In his conversations with senior living operators, Jim Ketterson is hearing one concern rise to the top: the increased societal propensity to sue.
Help me reduce the chances that I get sued, is a common request from operators, Ketterson says. Claims against senior living operators rose in 2020, and might continue to rise in 2021, both Covid-related and otherwise. Operators face new exposures and an increased focus from plaintiffs attorneys, he says.
Senior living operators are desirous of advice from their insurers on what they can do to both reduce the likelihood that they get sued, as well as to improve their defensibility in the event that they do get sued, says Ketterson, Senior Director of Senior Living at Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. (a stock insurer).1
Increasing litigiousness is just one of several pressure points operators are facing during these uncertain times, and combating it is one of three major benefits to having a long-term insurance carrier relationship. Here is a look at those three benefits.
Expertise in the senior living industry
Insurance is designed to give its recipient peace of mind, and thats difficult to achieve with a stranger or a novice. A senior living operator juggling multiple insurers across multiple coverage areas, potentially resetting carriers every few years, creates a situation where it is hard to build a deep and stable rapport with your insurer. A deeper relationship with your insurer helps reduce exposure to loss and increase defensibility.
It also enables the building of deep relationships with claims personnel and coming together on strategies and expectations. Having an insurer with a long track record in senior living, and specialized claims and risk control resources to assist in this regard, is key.
Insurers who operate in the senior living space on a specialized basis, such as Church Mutual, have specialized risk control employees who are well versed in providing advice in that area, Ketterson says.
As a specialized insurer, Church Mutual offers not just proactive and interactive counsel but also resources such as webinars and white papers on everything from negotiated risk agreements and arbitration agreements to end-of-life care.
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The latter ties in directly to an operators ability to minimize risk of lawsuits, Ketterson says.
Church Mutual recently conducted a webinar around end-of-life care, emphasizing its importance and providing counsel to operators on how to manage expectations and communications with family members during the end-of-life process.
That way, family members are not surprised by what happens during end-of-life care with their loved ones. They have a better sense of how the final stage of their loved ones life will play out and what to expect. They are not left feeling like something went wrong and that they should sue, when in fact what they experienced with their loved one was just a normal part of end-of-life. Properly preparing them for what to expect not only reduces the likelihood of suits, but is also the compassionate thing to do, he says. The longer a customer is with us, the deeper were able to get into a multitude of complex issues.
Consistency of the partnership
That consistent partnership reduces operator stress and strain by reducing the amount of work the operator must do to manage insurance challenges. Unfortunately for operators, some carriers lured by the large available premium dollars jump into the senior housing niche without fully committing to first building out the specialized knowledge and resources needed to properly serve and advise customers.
Many operators in the senior living space have been burned by Johnny-come-lately insurers who came in, put forth a competitive insurance program, lost a ton of money, and a year or two later jettisoned the operator back into the marketplace and left the industry, Ketterson says. Church Mutual has been a consistent presence in this marketplace for north of 35 years, and has truly been committed to understanding the space and being a reliable partner for those who are in search of long-term relationships.
Beyond the strategic advantages of a long-term relationship, there are logistical ones too. Simply put, changing insurers is a lot of work. An operator must complete all of the various applications and insurance coverage lines, answer all of the underwriters questions about coverage lines, negotiate coverage, make sure the coverages quoted are consistent with the needs of the organization and understand how claims are handled and reported with the new insurer.
To have an insurer with a long track record for consistency within the niche really is an important part of evaluating insurers, Ketterson says.
Changing one insurer is a lot of work. Now imagine if your policies for different lines of insurance are spread across multiple carriers one for workers compensation, one for professional liability, and so on. Operators who consolidate coverage dont need to reach out to five points of contact annually to renew five different policies.
By bringing as many coverages as possible together with a single insurer, not only do you gain efficiencies from a transactional standpoint, you also gain reduction in your overall volatility of your loss performance with your insurer, Ketterson says. He notes if an operator with one coverage area per carrier has a bad year in, say, workers compensation, then that is a bad year with that carrier.
Whereas if you have all of your coverages with the same insurer, you may have a bad year with the workers compensation, but a good or average year on all the rest of the coverages, he says. When you bring all of the coverages together with a single insurer, youre reducing the volatility of the relationship with your insurance company.
Consolidated coverage also means an operator is managing only one billing relationship versus many.
Church Mutual is one of the few insurance companies that offers very attractive billing plans that really do enhance the cash flow for operators, whereas many of our competitors require all or a significant percentage of the annual premium up front, he says. As operators are very focused on cash flow, this is another significant advantage of doing business with Church Mutual.
This article is sponsored by Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. To learn more about how Church Mutual can boost your insurance experience as your single, long-term partner, visit churchmutual.com/seniorliving.
1Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. is a stock insurer whose policyholders are members of the parent mutual holding company formed on 1/1/20. S.I. = a stock insurer.
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3 Major Benefits of a Long-Term Insurance Carrier Relationship - Senior Housing News
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