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Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as Insurance Associates Blog

Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as Insurance Associates Blog

How Much Coverage Should I Have On My House?

There are few things in life worse than losing your home to fire or a natural disaster.  Except, that is, discovering in the aftermath that you do not have enough homeowners insurance coverage to rebuild the house back to the way it was before trouble struck.  If you get guaranteed replacement cost coverage, that is unlikely to happen. Why? Because guaranteed replacement cost will pay for the full cost of rebuilding your house back to its previous size and specifications* – right down to the granite countertops, custom bookshelves, and gleaming hardwood floors that you so love.

The reality is that it is almost impossible to...

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Open Enrollment: See You Next Year!

Let’s all admit it, when the annual open enrollment period is over and everyone has their ID cards, and payroll deductions are set, we all want to take employee benefits off the to-do list.  We are happy if we don’t have to think about PPO, HSA, FSA etc. for another year.  There are so many other tasks that HR managers need to focus on that it is nice to have open enrollment out of the way.

The truth is, next year’s open enrollment will work best if employee benefits remain in focus throughout the year.  Here are some things that should be...

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Backdoor Support for Your Human Resources Department

If you have ever found yourself with a tricky Human Resource issue or you are looking for ways to offer your employees additional training resources, Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as Insurance Associates, provides you with two platforms to boost your Human Resource “resources.”

The ThinkHR platform is an integrated suite of HR knowledge, content and training solutions.  It can provide easy and immediate access to expert HR Advisors (accessible from 8 am to 7 pm Central each business day) who will provide information and answers to minimize risk associated with legal and regulatory matters pertaining to HR compliance, employment law, and health...

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Choices and Employee Benefits

I think we can all agree, if we visited a grocery store for a box of cereal and the store only sells bran flakes, we’d look for a new store (unless you really like bran flakes).  We might also look for a new store if there were lots of options but with names we didn’t recognize, no ingredients listed and no picture of the front of the box showing us what we would be waking up to eat each morning.

Employee benefits are supposed to be a benefit.  Let’s face it, they also cost a lot of money!  Employers don’t want employees...

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A “Better Model” for Insurance and Surety Services

I made a career move from the banking industry to the insurance brokerage/consulting business eighteen years ago.  I quickly observed that most of the construction businesses I talked to maintained multiple relationships with professionals and firms that separately handled their Property & Casualty Insurance, Surety Bonds, and Employee Benefit programs.  Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as Insurance Associates has always focused on building a platform to support and broaden our relationships with our construction clients where we served all of their insurance and bonding needs.  Over time, I have realized why this approach makes so much sense and can...

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Active Shooter Preparedness: 5 Steps Every Business Can Take

I wanted to share the following article on the disturbing increase in workplace violence. It outlines steps that businesses should implement to prepare, prevent and mitigate such situations:

It’s a scenario no business wants to think about: an active shooter or violent offender on the premises. An  active shooter  is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. According to the FBI, these individuals do not necessarily have to yield a gun but could alternatively involve driving a car into a crowd.  From 2000 to 2017, there were 250 active shooter incidents in the United States.  These horrific acts of violence took place across many industries and geographic locations. According to the  Bureau of Labor Statistics...

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Observations on the Local Housing Market Now and Going Forward

The housing market continues to be strong in the Mid-Atlantic and throughout the eastern United States as rates remain low and home sales continue.  As the sixth most populous metropolitan area in the country, the DMV market has had increasing price gains in the past decade and dwindling availability of new single-family housing stock close to the District itself.  The rise of telework and older millennials beginning their transition from rental units to owned homes has meant that demand for new homes continues to be met in the suburbs and exurbs with the Allegiance Surety subdivision group of Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally...

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Master Builder’s Risk

Builder’s Risk insurance can be a confusing topic.  Should the General Contractor purchase the policy?  Should the owner? Should the contractor have a master builder’s risk program?  Are single project policies best?  Not every situation is going to have the same answer.

More often than not it is the Owner not the General Contractor dictating who is to procure the Builder’s Risk policy.  One of the best ways for a General Contractor to maintain as much control in this process as they can, is to have a Master Builder’s Risk Program.  A master program allows rates and terms to be determined at the beginning...

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Women at Work: Safety and Health Considerations

Women working in fields today such as construction can face more problems than men working in the same field. Women face physical dangers that are often overlooked because they don’t apply to men. Some of these include: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Women’s Health, and Ergonomics. To expand on each of these PPE is usually only ordered for men in men’s sizing because most of the workers are men. While it may not seem like a big deal initially if a safety vest is a little too large it is a big deal if a hard hat, or respiratory mask is the wrong...

