigger. We’re going to leverage it accordingly, so you get exactly what you need.

Also, it’s an art form. People that bring honesty and open communication are willing to come to the table and say, “Listen, I’ll work as hard as  I can to get you exactly what you need.” I know full well I may not be able to do it. But at least you know, I went through every single check and balance and hoop to try. We’re always going to do our best to get our clients exactly what they need, to get it done.



Massachusetts PFML Provides Opportunities for Brokers

Learn more about Massachusetts PFML from your Paid Family Leave experts

At the beginning of the summer, DBL Center reported on Massachusetts and Connecticut introducing Paid Family Leave benefits programs for employees, similar to—but more robust than—New York State PFL.

New York State brokers already familiar with writing PFL as a DBL rider may find expansion opportunities in Massachusetts, as the New England state announced the details of its plan this month.

Unlike NY PFL, Massachusetts Paid Family Medical Leave (MA PFML) is written independently. Businesses can opt to write their insurance through the state or apply for a private plan exemption to secure coverage through top-rated private carriers.

Employers wishing to write coverage through a private plan must provide employees with private plan details along with posting information about the state-run plan. Employers can download state employer posters and written employee notices from the MA PFML website.

Although the plan doesn’t begin until January 1, 2021, the state of Massachusetts requires that all employers post notices as of September 30, 2019.

Accurate Census Simplifies Billing

Unlike NYS PFL, employers must provide a census to the state or to their private carrier by September 1, 2020, in order to secure the correct amount of coverage. The use of a census will help streamline billing and enable brokers to provide a higher level of service to Massachusetts businesses purchasing PFML, while also improving profitability.

Employers should have fewer questions about premium costs, since they are paying for the coverage needed based on the actual number of employees, not estimates.

Best of all, business owners have the option to defer paying into the pool for one year, while remaining eligible for PFML coverage. Massachusetts businesses can enjoy PFML benefits without making any payments until January 2021.

How to Apply for Private Plan Exception

As a New York tri-state area or New England-based insurance broker, you are probably already seeing the opportunities available to shift customers from the state plan to a private plan in Massachusetts. PFML represents an entirely new line of coverage and an opportunity to expand your business.  

DBL Center has conveyed the profit potential in New Jersey, which recently waived the signature requirement to shift from a state-funded plan. Massachusetts makes it even easier for business owners to opt for private coverage.

Massachusetts’ state government provides a tutorial on how to request a private plan exemption. Brokers should share this tutorial with prospective customers and walk them through the steps, if necessary.

Employers will need to provide the estimated size of their workforce, including W-2 employees and 1099 contractors, the type of paid leave plan (Family and Medical, in most cases), and the plan provider’s company name.

From there, employers will also need to answer questions regarding specific aspects of the plan. Brokers can assist with this step while selling the benefits of the private plan to prospective customers. If the employer provided the correct information and the private plan meets the state requirements, the application should be approved.

DBL Center Service Makes the Difference

As with PFL and NJ TDB, DBL Center brokers have the advantage when it comes to selling this statutory benefit. Our team has been writing PFL in NY since its inception. We understand the challenges, pitfalls, and profit potential of this powerful statutory product. As your insurance wholesaler, we are uniquely qualified to steer you through the process, permitting you to provide stellar white-glove service to your customers.

We already have a footprint in Massachusetts, providing benefits packages for Fortune 500 companies. We will be following MA PFML developments closely to assist our brokers as this important benefit becomes reality in yet another state.


New York and New Jersey Announce New Premium Rates and Coverage

Father and son on beach

As we return to our offices following Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of summer, the New York and New Jersey state insurance departments have made some important announcements for business owners and insurance brokers in the two states.

Read on to find out the new premium rates and coverage levels for Statutory Disability and Paid Family Leave plans across the U.S., New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits (TDB), and New Jersey Family Leave Insurance (FLI).

New York Announces New PFL Employee Contribution

As announced in early 2017, New Yorkers can receive up to 60% of their average weekly wage for up to 10 weeks to care for and bond with a newborn (less than one year old) or newly adopted or newly fostered child, to care for an ill or aging family member, or to take care of the household while a military spouse is deployed. The increased benefit (up from 55% in 2019) comes with an increased premium of 0.270% of an employee’s wages each pay period, not exceeding an annual maximum employee contribution of $196.72.
These rates make NYS PFL benefits some of the most generous in the country. Take a look at this chart to compare benefits and premiums across the U.S.

