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.


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.


DBL Center Acquires DBL Advantage, Starts the New Year with Major Growth Initiative

Top New York insurance wholesaler announces the acquisition of DBL Advantage Etc. Ltd

Effectively immediately on January 1, 2019, the DBL Center Ltd. has acquired DBL Advantage Etc. Ltd., a New York-based licensed General Agency specializing in NYS DBL, Paid Family Leave,  NJ TDB and group ancillary benefits. The synergy between the two company’s insurance lines, as well as the mutual carriers and industry partnerships developed by both firms over several decades, made the acquisition the next logical step in The DBL Center’s growth.

DBL Center: Celebrating a Rich History and a Strong Future

The DBL Center was founded in 1976 by David J. Cohen. Now under the guidance and leadership of Michael Cohen, the company is one of the largest insurance wholesalers in the New York Tri-state area. In 2014, The DBL Center Ltd. acquired Combined DBL, a Long Island-based General Agency, to expand its ability to serve customers in the NJ TDB, NYS DBL, and group ancillary markets.

In addition to these noteworthy acquisitions, the past decade has brought unprecedented growth, market expansion, and new technologies to the company. The acquisition of DBL Advantage is a testament to, and a direct result of, DBL Center’s rapid expansion and market position.

How the Acquisition Will Affect NJ TDB and NYS DBL Brokers

Expanding The DBL Center’s market share and increasing the general agency’s leverage in the marketplace, the acquisition provides outstanding benefits to new and existing DBL Center brokers. The acquisition promises to strengthen the position of The DBL Center and its brokers in the statutory disability, PFL, NJTDB, and group ancillary markets, resulting in lower rates, higher commissions, and more options.

“The combination of premium between DBL Advantage and the DBL Center enables the DBL Center to provide brokers with higher compensation on new DBL and PFL business placed after the first of the year and moving on through 2019,” says DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen.

“New brokers that came to us as part of the acquisition will enjoy additional office staff to answer all their questions and to provide the full, white-glove back-office support DBL Center is known for,” Cohen says. “With generous commissions, multi-line discounts, and the most advanced technology available to P&C brokers, we have no doubt that our newest customers will view the acquisition as a favorable transition, and we welcome DBL Advantage brokers to the DBL Center family.”

White-Glove Support and the Latest Technology

The DBL Center will provide new customers with a designated account manager for over- and under-50 employee cases, as well as sales representatives to assist in the cross-selling of ancillary product lines.

“Working with DBL Center, brokers will discover multiple ways to round out their book of business and earn additional compensation through the sale of Group Life / AD&D coverage, group long-term disability, dental, and vision benefits,” Cohen says.

In addition, new brokers will gain free access to the DBL Center’s proprietary Broker Dashboard, a cloud-based app that enables brokers to track accounts and renewals, receive monthly reports on cancellations and reinstatements, and receive an earnings report on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.

With the white-glove service brokers have come to expect for more than 40 years, along with the latest technology and innovative solutions to the challenges today’s NJ TDB and NYS DBL brokers face, DBL Center is ready to move to the next phase of growth.

“To say we are excited about the future is an understatement,” Cohen says. “As the NYS DBL and NJ TDB markets change and evolve, The DBL Center keeps pace, providing our brokers with all the support they need to thrive.”

 


NYS Brokers: Are You Prepared for PFL in 2019?

What brokers, HR directors, and company executives need to know about PFL in 2019


The new year is almost upon us, and that means more changes for HR directors, business owners, and insurance brokers in New York, once again, as they get up to speed on PFL in 2019. Look for PFL contributions to increase along with the payout and total weeks of leave permitted with benefits.

What’s New for PFL in 2019

PFL benefits will be phased in until they reach the maximum payout of 67 percent of an employee’s Average Weekly Wage for 12 weeks in 2021.

For 2019, the maximum allowable deduction will be 0.153 of the employee’s average weekly wage. Benefits will equal 55% of an employee’s AWW for 10 weeks, up from eight weeks in 2018. The benefit will max out at $746.61 weekly.

It’s important to note that wages are no longer taken with a weekly max. If someone is making $3000 a week, they will pay $3000 x $.00153 – $4.59 weekly deduction until their salary reaches the $70,569.72 max. Then they stop paying for the year.

You can use our handy PFL calculator to determine PFL premiums for your company – or for your customers – based on the number of employees eligible for PFL and the total annual payroll base.