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Five Ways Contractors Keep an Active Surety Bond Program

For now, the building industry remains strong with labor shortages proving to be the toughest obstacle to overcome for construction companies.  As the business and credit cycles turn, maintaining healthy backlog levels will become a critical issue for contractors.  Maintaining a bond program, even if you don’t regularly use it, can help your company keep a healthy backlog, diversify its revenue stream in a downturn, and go after larger jobs that others can’t.  In the end, your company will be ready to face any economic headwinds with continued support from your surety bond company.

No matter the business cycle, sureties look for predictable margins and will terminate accounts that present too many...

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Turn Your Insurance Premiums into Profits

Why best-in-class companies should consider joining a member-owned Group Captive insurance Company

Insurance expenses are usually some of the largest expenses for mid-sized business.  If you have a large workforce, providing health insurance to employees is an important benefit but also a burden, with premium rates outpacing inflation and more than doubling over the last ten years.  If your business operates in a hazardous industry,  your Workers Compensation, General Liability and Auto Liability costs will also be significant and subject to insurance market fluctuations.

A problem with traditional insurance is that the better risks tend to subsidize the poor risks.  The best...

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Do You Have the Right Coverage for a Hurricane?

If you’re like most of us, your home is your most important investment. It’s where your money is. This is why you have a homeowner’s insurance policy to protect it. However, even the best home insurance won’t pay for every kind of damage.

Right now, if you live in hurricane territory, understanding what your homeowner’s policy will and won’t cover is key to finding the right insurance. If you’re in the East Coast threat zone, you should develop or firm up your hurricane preparedness plan  and be ready to implement it if necessary. Residents in coastal areas should follow evacuation orders from local officials because of the potential...

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Medical Loss Ratio Rebates – Nice! But could there be more….?

Soon (and no later than September 30th) many businesses who sponsor fully-insured group health insurance plans will be receiving annual medical loss ratio rebates. These unexpected checks are nice, but are you still leaving money on the table? Could there be more?

The answer is “yes” if your company’s claims experience is better than average. The rebate is based on your insurer’s experience for a large group of policies in your state.  If the claims on all these policies were lower than the required MLR percent, all included groups receive the same percentage rebate. However, if your claims experience at your company was better than your group’s average, you may still be...

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Reference Based Pricing for Group Benefits: Lowers Employers Healthcare Costs

Employers continue to search for ways to control healthcare costs. In the self-funding market there is an alternative model emerging as a creative option to traditional discount pricing through provider networks. Reference Based Pricing (RBP) is based on the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) costs, which is regularly accepted by providers for the services provided to patients. Medicare pricing is significantly less than what insurance companies pay.

For example, in 2015 the national average charge by providers for a Carotid Artery Stent was $73,220 but the average Medicare payment was $14,047 according to CMS.  Under a RBP plan, employers set an amount, percentage, or range of payment for services provided. An employer plan that sets reimbursements at 140%...

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New Flood Option Available for Commercial Property Owners

When most people think of flood insurance they think of the images on the news showing the residential homes under water during Superstorms or Hurricanes, however commercial properties have just as much if not more risk to flood damage.  The need for a separate insurance policy covering loss due to flood arises from the fact that flood loss is excluded from coverage under nearly all commercial property insurance forms.

Effective April 2018, ISO (Insurance Services Office) has available a commercial flood insurance product which gives property owners and agents an alternative to the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program).  NFIP is the subject of a “major showdown” in Congress as it approaches its scheduled expiration on July 31st, 2018 due to...

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Employee Heat Stress Management – More Than Just Employee Well Being

Every year general and subcontractors have to practice good heat stress management for their workers exposed to the conditions on jobsites nationwide.  It is a topic that is addressed every year with more and more resources made available by OSHA.  Common sense is that it affects worker productivity, which ultimately influences the bottom line, but the impact on productivity is much more profound than many superintendents, foremen, and project managers realize.

Time is money of course and there is a lot of pressure on general and subcontractors to get the job done on time.  OSHA has guidelines regarding heat safety that are the minimums based on temperature.  Just because more time has been allowed for worker rest and water breaks...

