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 Trust Matters, May 2017 

Health Insurance: Take Another Look at the NC League’s Coverage Options

Continuity of Business Planning

From the Claims Corner

Coverage and risk assessments keep towns safe

Underwriting – How a Fire Can Totally Change Your Processes

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Health Insurance: Take Another Look at the NC League’s Coverage Options

If your city or town hasn’t received a health insurance quote from the League in the last two years, now is the time to talk with our Health Benefits Trust to see how we can help you.

After feedback from our members showed the need for more flexibility of coverage for small, mid and larger cities and towns, we got to work on developing new options that address the unique needs of municipalities across the state. The League now offers 20 standard benefit designs and pharmacy benefits that allow any size employer to provide multi-level coverage options for your employees– you will not find this unique feature anywhere else. If you are self-funded, we can serve as your plan administrator through our ASO services.

Another unique feature of the League’s health insurance is the ability of our governing Board of Trustees to review requests on a case-by-case basis to approve additional coverage opportunities. For example, in the past, the Board has approved insurance coverage of therapy animals, specialized medical equipment, and other treatments that private insurers won’t always cover. When the Board approves an individual request, it becomes available to all other pool members. As a member-owned and governed pool, the League values helping our employers and their employees achieve the best coverage available.

Likewise, our exclusive wellness programming prioritizes improved employee health, which ultimately saves money for employers and employees alike. Our weight-loss program, Naturally Slim, has been wildly popular and effective, and we have just expanded services to include a highly-personalized smoking cessation program. We incentivize routine wellness exams and screenings, which has resulted in not only healthier employees, but also the early detection of illnesses and life-saving treatments for many members. In short, we care about you and your employees, and we recognize that when our individual members thrive, the entire League membership thrives.

Even though the 2017-2018 renewal season is winding down, it’s never too early to learn more about how the Health Benefits Trust can provide your group coverage for 2018-2019 and beyond.

Continuity of Business Planning

A successful recovery from any disaster begins with comprehensive planning that occurs long before the event begins. An organization should identify the critical services it provides that would be a priority to address during a business interruption. It is not necessary to identify every possible disaster that could occur, but rather evaluate how the organization would respond should there be a loss to facilities, staff, or equipment.

Examples of business continuity that a municipality should consider include destruction of the evidence room at the police department, loss of a fire station, inoperable lift stations, reduction in workforce due to events like the H1N1, or loss of key software systems due to malicious hacks.

Each department should identify those key areas of operation that would need to continue during a business interruption. Knowing that it is not realistic to address all areas of service during a crisis, management should review those areas identified by the departments and determine an overall strategy for the municipality.

A key component of a successful continuity of business is to identify backup resources that are necessary to provide critical services. This would include identifying backup facilities where operations can be temporarily housed, agreements with banks and software firms to continue critical services like payroll and bill collections, and mutual aid agreements with other municipalities and service providers to assist during the crisis.

Any business continuity plan should list the objectives that the plan is designed to meet. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) identified several of these objectives:

  • Ensuring that an organization can perform its essential functions under all conditions.
  • Reducing the loss of life and minimizing property damage and loss.
  • Executing a successful order of succession with accompanying authorities in the event a disruption renders that organization’s leadership unable, unavailable, or incapable of assuming and performing their authorities and responsibilities of office.
  • Reducing or mitigating disruptions to operations.
  • Ensuring there are facilities from where organizations can perform essential functions.
  • Protecting personnel, facilities, equipment, records, and other assets critical to the performance of essential functions in the event of a disruption.
  • Achieving the organization’s timely and orderly recovery and reconstitution from an emergency.
  • Ensuring and validating continuity readiness through a dynamic and integrated continuity Test, Training, and Exercise (TT&E) program and operational capability.

The League provides risk management consulting services to assist pool members with reviewing the steps necessary for a successful business continuity plan. To learn more about how the League can help you get prepared, contact Bryan Leaird, Risk Management Field Services Director, at bleaird@nclm.org.

Additional information can be found on FEMA’s website: http://tinyurl.com/FEMA-BCP

From the Claims Corner

I have been involved in claims administration for the majority of my adult life. We spend many hours preparing to be ready when disaster strikes, so that if a catastrophic event affects your municipality, we are ready to serve you.

Through the years, when our members have been affected by a catastrophic event – whether a serious workers’ comp injury, police shooting that affects staff, a tornado or hurricane, flood or even a fire – the League’s staff have been on the scene rendering assistance to member cities and towns.

But when the fire heavily damaged the League’s three buildings on the evening of March 16th, we suddenly had to shift our plans so that we could continue to provide you service.

Our claims system and e-mail servers were "in the cloud" and offsite, so our staff were able to access claims data remotely; most of the claims staff worked from home or some other location that was accessible. Unfortunately, our phone system, installed in our building by the phone company in 1997, was still tied to an on-site server and was destroyed as was much of the interior of the Reynolds Building.

The phone company worked with us as best they could, and we were able to get the main phone line up in a few days, but individual phone lines and fax numbers took longer. We were just fully restored on May 24th.