Policy forms and rate submissions are due October 1, 2019. If you need assistance with PFL coverage for any of your customers, the DBL Center is here to help. As your white-glove, white-label back office staff, we want to make it as simple as possible for your customers to phase in PFL coverage as a rider to their DBL policy and provide you with opportunities to enrich DBL coverage to offer benefits that make good financial sense for all your customers.

New Jersey Announces New Employee Rate for 2020

The New Jersey state insurance fund has also introduced a rate hike increase for 2020, from 17 cents to 26 cents for every $100 in taxable wages. Earlier this year, New Jersey introduced expanded Family Leave Insurance (FLI) benefits as part of its TDB package.

Under the new FLI regulations, the benefits period has expanded from six weeks to 12 weeks, beginning July 1, 2020. In addition, the definition of “family” has increased to include any blood relative of the employee or any individual shown to have a close association that is the equivalent of a family relationship with the employee.

In addition to the rate hike increase, the limit on wages on which taxes are levied for TDB and FLI has increased from 28 times the statewide average weekly wage ($33,700) to 107 times the statewide AWW (approximately $131,100), beginning January 1.

Concurrent with the rate hike, the maximum TDB or FLI benefit has also increased, from $638 to $860 per week. Partial TDB benefits will also be available.

Good News for New Jersey Insurance Brokers

The New York premium and benefits increase is predictable and in line with prior increases since the introduction of PFL. A broker’s best move continues to be selling enriched DBL to provide a benefit that makes sense to top company executives and decision makers within an organization.

The New Jersey hike represents an opportunity for New Jersey insurance brokers to beat the state rate, while providing benefits equal to or better than the state insurance fund, with a higher level of customer service. When New Jersey waived the signature requirement earlier this year, it became easier than ever to get businesses to switch to privatized TDB.

This is the moment New Jersey insurance brokers have waited for; when you break it down, you realize it’s here because of New York’s generous PFL policy.

With family leave enhancements sweeping across the Northeast, employers will want to find ways to stay competitive and recruit working families, millennials, and the future generations of employees. Robust yet low-cost benefits packages, especially in the face of an impending recession, remain one of the best ways to recruit and retain top talent.

Give us a call to take advantage of the white-glove service and support DBL Center offers our tri-state area brokers and expand your book of business as we head into autumn.


On the Mic with Mike: Lori Rose Talks about Privatized TDB in New Jersey

New legislation broadens opportunities for brokers and DBL Center is ready

The State of New Jersey legislature recently voted to waive the signature requirements for companies to switch from a state plan to privatized TDB (Temporary Disability Benefits). Previously, brokers needed signatures from 50% + 1 of all employees within a company to switch.

DBL Center reported on the proposed legislation in October 2018, and the bill passed in February 2019. It goes into effect this month.

DBL Center is making sure our brokers are ready for the change, with our Assistant VP of Ancillary Benefits, Lori Rose leading the charge. For two years now, Lori has helped DBL Center expand its brand and presence over the bridges into New Jersey and provide the level of customized service our New York brokers have come to expect. Using TDB as a doorway to sell more ancillary benefits, including dental, life, and vision, Lori has helped brokers increase their book of business.

Now, as it becomes even easier to write privatized TDB, the opportunities for New Jersey brokers expand.
Lori is ready for the challenge – which involves broker education and lots of hustle. The word “can’t” is not in Lori’s vocabulary. She views the new legislation as an opportunity to help her customers – and all New Jersey brokers – earn more with privatized TDB.

Her desire to help others, her willingness to hustle, and her “team player” attitude is why DBL Center President Michael Cohen calls Lori “a hybrid between a ‘fantabulous’ account manager and a superior sales manager.”

Lori sat down with Mike to talk about privatized TDB and also share some fun facts about herself. Watch the video here.

You can learn even more about Lori in Part 1 of Mike’s interview here.

Mike: What are your goals going into January 1, 2020, due to the changes in New Jersey, where privatized TDB will no longer require employee signatures?
Lori: That’s a great question. That signature requirement has always held companies back, because it was difficult to make a change from a state plan to a private plan. With that going away starting in August 2019, all employers will get the experience from the state — it’s called the AC-174.1. Once they have that information, I’m going to be working with my brokers to help their customers privatize TDB.

A lot of it is training and education to teach brokers about selling New Jersey TDB. My goal is showing them how easy it is for them to work with their clients to see if it makes sense to go to a private plan, not only to save the employer some money, but to get better claims service.