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“My company is not vulnerable to cyber-attacks of other lurking cyber exposures, it would never happen.”  Does this sound like you? It could happen and is not a matter of if, but when it might happen. It is time to assess what exposures exist in your business and what preventative measures can be taken to protect your company for an operational disruption and possible financial loss.  Even a small cyber event could pose a significant financial burden to your company, and it could be tough to recover from it.

Your approach should be a combination of risk awareness, risk management, and risk transfer (insurance).  Conduct a risk check survey with the assistance of your internal IT team or IT consultants....

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HealthCare Transparency

Having worked as an employee benefits consultant for nearly 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to advise clients on how to get the most out of their benefit spend year over year. Some years the benefits plan worked better than average and the client received a 5% rate increase at renewal time. Other times the plan didn’t work as well and the client received the maximum 35% increase allowed by the insurance carrier. In both cases, and in all cases in between, two things became clear: 1.) the trend in healthcare benefits is for rates to increase each year, whether 5%, 35%, or by some other number(statistically speaking, shouldn’t there be even a small number of employer plans performing so...

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Income Protection – Are Your Employees Prepared?

According to the Social Security Administration, more than 25% of individuals ages 20 and older will be temporarily or permanently disabled before reaching retirement age.  People are generally advised to have a minimum of 6 months of salary saved up in case of debilitating illness or injury causing the individual to be unable to work.  The reality is that most people are not financially capable of this and are living paycheck to paycheck.  How will they pay their bills or provide for their families if they are unable to work?

Many employers are generous enough to give their employees company-paid short term and long term disability coverage that provide a source of income in the event an employee is unable...

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Data Transparency is the Key to Managing Health Insurance

In every other aspect of business today, data transparency and data analytics are becoming the foundation of good management.  Having access to good data is the key to:

  • Better decision making
  • Enablement of key strategic initiatives
  • A better sense of risk and opportunity
  • Better financial performance

If you are a baseball fan, you are probably very familiar with the trend, that even in sports, vast data analytics has become the basis for better managerial decisions.

Unfortunately, when it comes to fully-insured health insurance, the insurance companies share little or no data.  This makes it impossible for employers to make smart decisions regarding their plans.  There is little or no motivation for the insurance companies to take measures to...

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How to Get the Full Value of Your Car in an Auto Claim

“No” is not always the final answer in many claims situations, but you may have to do some homework to get the best possible settlement.

The car that you bought new several years ago is probably worth more to you than it would be to someone else since you know its quirks, and how well it has performed over time.  Not to mention that it has never been in an accident until now.

If someone runs into your car and totals it, tort law says that they only owe you the value of that car immediately prior to the accident.  But what is the value?  You and the insurance company adjuster may be far apart in determining that figure. If...

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Space Heaters – How to Keep Your Home and Business Safe This Winter

It is almost that time of year again.  The time of the year when the weather turns cold and families and businesses use a variety of options to keep warm.  A popular choice is the use of a space heater.  Every year there’s stories about a home or business burning down because of a space heater.  As you have probably heard before, homes and buildings can be rebuilt, lives can’t.

A widely talked about rule suggests keeping a minimum of 3 feet between the space heater and anything combustible.  Sounds simple.  The reality is that there are many precautions, not just that one.  Unfortunately the number of space heater fires is continuing to increase year over year.  If it was...

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Don’t Get Hosed By Your Water Damage Claim

We all have a monster lurking in our walls, under our floors and above our ceilings.  Water seems so nice coming out of the faucet into our cup, or when waking us up in the shower each morning.  However, when a pipe ruptures, a fitting fails, or toilet overflows, it can ruin your day, and wreck your business.

If your business is housed in a multi-unit development, especially a multi- level building, you are also surrounded by your neighbor’s plumbing and a mishap in their space can rain havoc onto you.

As Murphy’s Law seems to dictate, water damage losses often seem to take place after business hours, during holidays and weekends.  Your first notice may be when you arrive...

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The Medical Marijuana Dilemma – RX for Workers Compensation Disaster?

The National Council on Compensation Insurance has addressed the issue of Medical Marijuana in two recently released articles with three still to come.  The series is titled “The Marijuana Conversation”.  The first two installments covered the questions that insurers are asking and the questions the employers are asking.  The third installment will cover the questions that employees are asking.  This is a topical issue with no easy answers to these questions.  Many states have voted to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use which has led to this dilemma in regards to the various stakeholders in regards to Workers Compensation.  Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes and eight have legalized it for recreational use.  This...