Thankfully, over the last decade, our members and staff have relied on email as the primary communication method, and we never lost that – even for a moment – so we were able to maintain communication and normal operations with you.

The experience brings to the surface the ever constant need for emergency preparedness, and it renewed the thankfulness we have for our firefighters, who risk their lives in time of need.

J. Steven Lee, Director of Claims

Coverage and Risk Assessments Keep Towns Safe

(This condensed version of an article on League risk assessment efforts appears in full in the May/June issue of Southern City.)

Most of us move through our homes and don’t really notice the knick-knacks and everyday belongings that we own. We’ve bought these things or received them as gifts, and we have favorite items to be sure, but do we actually see them as we come and go, shuffling ourselves through the daily routine? If you had to make a list of every single item or even the majority of things inside your house, could you do it?

What’s more, how many of us update our insurance policies regularly to reflect items of value added or those we’ve downsized? Thankfully, most folks haven’t experienced a significant loss of property from a fire or flood or home invasion, for example. But if you did incur such a loss, would all of your items be covered – for example, did that new engagement ring get added to your policy? Likewise, if you’ve downsized your belongings are you still paying for those extra contents?

The same can be said for coverage of property owned by your city or town. As your inventory of buildings, vehicles, parks facilities, and other property ebbs and flows, it’s important to make sure your municipality is covered in the event of a loss. If you are a member of the League’s Property and Liability Trust, our staff will work with you during the initial enrollment to survey what levels of coverage are appropriate. Then each year upon renewal, members are surveyed again.

Our Risk Management Services staff visits members for onsite consulting and offer telephone consults, as appropriate. Consultations can range from advice on workplace safety to help determining what type of insurance coverages are needed to protect your city or town.

One such assessment recently took place in Nags Head in the eastern part of the state. The Town of Nags Head is building a new park, Dowdy Park, and as a pool member, the town reached out to League employee Paul Miller, the Risk Management Field Consultant for the Eastern Region. As construction of Dowdy Park progressed, town officials worried that the public would begin to use the new site and facilities before it was entirely complete. Roberta Thuman, the Town of Nags Head’s Public Information Officer, had previously worked with Miller on a local skate park, which the Town acquired a few years back from the YMCA, so she knew how helpful his assistance would be. "As a small town, without a full time risk management position, we often rely on the League of Municipalities for their advice regarding the potential risks at our properties," said Thuman.

Whether its identifying hazards at current or aging municipal properties, or visiting new facilities that need to be added to an existing policy, the League’s staff will guide you through the process of making sure your city or town is covered and uninsured – or underinsured – losses are prevented.

Underwriting – How a Fire Can Totally Change Your Processes

On March 16, 2017, an apartment building that was under construction caught on fire, resulting in a five-alarm fire – one of Raleigh’s largest ever – just feet away from the NC League’s offices in downtown Raleigh. It was clear after watching the news reports overnight and in the morning, staff at the League knew we would not be going into the office the next day. Little did we know, however, that we would not be returning to our campus – and its three buildings on site – for quite some time.

The League’s largest office space, the Reynolds Building, housed the Human Resources, Finance, IT, and Risk Management Services divisions. The Underwriting Unit was located on the third floor of Reynolds, which was adjacent to the fire’s origins on the apartment’s second floor. Many of Reynolds’ offices and storage rooms were totally destroyed, either by the fire’s heat and soot, water or both. All paper documents and other work items were immediately rendered unavailable.

Fortunately, most of the League’s data is contained in the cloud on off-site servers. This allowed employees to work at home and get up and running fairly quickly. Our top priority, once we realized the extent of the damage, was to determine how best to provide the same level of service to our members while working remotely. While many programs and applications were immediately available online, hardware such as scanners, fax, and even dual monitors which streamline work flows were not available. The bottom line was that we had to change how we delivered information and communicated to you, our members.

The Workers’ Compensation renewal applications had just been mailed out a few days before the fire. However, we had asked that the renewal applications be mailed back to us; we were able to quickly contact members and ask for emailed responses instead. Property and Liability renewals had not yet gone out, and instead of putting them in the mail, we were able to email out the renewal applications and have responses emailed back.

Overall, the remote renewal process has worked well, even with some steps taking a little bit longer because of limited equipment, SPAM filters, large email attachments, general post office and mail delivery confusion, and the sudden learning curve facing our employees and members.

Recently, we moved into the League’s new temporary location in the Wells Fargo Building in downtown Raleigh. The move has provided some welcome normalcy to our daily routines, and we hope it will help us bring more normalcy to you as our members. We are focused on getting your premium data to you as soon as we can and apologize for any unintentional lapse in service.

Although it has been a challenging time for the League, it has also been an opportunity for growth as we learn what we are all capable of in the face of adversity. In addition, the techniques we have learned may help us further modernize and streamline the renewal process in the future. The underwriting staff – and the entire League – is thankful to each of our members for their patience during this time and most importantly, for your many kind words of support and encouragement.