What Brokers and HR Professionals Need to Know About PFL in 2019

Policyholders will have to reconcile PFL premiums for 2018 as part of the necessary premium calculation steps, similar to how it is done for DBL. Brokers who use the DBL Center’s free broker dashboard can easily help their customers reconcile premiums with figures from the database.

If you need help with this important step, contact the DBL Center for guidance on setting up and using the Broker Dashboard to calculate premiums, track renewals and cancellations, and much more.
In addition to the above changes, the state of New York has provided new DBL and PFL posting notices to hang in a prominent spot where employees can view them.

HR directors and company owners should ask their brokers for a new 120 Posting Notice and a DB120.1 Certificate of Insurance.

DBL Center brokers can contact our office for links to these forms to provide to your clients.

Keep Learning About PFL

2018 was a transition year for DBL brokers in New York, and PFL proved to have a steep learning curve.

The DBL Center has provided the resources our brokers need to stay on top of PFL, including webinars, handouts, and our online PFL resource center.

Be prepared to answer all your customers’ questions about PFL in 2019 by browsing our Paid Family Leave Resource Center, which has been updated for the new year.

You may also like these articles that can help your customers better understand PFL in the workplace:

Learn how PFL and DBL are related, but different: DBL vs PFL

Learn how PFL is different from FMLA: PFL vs. FMLA

Help your customers ensure they are in compliance with DBL: PFL Compliance

Calculate PFL premiums for 2019: PFL Calculator

Remember, the DBL Center is here to help answer all your questions about PFL in the new year.


Do Your Clients Understand their Maternity Leave Benefits?

Customer education goes a long way when it comes to selling employee benefits

As an insurance agent, you understand the intricacies of the employee benefits you sell, including maternity leave benefits available through Paid Family Leave (PFL) in New York. You can show customers how to file a DBL or PFL claim, tell them when their disability leave benefits will kick in, and how much money they are eligible to receive.

When you don’t know the answer, The DBL Center Ltd is just a phone call, email, or text away.

We sell employee benefits packages to the decision-makers, but employees don’t always receive the information they need to make important life decisions. For instance, maternity leave benefits may be a deciding factor in how soon a parent returns to the workplace, or even whether a couple can afford to have a child or not.

As an industry, we have an obligation to ensure that information on PFL and other benefits is being passed on to our customers – the company executives, HR departments, and the employees we serve.

An Insider Look at Maternity Leave Mistakes

An eye-opening article in Glamour magazine shares a “worst-case scenario” of what can happen when an employee doesn’t understand their maternity leave benefits.

Like any employee would do, the writer of the article spoke to her boss regarding her maternity leave benefits. She found out that she was eligible to receive 60 percent of her salary through her company’s short-term disability insurance plan. (The writer lived in Florida, so DBL was not a “given” as it is here in New York.)

She also learned she was entitled to 12 weeks off under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which protects employees’ jobs while they are out on leave after having a baby or to care for a sick, aging, or disabled family member.

However, the writer never thought to ask (and her employer didn’t volunteer the information) if her insurance paid for a 12-week leave. When she realized it didn’t, it was too late. The couple’s savings had run out. She began freelancing when her son was only four weeks old to supplement her husband’s income and make the money her family needed to live.

The story resonated strongly with us here at The DBL Center, as a family-friendly company with many employees who are also parents. It underscored the importance of educating not just brokers, but the employers and employees who use PFL benefits.

3 Ways to Educate Customers About Maternity Leave

As a broker, you can (and should) take steps to educate your customers on maternity leave / PFL and other employee benefits. You’ll become a trusted resource, and the company they turn to when they want advice on other insurance-related topics.

If you aren’t already being proactive about educating your customers about paid family leave, here are some steps you can take.

  1. Work with HR Departments to Host a Lunch-and-Learn

There is nothing like making yourself available to your customers, in person, to answer their questions and explain their employee benefits packages. Set aside an hour of time to host a live seminar with the HR department and any employees who would like to hear about their options for employee benefits.

  1. Host a Webinar

You can also reach out to your customers without ever leaving your office. Host a webinar detailing the new PFL benefits, as well as any other ancillary benefits your customers receive.

Invest in low-cost, cloud-based software like Zoom or GoToMeeting to host webinars for up to 100 people. Or your organization may already have videoconferencing and webinar software already in place. Most of these programs are easy to set up and simple to use.

Hosting a webinar makes it easy to accommodate the schedules of multiple employees and eliminates travel time and expenses. You may even be able to provide recordings of the webinar, afterwards, for employees who could not attend.