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The Reality of the 100 year flood – Separating Myth From Fact

By now everyone has seen footage of the devastating flooding in Southeast Texas from Hurricane Harvey.  It seems like there’s always some catastrophic flooding somewhere in the US frequently.  Various terms relating to floods and insurance are thrown around; such as 100 year flood, flood plain, FEMA flood maps, etc.  It probably seems odd when you hear that some place has had a 100 year flood, but you remember how it seemed like yesterday that same place had another 100 year flood.  How can that be?  It was on the news that such-in-such area has a 1% risk of a 100 year flood, so the odds of that happening more than once in that short of time must be lottery...

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OSHA Proposes New Deadline for Electronic Reporting Rule

In 2016, OSHA issued a final rule that requires certain employers to submit data from their injury and illness records (forms 300, 300A and 301) electronically so it can be posted on the agency’s website. Although the rule initially required affected employers to submit this data by July 1, 2017, OSHA recently proposed a new deadline of December 1, 2017.  Today simply not participating is not an option, this is a rule that is REQUIRED, let us help you follow this new mandate.

The proposed deadline is the result of a delay to the Injury Tracking Application , the online tool that OSHA will use to collect data. The Injury Tracking Application will be ready to receive electronic reports on August 1, 2017, and employers...

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Decreasing Preventable Auto Accidents: Key to Fighting Rising Commercial Auto Premiums

Commercial auto insurance rates are increasing due to a significant spike in accidents in the last few years. More miles are being driven (about 3%) which combined with other factors, has led to a significant increase in commercial auto claims across the industry. The increase in miles driven is not linear to commercial vehicle accident rates. The increase in accidents is actually much higher than the increase in miles driven. As a business owner with a fleet of vehicles, it is more important than ever to keep accidents in company vehicles as low as possible.

While miles driven is the biggest factor for the increase, other factors such as distracted driving and speed are also contributors. Some accidents are bound...

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Internal Controls: Critical to Safeguarding Assets From Employee Fraud/Theft

Employee fraud/theft frequency and severity continues to rise for all sizes of business each year.  Companies that have less than 100 employees are especially vulnerable, as that employer size has the highest percentage of frequency of fraud/thefts and the highest median amount stolen.  The single biggest denominator in almost all cases is the lack of internal controls that the company had in place.  As I will explain below, implementing the right internal controls can be the difference between experiencing a large theft and protecting those company assets.

While there are many insurance options for this kind of loss, the preferable option is to never have to get to that point.  Because so many companies that work in construction and the...

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The Scary Truth about Cyber Security Breaches

Data breaches and the lack of proper cyber security continue to threaten businesses of all sizes, but the rate in which businesses properly respond to such threats with the appropriate insurance coverages remains underwhelming.

50% of U.S. firms do not have cyber risk insurance. 27% of U.S. executives say their firms have no plans to obtain cyber insurance, even though 61% of them expect cyber breaches to continue to increase in the next year.

Even among those that have insurance, only 16% reported having cybersecurity insurance that covers all risks.

The U.S. falls behind the U.K. and Canada in this regard, where only about 40% have no cyber coverage.

The research behind these statistics come from a survey conducted by...

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Swimming Pool Safety Tips

With warmer weather comes an array of outdoor activities for the whole family, including cooling off in a pool if you are lucky enough to have one. But with a pool also comes the responsibility of safety must-haves and best practices that any parent or home owner should be concerned with. With over 200 young children drowning in backyard pools each year, these tips are critical to ensuring a fun environment for anyone who owns a pool to keep both their friends and family safe and secure.

Swimming Pool Safety Tips

  • It is important to maintain secure fencing and a locked entrance around the pool and deck area to prevent access when adequate supervision is not available. Install self-closing...
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American Workforce Drug Use at a 12 Year High

According to the annual Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index, positivity in drug testing in the combined American workforce is the highest since 2004.  In 2016 there was a five percent increase over the prior year.  This was fueled by illicit drugs including cocaine.  This troubling increase was found among all testing specimens among virtually all sectors of business.

From an employer perspective, the reasons for an employer to create a safe and drug-free workplace are clear.  This is especially the case for employers in the trades and the construction industry.  Implementing a company-wide drug testing program can be tricky.  Fortunately Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as Insurance Associates Company can assist with your needs in getting this in place.

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Pollution Coverage! What could happen?