Mike: Tell us about how easy it is for employers to switch to privatized TDB.
Lori: Once upon a time, we had an easy TDB program at [insurance carrier] CNA. We were able to guarantee savings to an employer based on the experience on the AC174.1. That has moved forward in the industry from CNA; Zurich took that program, and now other carriers have jumped onboard. That makes it easy for employers to see their savings with privatized TDB. Now, with no signature requirement, it will help brokers write even more business in 2020 for New Jersey TDB.

Mike: What is your favorite word?
Lori: Fantabulous. And it’s a made-up word.

Mike: What is your least favorite word?
Lori: The word can’t.

Mike: I had a feeling you were going to say that. I really did.
Lori: Because everything is do-able. I consider myself a professional problem solver, and I can get anything done. And when I get it done, it’s fantabulous.

Mike: What motivates you?
Lori: I like helping people. I like providing solutions. I find when I can bring value to the table, that motivates me to do a better job every day. Working as a team.

Mike: What turns you off?
Lori: Negativity. I have to be around that positive energy and surround myself with it, and bring that to others, as well.

Mike: What profession other than yours have you always wanted to do?
Lori: Once upon a time, I was a psychology major. I had always thought I’d go into child psychology. I find that even in this business, it’s all about relationships. It’s about talking to each other. It’s about understanding a person, knowing their needs, and really listening. Being a good listener.


On the Mic with Mike: Lori Rose Talks About Ancillary Benefits

DBL Center’s newest family member, Lori Rose, shares the one thing brokers could be doing better.

Most of The DBL Center family works out of the Melville, New York, office. But the newest addition, Associate VP of Ancillary Benefits Lori Rose, works in New Jersey close to her clientele. Helping to expand the DBL Center brand and presence with her knowledge and expertise, Lori focuses on ancillary benefits, primarily with TDB customers in New Jersey.

Lori took the trip to Long Island to chat with DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen about her history in the insurance industry and her favorite part about selling ancillary benefits.

Watch the full video here.

Michael Cohen: Tell people how you got here, to DBL Center, and where you came from in the industry.

Lori Rose: I have a long history in the insurance industry on the employee benefits side, starting once upon a time at CNA, doing statutory. New Jersey TDB was the focus. Then I moved into employee benefits, and then moved over to Zurich. From there I moved onto Principal, doing employee benefits – dental, vision, life, disability – and then focusing on the dental / vision with Ameritus.

Mike: What is your favorite product to sell?

Lori: I love selling Dental / Vision, because employees can really appreciate the value of these benefits. I sell a lot of it on a voluntary basis. When I go to an open enrollment meeting with employees, and sit down with them, they can see the value of having a dental plan for themselves and their families, as well as Vision coverage. It’s something they can use every year.

I also like selling voluntary life, and [other] voluntary products. Families don’t realize the financial protection they need and how affordable it is. Very little comes out of their paycheck for them to have a full suite of employee benefits.

Mike: What is the most important thing you see that brokers aren’t doing, that they should be? What advice would you have for them?

Lori: I think brokers could do a better job with cross-selling. They may only write a basic life product and take care of the basic needs. They can appeal to their clients, their accounts, to extend the employee benefits. And that’s where we come in at The DBL Center, helping cross-sell, helping their clients see the value of having a full employee benefits package.

Mike: This is your first time selling on the wholesale level. Is it different?

Lori: It’s different. When I was on the carrier side, I represented one carrier and only their products. Now as a wholesale broker, I can bring solutions to my brokers, to their clients, with preferred carriers, with multiple lines of coverage, and really take care of all their employee benefit needs.

Mike: And how do you feel the broker dashboard has helped your brokers in that process?

Lori: The dashboard has helped my brokers because now they can go onto our website, onto our portal, and look up their accounts. They can track what’s going on, not only with their commissions, but with nearly every aspect of their accounts.

Let’s say they need a highlight sheet or a policy or some information– it’s at their fingertips. They don’t have to wait to go to their particular carrier and get that information. It’s easily accessible to them 24/7. They have access to their accounts and can see what’s going on. That’s what’s great about it. I’ve never had this kind of tool before.


Family Leave Insurance Programs Extend Across Northeast

Massachusetts and Connecticut follow New York in adopting paid family leave benefits

Tri-state area insurance brokers, take note. Big changes are afoot again when it comes to employee benefits, paid leave, and family leave insurance.

New York’s Paid Family Leave has been in full swing since January 2018 and is set to reach the maximum benefit of 67% of the employee’s salary for 12 weeks by January 2021. With New York as a model, Massachusetts and Connecticut have become the next states to roll out comprehensive medical and family leave insurance programs.