  1. Provide Resources for Your Customers to Read or Watch Online

A personalized touch, either through live meetings or webinars, is often best to connect with your customers and upsell enriched DBL or ancillary benefits.

But you can make the information your customers need available to them when they need it by launching a resource center or blog on your website. Providing written information explaining the differences between PFL and FMLA and the extent of PFL benefits will help establish your insurance agency as a trusted resource.

You can even get creative and produce videos that you post on your website as well as on YouTube and Vimeo.

Not only do these articles and videos deliver the information your customers need when it’s convenient for them. It can also give your search engine rankings a boost, making it easier for people in your area to find you when they do a Google search for an insurance agency.

When it comes to marketing, it’s a win-win.

Join the DBL Center in Taking a Leadership Role in Customer Education

PFL is so important on so many levels, and it is crucial for employers and employees to understand the benefits. It is the responsibility of brokers to educate their customers, and the Glamour article details what can happen if insurance brokers don’t take a proactive stance. Employees don’t necessarily know the right questions to ask to make the right decisions for their financial future.

Fortunately, what is good for employee retention and for working families is also good for your bottom line. And customer education in the digital age is easier than ever.

If you can be the resource your customers need, your business will continue to grow through the sale of enriched benefits packages and word-of-mouth referrals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


DBL Broker Spotlight: Hometown Insurance Agency

A focus on customer education and diverse offerings set Hometown Insurance Agency of Long Island apart

 

Hometown Insurance Agency, based in Bohemia, New York, has been serving Long Island, upstate New York, and parts of the New York tri-state area since 1979. Hometown provides a full line of insurance products, with a 50/50 split of personal and commercial customers. Hometown’s business insurance lines include individual and group health, ancillary benefits, and, of course, New York State mandatory DBL insurance.

Within that commercial demographic, Hometown serves a wide range of businesses, from Main Street small businesses to municipalities, fire departments, towns and villages, local libraries, as well as not-for-profit organizations, and larger companies including manufacturers and contractors.

But one thing is consistent in the way Hometown approaches every one of its clients. “One of the areas we pride ourselves on is educating our customers,” says Hometown President and CEO Rebecca Weber, noting that DBL coverage and especially Paid Family Leave still require a lot of attention when it comes to customer education.

“I still am convinced that not everybody is talking about it like they should be,” says Weber. “And that education we provide is what sets us apart. Most agents go in and are focused on the meatier parts of the policy, so it is very easy to overlook DBL coverage.”

She adds, “At Hometown, we’ve made it part of our routine. Our agents need to go in and talk about enriched DBL—and the new PFL rider is a great place to start.”

As a female executive in a male-dominated industry, Weber sees the appeal in the personal stories behind the groundbreaking and culturally significant benefit. “We have two family members who work in our company, in two different departments. When the mother returned after eight weeks taking care of her newborn, her husband was able to take time off. We see, as a company, how important this benefit is to our employees. To be able to share that story with our business owners really brings it home to them.”

Hometown Insurance Agency has worked with DBL Center for two generations; Rebecca’s father, Dan Weber, began doing business with DBL Center President Michael Cohen’s father, David, decades ago. “Our relationship has grown along with our management and ownership,” says the younger Weber, who took over leadership of Hometown in 2007.

Even as both companies have grown, they remain focused on personalized service. “In working with DBL Center, there is a sense of dealing with people that you trust, and people that you know. You’re not treated like a number,” says Weber. “Invariably, the service is absolutely wonderful and exceeds our expectations.”

Weber notes that DBL Center caters to small to mid-size agencies, providing not just exceptional service but bleeding-edge technology to help the agency operate more efficiently.

Hometown Insurance Agency is one of a handful of DBL Center brokers who have already previewed the proprietary Net Revenue Tracker (NRT) software.

“We are very excited to begin using the software,” says Weber. “We believe it is going to help streamline our process and be more efficient. Our reports will be more reliable.”

By automating renewal notifications and tracking functions, the software will free up employees who are currently focused on manual data entry so they can complete more complex, high-touch tasks.

“It’s a win-win for our agency,” Weber says. “And we are very fortunate to have access to the software and to have The DBL Center in our corner.”

Would you like to be featured in our next DBL Broker Spotlight? Reach out today.


DBL Broker Spotlight: Coastal Insurance of Rocky Point, NY

DBL Center helps Coastal Insurance navigate the rocky waters of New York Paid Family Leave

The story begins 14 years ago, as many Long Island stories do, in a diner. Through a referral from another local business owner, David Clausen of Coastal Insurance, an independent insurance agency in NY, met with Michael Cohen of DBL Center. Founded in 2001, Coastal was just three years old at the time, and Clausen was looking for a better way to wrCoastal Insurance logoite DBL coverage for his New York business customers.