As I meet with clients and we discuss coverages that are available and recommended, we always get to pollution coverage and the question always arises, “What are my exposures to pollution as a fill in the blank contractor?”  As you will see below, these scenarios in real-life settings are not unbelievable situations, but rather real life happenings that are common within each trade’s routine scope of work.  Pollution coverage should be considered to protect your business.  In addition to your need, we are starting to see the requirement for pollution coverage in more contracts, specifically trade contractors such as HVAC and masonry.  There are options available for job-specific policies when a need arises contractually, but with minimum premiums required by...

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Facts You Should Know For Distracted Driving Month

April is distracted driving awareness month.  Society has been lulled into a sense of security in that as long as one is using a hands-free device while driving that there’s no risk.  While this may be the law in many states, the reality is that the risk of crashing when talking on a hands-free phone conversation is about 4 times greater than when not using a phone at all while driving.  The TV show “Mythbusters” found that driving while using a hands-free device is as dangerous as drunk driving!  This should be an eye opener for everyone including employers that allow their employees/drivers to use hands-free devices.

For most employers, an employee that multitasks well is an asset.  Multitasking while...

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The American Healthcare Act: What Does it Repeal and What is the Replacement?

There has been much in the news regarding the proposed American Healthcare Act that is currently making its way to the House for a vote. Proponents think it is the answer to issues people have had with the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Critics are concerned it either does not go far enough to repeal the Affordable Care Act and/or it may result in higher costs and loss of coverage.

So, let’s take a look at what the American Healthcare Act, as it stands today, does NOT change. The AHCA maintains the following requirements:

  • Coverage for pre-existing conditions
  • Dependent child coverage up to the age of 26
  • Caps on out of pocket expenses
  • No lifetime or annual benefit limits
  • Guaranteed...
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There is high expectation and generally strong political support for the Infrastructure Plan that President Trump has promised to announce shortly. Although the need to repair and replace the aging United States infrastructure is clear, the details of the promised Plan are somewhat vague, especially in regards to funding and project selection. To hopefully provide some insight, recently the Kansas City Star, A McClatchy Newspaper, published a “top 50” priority list of the infrastructure projects reportedly in the Trump Plan. The summary of the 50 projects makes for interesting reading, and does include some local projects; the Maryland Purple Line (No. 23), Washington DC Union Station (No. 22), Baltimore Howard Street Tunnel (No. 33), among others.

Click Here for the 50 Projects

Information about the Author:  Bill Cowan has 40 years of surety bonding experience.  He successfully advanced...

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5 HR Compliance Resolutions for 2017

As you may have heard, the Senate and the House have passed budget resolutions that instruct Congressional committees to begin working on legislation to repeal parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Additionally, President Trump has signed an executive order calling upon federal administrative agencies to minimize the economic burden of the ACA, pending repeal of the law.  While we do not have a crystal ball so we can’t predict what changes are coming, it is a new year and a good time to review your company’s compliance with current federal, state and local labor law requirements.   The following includes a few highlighted items that HR professionals should be reviewing and updating annually, but can get put aside...

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Let’s Bring In 2017 By Decreasing Workplace Falls/Injuries And Reinforce Some Ladder Safety Tips!

I know it may sound almost too fundamental, but think about it.  Many of your employees have been using and climbing ladders daily for years.  It’s simple, it’s routine.  I get it.  But workplace falls, including those from ladders, account for a huge portion of all on-the-job injuries.  If it really is so fundamental and so basic, then let’s make sure that you are not one of many contractors in 2017 that will have one of your employees fall off a ladder and incur a preventable work comp claim.

Incredibly the estimated annual cost of ladder injuries both on-the-job and off is $11 billion in the US alone.  About 300 people die each year from ladder injuries.  If you consider...

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Things to Consider When Purchasing Builders Risk Insurance

Builder’s Risk Insurance tends to be one of the most confusing policies to implement for most Contractors and Owners.  As is the case with insurance on construction projects, the first consideration should be to carefully review the terms of the Construction Contract/ Agreement to be certain that the policy/coverage/terms purchased are in compliance.

The Named Insured(s) should include the Contractor and the Project Owner and/or anyone else having a financial interest in the structure.  It is also important to decide which party will be listed as the First Named Insured since the First Named Insured has the rights and responsibilities associated with the policy.

Builders Risk can be written on two different types of policies.  The One-Shot / Single Structure...