Family Leave Insurance Programs: More Inclusive and Expansive than NYS PFL

The programs in Massachusetts and Connecticut are even more inclusive than New York’s policy, allowing time off for more expansive reasons than New York permits.

Both Massachusetts and Connecticut expand on New York’s PFL policies, which allow employees to take time off following the birth, adoption, or foster care of a child within the first year; to care for injured, ill, or disabled family members; or to care for children and take care of household duties while a military spouse is deployed.

Connecticut’s plan also fills the role of DBL in New York, allowing for paid time off when an employee has a serious health condition. In addition, the new law allows paid time off for an employee:

  • serving as an organ or bone marrow donor,
  • who is the victim of family violence
  • who is caring for “any blood relation or “the equivalent of a family member.”

The Massachusetts law, slated to go into effect on October 1, 2019, is an employer-funded program that permits leave of up to 12 weeks to care for a loved one (and 26 weeks if that loved one suffered a health condition as a result of active duty military service) and up to 20 weeks for an employee’s own illness or injury.

Understanding Massachusetts’ Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA)

Massachusetts rushed the legislation through on June 28, 2018, and it went into effect on January 1, 2019. The start date to begin collecting taxes for the benefits was originally stated as July 1, 2019, but Massachusetts has delayed the start time to collect funds to October 1, 2019. Benefits will go into effect January 2021, with some caregiving benefits becoming available that July.

Massachusetts PFMLA covers paid medical leave for employees as well as for caregivers, similar to NYS DBL with the PFL rider. PFMLA pays 80% of an employee’s average weekly wages up to one-half of the state’s average weekly wage (AWW), which is currently $1,338.05.

Here’s where it gets confusing. For employees earning an average of more than half the AWW, they receive an additional ½ of their average weekly wages that are in excess of the cap, up to a total of $850 per week, or 64% of the state’s AWW.

Essentially, the maximum allowable benefit for PFMLA in Massachusetts is $850 weekly, more than New York’s maximum weekly benefit for 2019, which is $746.41.

More About Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program

Connecticut is the most recent state to launch a paid family leave insurance program and, like Massachusetts, it combines leave to care for family members with paid leave for employees who are injured or ill.

The law goes into effect as of June 25, 2019, but contributions won’t start until January 1, 2021, with benefits becoming available January 1, 2022.

Employees may collect up to 95% of the employee’s base weekly earnings, up to 40 times the state minimum fair wage. Employees who earn more than 40 times the state minimum fair wage receive an additional 60% of their base weekly earnings above that minimum, not exceeding the weekly maximum benefit, which is 60 times the minimum fair wage.

When minimum wage reaches $15/hour in 2023, the maximum allowable PFML benefit in Connecticut will be $900 per week.

Employers may opt out of the state plan if the private plan they intend to adopt meets or exceeds the state plan, with contributions not higher than the state’s rate. Additionally, 50% + 1 of the employees must approve the plan.

What All This Means to Tri-State Area Employers and Insurance Brokers

There’s little doubt that Connecticut adopted the plan to compete with neighboring New York in terms of employee benefits. As a suburb of New York City, Connecticut draws from the same talent pool as downstate New York. Providing a robust medical leave and family leave package to rival DBL with the PFL rider can help Connecticut industries grow with high-value employees.

For tri-state area insurance brokers, Connecticut FMLA, and even Massachusetts PFMLA, could represent new opportunities to expand your book of business. New York-based businesses with offices in Massachusetts and Connecticut will need to revisit employee benefits packages in these states. Bundling FMLA and PFMLA with ancillary benefits such as vision, dental, and group life can help these companies save money while recruiting and retaining top talent.

Connecticut offers options for self-insured and fully insured plans. The Massachusetts plan, which won’t go into effect for a few years, has yet to announce these finer details.

In both cases, tri-state area insurance brokers are wondering: Will the new paid family and medical leave benefits be commissionable?

The DBL Center was here to walk you through New York’s PFL roll-out. We will continue to be your source for details on employee benefits, and paid family medical leave across the tri-state area.

Reach out with any questions you may have about the new family leave insurance: FMLA in Connecticut or PFMLA in Massachusetts. We will keep you up-to-date as new details are announced.