Fourteen years later, Clausen still visits that same diner on Long Island’s North Shore, and still writes his DBL and enriched DBL policies through The DBL Center. “Whenever we need something, Michael is there,” says Clausen. “It’s a product that works at a great price. The process is efficient for our staff and the service is great. What more could you ask for?”

Paid Family Leave Opens Doors for Coastal Insurance

New York State’s Paid Family Leave Act, introduced in 2017, gave The DBL Center an opportunity to over-deliver and exceed Clausen’s high expectations for exemplary service. When one major carrier exited the DBL market to avoid writing PFL riders, Clausen filled that void, strengthening his business relationship with the carrier and opening doors for Coastal Insurance.

“When PFL became mandatory, some carriers had a lot of other business lines they didn’t want to lose, but they no longer wanted to write DBL,” explains Clausen. “They felt that if they canceled DBL they’d lose the other lines of business.”

Clausen took on one carrier’s DBL lines, writing the policies through The DBL Center to provide a friendlier and more robust alternative to the New York State Insurance Fund. He promised the carrier he would not market other lines of business to the carrier’s existing customers.

Through this mutually profitable relationship, the other carrier began sending referrals to Clausen’s office for high-risk homeowners insurance and other business and personal lines. Coastal Insurance also gained the opportunity to write the DBL policies for the insurance carrier’s 30+ offices across the New York Tri-State area. “It was great to reconnect with the agents, and it opened doors to additional streams of revenue for my agency,” says Clausen. “It was a win-win all the way around.”

The DBL Center Makes Business Insurance Easy for Coastal Insurance

Coastal Insurance serves individuals and businesses across the New York Tri-state area, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, and even as far south as Florida. With a focus on high net worth individuals on Long Island’s North Shore, 70 percent of Coastal’s business is made up of personal insurance, including home/auto umbrella policies. The other 30 percent of Coastal’s customers are small businesses, from $1 billion retailers to pizzerias, doctor and dentist offices and other small businesses. Clausen describes the bulk of this clientele as “the Main Street USA business owner.” And this is where Clausen’s relationship with DBL Center plays an important role.

With its online “quick quote” interface to bind DBL policies under 50 lives in minutes, The DBL Center excels in serving small businesses under 50 lives. “It couldn’t be easier to go online and quote and bind a policy,” says Clausen. “Some other insurance products are a bit more labor intensive.”

He adds, “DBL Center makes it easy to get the product at the right price, quickly and efficiently. I’ve been with The DBL Center for nearly 15 years. Michael and his team make great partners for the independent agent on Long Island and we value that partnership.”


PFL Claim Forms and More - DBL Center Launches Paid Family Leave Resource Center

 

New Paid Family Leave Resource Center presents PFL claim forms and more

 

We are well into 2018 and, as a New York insurance broker, you’ve got the basics of Paid Family Leave down.

It’s the new comprehensive, mandatory insurance that provides the financial support needed for new parents, military spouses, and those caring for aging or ill loved ones. It’s added as rider to your customer’s existing DBL policies in New York. That part should have already been done.

But now the fun for brokers begins, because your customers still have questions.

  • How do I make a PFL claim?
  • Where can I find PFL claim forms?
  • Should I file for DBL or PFL?
  • Where does the Family Medical Leave Act fit in?

This is new territory for CEOs, HR directors, and insurance brokers, too.

But the DBL Center, with our commitment to white glove service, has the answers and PFL claim forms our brokers and their customers need.

We recently launched a new Paid Family Leave resource center. It’s a single-scroll page within our InsuranceWholesaler.net website that provides a host of information about Paid Family Leave in New York, including PFL claim forms, handy PDFs, and more.

The PFL Claim Forms and Documents You Need

We’ve heard from our brokers that many of their customers are looking for PFL claim forms. It’s important to note that The DBL Center does not process insurance claims. We are an insurance wholesaler dedicated to providing the best service to our brokers.

Because our job is to serve our brokers, we’ve stocked our Paid Family Leave Resource Center with handy links and PDFs, including the IRS form that describe the tax ramifications of PFL, and a document showing the current PFL rates.

We’ve also provided links to PFL claim forms. There are multiple PFL Claim forms. Which one you use depends on whether the paid leave is for bonding with an infant or adopted child, caring for a sick or aging relative, or caring for a family while a military spouse is deployed. We’ve provided links to all of them.