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Proud to be a Top Workplace

Our agency is excited to announce that in June this past year we were named a Top Workplace in The Washington Post.  This is our second year in a row that we are pleased to have won this honor.  We were ranked 17th out of 70 small businesses in Washington DC metro region.  This title was bestowed upon our agency by a survey that was conducted by a third party company, Workplace Dynamics, which surveyed the level of workplace satisfaction among our employees.

We are proud that our employees hold our agency in such a high regard.  As an employee of the agency for almost five years, it is my personal opinion that this is due to the many benefits...

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Drones are becoming more popular, especially with larger contractors.  They can be a great tool to give an overview of jobsites and showcase the progress of work.  They are also being misused in some cases so one must be cautious in their use.  Therefore, one must be aware of guidelines and restrictions and utilize common sense.

First, if you purchase a drone for your company, be aware that they are excluded for General Liability, under the Aircraft Exclusion.  You need to contact your agent to obtain liability coverage and possibly property coverage for the drone(s).  Second and most important, you must follow FAA Guidelines.  There are new regulations issued (14 C.F.R. Part 107) which take effect on August 29, 2016.  In summarizing guidelines, there...

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What Do You Mean My Theft Claim Is Not Covered??

Several months ago it was discovered that the president of a medium-large sized payroll company embezzled millions of dollars of clients’ payroll taxes that the owner stole instead of remitting them to the IRS or state & local tax authorities.

The worst part was that this loss was not covered by the clients’ crime/fidelity policies, since the payroll company nor its owner were employees of the clients.  Neither was there coverage under the payroll company’s crime policy, since standard policy wording excludes theft by the owner of the company; it will not reimburse the policyholder for committing a crime.

The IRS does not care that the client acted in good faith in turning their payroll taxes to the payroll company. ...

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Job-Site Security: Video Surveillance

If you own or operate a construction site, you know that theft is a major and costly concern. In fact, it’s estimated that more than $2 billion in construction equipment and copper electrical components like tubing or wiring is stolen each year. According to the National Equipment Register (NER), heavy equipment theft has been on the rise the past couple of years with 11,625 thefts being reported to law enforcement in 2014.

The cost of being the victim of construction theft runs deeper than just the value of the items stolen. You also have to factor in the delays in work, the cost to replace materials and supplies, renting or replacing equipment and tools along with the increased insurance premiums...

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Builders/Developers: Surety Bonds are your Best Option to Guarantee Improvements

Many political jurisdictions have statutes that require an owner or developer of real property to post financial security to guarantee the completion of designated improvements as a precondition to granting a construction permit or to allow the recordation of a final parcel map.

There are various ways to satisfy the financial security obligation, including:

  • Cash Deposits
  • Irrevocable Letters of Credit
  • Surety Bonds (Subdivision/Improvement Bonds)

The tool that should be seriously considered by all builders and developers is the use of surety bonds issued by licensed sureties, obtained through an experienced bond agent that specializes in subdivision/improvement bonds. Generally, all jurisdictions accept surety bonds (there may be some minor exceptions in a few isolated jurisdictions.)

The problem with cash is,...

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Landscape of Small Group Plans is Changing – What are Your Options?

As we progress further into 2016, we have observed significant changes to medical products offered by the carriers who insure small groups.  Complicating matters is the fact that, not only are products changing, but the previous products are no longer available.  This has put small businesses in a bind and has left them to juggle conflicting goals of keeping costs in line with their budget while still providing employees with what will be perceived as a strong benefits package.

With the advancement of the Affordable Care Act, carriers have been held to strict guidelines within which their products must adhere to.  Most recognizable are the metal levels (i.e., Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze) and actuarial values that each plan must...

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Cyber Liability For Contractors – Credit card information isn’t the only data at risk

Many contractors believe that they have little exposure to cyber-crime if they don’t take credit cards or store credit card data. Unfortunately, hackers have many ways to profit from your information once they’ve gained access to your computer system.

Why contractors need to be concerned

It’s not just large financial institutions or retailers that get hacked. In fact, Verizon’s “Data Breach Investigation Report” states that 85% of targets are small businesses. There are a number of reasons hackers may want to gain access to your systems, including:

  • Access to Personal Information. While contractors may not have as much personally identifiable information (PII) as a retailer or financial institution, construction firms still have employee information that could include social security...
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Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as Insurance Associates Wellness Initiative

The idea that physical activity is important to health is not new. Ancient physicians and scholars believed it and Hippocrates wrote about it.  Regular physical activity comes with a wide range of benefits: weight loss, stronger muscles, healthy bones, and increased mood.  There is also a reduced risk of many diseases such as coronary heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and colon and breast cancer [1].  But did you know that physical activity can also improve your productivity?  Regular physical activity has been shown to make you happier, smarter, and more energetic which are all important characteristics to have in the workplace [2].  It not only keeps you mentally smart but it gives you more energy throughout the day – allowing...