DBL Center History: Words of Wisdom from Founder David Cohen

DBL Center's Founder, David Cohen

As many of us get set to celebrate Father’s Day with cookouts, laughter, and gifts for Dad, the DBL Center family decided it would be appropriate to look back at The DBL Center’s history and, especially, reminisce about founder David Cohen.

At a recent broker appreciation event at Oheka Castle, a few guests suggested we share David’s endless font of wisdom in a blog post. They didn’t know we already had the idea in the works, but their suggestions moved the topic to the top of our list.

We went from “Hey, we should…” to “Let’s do this. Now.” You can watch the video here:

It seemed right to share this post in the week leading up to Father’s Day, as David was not just a role model for his son, DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen, but also to the many brokers he worked with over four decades.

These financial tips and valuable wisdom will make you think, make you laugh, and give you a new perspective on growing your book of business in the insurance industry.

“Dave was like the Don Rickles of the insurance business. He tried to make it fun and I’m trying to continue that legacy,” Michael Cohen said, before sharing the anecdotes and adages that he’s used to pick up where David left off in growing the DBL Center into a top insurance wholesaler in the tri-state area.

How did David Cohen get started in insurance?

A lot of people don’t know this, but my father wanted to be a dentist, which I think was probably what most Jewish parents at the time. Back in the ‘60s [they all] wanted their kids to be a dentist or a doctor.

He went the dentist route, and one day he got into a car accident on his way to Stony Brook dental school. The guy he hit was a life insurance salesman who said: “Hey, listen, it was clearly your fault. But I overheard you speaking to the cop and it sounds like you have half a brain because you’re going to Stony Brook’s dental program. I happen to be looking for an underwriter that has a salesman’s mouth, so why don’t you come work for me? I sell life insurance.”

It was that simple. And that life-changing.

After that he sold life insurance for a year until he met someone who introduced him to estate planning; a company called Alexander & Alexander that ended up becoming AON. They asked my father if he had thought about selling DBL, and that’s when he started to segue out of life insurance to get into statutory disability.

What was David Cohen’s best advice?

When he first knew that I would be starting [at DBL Center], his initial advice to me was: “If you think of it like a restaurant, you’re going to grab the mop and you’re going to start from the bottom before you get into the kitchen. There are different levels and you have to work your way up.”

I didn’t want people to think I was coming in like the prince of the kingdom. That was the first obstacle I had to get over: Proving myself to the organization. That was 15 years ago this July.

David Cohen was the king of words of wisdom. What were some of your favorite bits of business wisdom that he shared?

He always used to tell me, “Grow out like Los Angeles, not up like New York.” If you’re too top heavy and you’re in a very short and narrow city where everything is upwards and falls, you can lose a tremendous amount of revenue. Instead, you should focus on your nickels, dimes, and quarters and build your base and foundation that way.

He also shared many tips on finance. What were some of the best?

The rule of 72, which is something we have written about in the past, is about how your money doubles every ten years. We’re trying to tell people that the statutory benefit hasn’t gone up in 30 years. But inflation has, so why don’t you enrich your DBL to mitigate and bridge that gap between DBL and paid family leave? That’s what we’ve been trying to do.

It’s about more than just recruiting new customers, though. What did David Cohen mean when he said, “It’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep?”

It’s all about retention, which is exactly what we are tracking in our broker dashboard. Our brokers receive email notifications twice a month letting them know which policies are potentially going to be canceled for non-pay. It’s one thing to know where you’re growing, but do you really know what you’re keeping or retaining?

That brings us back to a phrase you use a lot: “Nickels, dimes, and quarters make dollars.” Can you explain that one?

It’s the small, steady accounts that build your foundations. That’s why David always said, “Grow out like L.A.” Take care of all your nickels, dimes and quarters, because they all make dollars; they all add up.

Too many people today don’t want that $15,000 dollar commission. They want the $100,000 commission. But my father taught me that all those $15,000 accounts add up to $100,000, and you should always treat a smaller account as if it’s worth a million dollars.

What did David mean when he said, “Stick to sewing?”

Work at what you’re good at. Do what you do best and don’t get outside of the box.

This is exactly why we do statutory disability in New York, New Jersey, Hawaii. My father opened up shop in Hawaii in 1986, and his biggest dilemma there was a cultural difference. He had to convince a Japanese guy to deal with a Jewish kid from Brooklyn in the ‘80s. It was a bit of an obstacle, but he overcame that.

We also do ancillary benefits. group life, long-term disability, dental and vision, that’s it. No major medical, no workers’ comp.

We stick to what we know best at DBL Center and we’ve been doing that since 1976.


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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