Finally, we’ve uploaded PFL claim forms branded for each of the three major carriers and have them housed in Dropbox for easy download. Get Shelterpoint, AmTrust, and Standard Security PFL claim forms here.

How Much Will PFL Cost Your Employees?

The DBL Center is proud to be the first insurance wholesaler to provide an interactive PFL calculator right on our website. HR directors, accountants, and CEOs can know the costs of PFL coverage before they call their broker.

Using our PFL calculator, employers will know how much their premiums will be so there are no surprises. After using our calculator, they will have gathered all the necessary information they need to provide so you can write the policy quickly and easily.

Partnering with Carriers to Give Our Brokers the Information They Need

Change can be scary. We started talking about changes in our industry back in February 2017. Now it’s here.

In addition to publishing our PFL Resource Center, we are also partnering with top carriers like Standard Security, Shelterpoint, AmTrust, Hartford, and Guardian to present webinars explaining the specifics of PFL coverage and to better help their brokers answer specific customer questions.

Our marketing team is hard at work sharing our knowledge on LinkedIn and on our blog, and we are even publishing consumer-facing articles on top insurance carriers’ websites to provide actionable insights on transitioning to a world with Paid Family Leave while keeping workflow consistent and maintaining employee morale.

In short, we are deploying all our resources to make it easier for our brokers to continue providing stellar service to their customers, answers to their questions, and the resources and PFL claim forms they need to make a smooth transition.


Your Guide to Family Leave Benefits and Employment Taxes

Family leave benefits in New York bring new IRS tax implications

Credit: artystarty

Disability Benefits Law (DBL) brokers in New York State are getting a handle on the new paid family leave benefits, with the new PFL law set to start January 1, 2018.

The DBL Center has provided a host of paid family leave resources and information in a new section on our website. We will also continue to offer webinars and live sessions explaining the intricacies of this new benefit.

While we know tax laws may change across the board in 2018 for businesses and individuals, it’s important to understand the tax ramifications of PFL for employers and employees now.

In short: how should accounting departments, Human Resources, payroll, and benefits departments in small businesses and larger corporations treat family leave employee contributions and benefits?

Family Leave: Taxable Just Like Disability Income
Family leave benefits, just like short-term disability benefits, are taxable as non-wage income and reported by taxpayers using FORM 1099-MISC.

The exception? Employee contributions, deducted after taxes, are not included as part of this taxable income. The insurance provider or employer should send a 1099-G form that employees can use when filing taxes, so they know which portion of their family leave benefits are taxable.

Employees Should Understand Withholding Tax Laws to Budget for An Event

The tax ramifications of paid family leave benefits will take some money out of the pockets of claimants. Smart planning can help employees minimize their tax liability on April 15, when federal and state income taxes are due. Alternately, employees can opt to keep more money in their pockets when they need it most—at the time of the family leave.

Employees can request to have withholding taxes deducted from their family leave benefits before receiving their benefits. This will reduce the size of benefits checks, but may also help reduce tax liability at the end of the year. Depending on the length of the maternity leave, the employees’ personal savings and financial situation, along with their expected tax bill, some employees may choose to have taxes withheld.

More commonly, employees will collect the full amount of their family leave benefits and then pay taxes on that income when they file federal and state income taxes. By that time, it’s expected that employees would be back to work and collecting their full salary, putting them in a better position to pay those taxes.

In the case of family leave taken for childbirth or adoption, the employee may also be able to take advantage of the child tax credit and claim their new family member as a dependent, further reducing their tax liability.

How Family Leave Taxes Affect Brokers

As a broker, it’s good to know the tax implications if Paid Family Leave in order to help educate the c-suite executives and HR professionals who make up your client base. You can be a resource for your customers and the first person they think of when they need an expert in PFL and disability benefits law.

When you inform employers and employees of the potential tax ramifications, this can help them make the best decisions or decide to pursue further information from tax experts. When customers have questions, it’s important to suggest they check with a tax professional to determine the best course of action.

Are Your Customers Ready for Paid Family Leave?
The PFL benefits rider to New York State DBL goes into effect in less than two months, on January 1, 2018. Many of your customers should already be deducting employee and employer contributions.

Now is the time to discuss options, including enriching their DBL benefits package so it is comparable to paid family leave in New York.

Contact The DBL Center now to enrich DBL for your customers and increase your commissions on these important mandatory benefits.


In the Winds of Change, DBL Center Brokers Prevail

History (nearly) repeats itself with the introduction of Paid Family Leave

Credit: NOAA/NASA GOES Project

October 29, 2012: It was a sad day for many New Yorkers as properties were swept away in Superstorm Sandy, businesses went under, and more than 8.1 million homes across the U.S. were left without electricity for a week or more.

Superstorm Sandy caused losses totaling $19 billion dollars, resulting in delayed payouts and financial hardship to the insurance agencies that paid out more than they’d earned in premiums.  Many P&C brokers struggled to survive.

Meanwhile, Zurich Insurance Company, a leading global business insurance carrier, had just left the New York State DBL market a week prior due to a number of factors. Turmoil and uncertainty plagued the industry, as New York tri-state area business owners struggled to pick up the pieces and adopt a “new normal” after Sandy.

Here we are almost exactly five years later,  and the entire U.S. is banding together to assist those suffering from the aftereffects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida.

In New York, as we write this, the wind whips outside the windows of our Long Island headquarters, and the nearby Costco parking lot is packed as Long Islanders brace for a tropical storm —which could be the first of many this ominous hurricane season.

In the disability insurance sector, changes are once again brewing that have nothing to do with Mother Nature’s wrath.  Paid Family Leave, a necessary insurance coverage that will provide employees with a living wage as they take time off to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child, care for an elderly parent, or hold down the fort while their spouse serves in the military, may burden some disability insurance carriers past their breaking point.

We don’t want to be alarmist. We only want to report the news with our analysis as we see it.

The Problems with PFL that No One Else Is Talking About
There are only a few select carriers that have committed to write PFL, which is offered as a mandatory rider to DBL coverage in New York State beginning January 1, 2018. Fortunately, those carriers are doing an excellent job of educating small business owners and HR directors about the implications of the coverage, as well as giving brokers what they need to know about the policies. DBL Center brokers have the added advantage of our industry experience and knowledge, along with access to educational webinars and live informational sessions. We’ve worked hard to make the transition to mandatory PFL coverage easy for brokers and small business owners alike.

But some challenges remain. Because PFL coverage is mandatory and written with DBL coverage, brokers will be left with fewer choices for DBL. Some carriers have already left the market, just as Zurich did five years ago. We expect many more to exit in the beginning of 2019, after the numbers come in for the first year of PFL coverage.

PFL, as it stands, is not profitable for insurance carriers. Payouts could easily total more than premiums, leaving carriers in the same position P&C brokers faced immediately following Superstorm Sandy. Some carriers will write PFL riders—because the only other choice is to leave the game altogether. But they may not offer commissions on the riders. Some carriers are recommending that brokers write enriched DBL on their existing policies to earn the commissions they expected from PFL.

Enriched DBL: The Answer to Bigger Commissions
There are a number of reasons to enrich DBL coverage right now. Not only is enriched DBL one of the more profitable products for brokers to write, it also provides customers with the best coverage for their money.

As an example, small business owners can enrich DBL coverage in $50 increments for just 44 cents every $50, up to $850 total. For an investment of just $5 a year, employees can get $50 more per week for up to 26 weeks. It doesn’t make sense not to enrich DBL. Paid Family Leave was carefully designed to provide employees with a living wage while they are out on leave. Mandatory DBL coverage only pays a maximum of $170 per week. Who can live on that in New York?

Most states that offer Paid Family Leave offer comparable benefits for disability claims. This helps reduce fraudulent claims and helps maintain employee morale by leveling the playing field and offering all employees comparable benefits if they need them.

DBL Center Brokers: Weathering the Storm
With Harvey and Irma on our minds, New Yorkers last week prepared for a storm that never came. Just like Mother Nature, the insurance industry is fickle. And, in both cases, it’s important to be prepared.

Carriers can exit at any time, for any reason, just as Zurich did in 2012. Who will be next? Brokers who align with DBL Center preferred carriers who are writing PFL riders are protecting themselves against changes in the marketplace.

Educate your customers about PFL riders before someone else does. Be their authoritative source and guide them to the right decisions, including enriching DBL so it is in line with PFL benefits.

Fortunately for brokers working with The DBL Center as their insurance wholesaler, we make it easy to write enriched DBL policies and earn greater commissions. Stay tuned, because next week we talk with our Director of DBL and TDB Benefits, Selena Kutschera, to show you just how simple it is to increase commissions with enriched DBL in three easy steps.

Meanwhile, stay safe and dry. The best protection against any storm is the right preparation. Our thoughts are with those across the country affected by this season’s hurricanes and storms.