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Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as Insurance Associates Company is excited to partner with United Benefit Advisors

We are proud to be joining United Benefit Advisors (UBA) and the nearly 140 benefit consulting firms throughout the United States. Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as Insurance Associates Company, Inc. is uniquely prepared to share our wisdom with employers who want the assurance that they are making informed choices that improve the lives of their employees and families. Our UBA affiliation also supplies us with a number of proprietary solutions that include the nation’s largest health plan benchmarking survey, compliance and HR-focused solutions to employers. This gives our firm knowledge of the best solutions, as well as real insight into the latest HR and benefit trends. Finding the right tool can go a long way in improving one’s...

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What Your Company Needs From its Human Resources Leader

Depending on the size of your organization and the expertise on your team, you may have a variety of responsibilities that fall on your plate each day. Several years ago, the primary role of the HR leader was to act as a “personnel” manager by making sure employees were familiar with company policies and making sure those policies were being followed.

Of course we all know that the role of the HR leader has broadened over the years to include responsibilities such as payroll processing, benefit administration, and recruiting. However, more recently, the role of an HR leader has grown to be included in more C-Suite conversations. CEO’s are leaning more and more on their HR leaders to provide them...

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Max OSHA Penalties to Increase 78% in 2016!

By Bill Evans, AIC

Director of Claims at Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as Insurance Associates Company

In case you have run out of Tool Box Talks or ways to stress the financial impact of safety to your employees, Uncle Sam has given you a big new incentive starting in 2016.

The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 required federal agencies to raise their civil fines to keep pace with inflation.  However, for the past 25 years, OSHA was one of a very few agencies who were exempt from this requirement… until now.

Section 701 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which President Obama signed into law last month, eliminated that exemption.  http://docs.house.gov/meetings/RU/RU00/CPRT-114-RU00-D001.pdf

Now, OSHA...

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Understanding Your Mod

As a business owner or financial manager, it is important to identify and understand every cost associated with doing business. Worker’s Compensation insurance cost can be several thousand dollars per employee.  Through a better understanding of the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) experience modification formula and the data that goes into the mod, you can better control your mod, reduce cost, and gain insight into your company’s operations.

The first step to achieving a lower mod is to understand how it is calculated and what is necessary to lower the mod. Loss frequency or severity over time may indicate problems in your operation that have not been identified.  Also, your experience mod worksheet may be the easiest way to...

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Contractual Risk Transfer


Contractual Risk Transfer — Friend or Foe?  The legal answer:  It depends.  It is usually the friend of the stronger party in a contract, who is frequently in a position to dictate terms that are often heavy handed—as far as the law will allow, and sometimes more than that.

But sometimes the onerous terms in a contract can be struck or mitigated.  My personal success rate in getting undesirable terms removed or softened is about 50%. But you have to ask, and it sometimes depends on one’s approach.

Most of the time we get to review a client contract before it gets signed.  Reviewing after it’s signed is somewhat “academic,” since it’s not likely that any burdensome language will...

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Insurance Producers: Choose the Right Employer

Producers who are committed to a career in insurance sales should be very careful about where they build their book of business.  Non-compete/ non-solicitation agreements make it very difficult for you to leave and join a new company.  If you leave, you have to start over because you cannot take the customers you worked so hard to win for, typically, two years.  In addition,  after two years, most Producers find it very hard to move the accounts because the old relationships may have dwindled and the former customer may be “fine” with their current broker relationship.

My advice:  Chose a firm that has integrity, a strong reputation, resources, support, and a compensation plan that will work for you 10 years from now and beyond.

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Are you vulnerable to Social Engineering Fraud?

I don’t know, right?  What is it?

Social Engineering Fraud occurs when an employee is intentionally misled into sending money or diverting a payment when deceptively induced to do so.  It is a fraud scheme by someone posing as a trusted vendor, employee, new client or supplier.

According to the Symantec 2014 Security Threat Report, targeted attacks on business have risen 91% over the last year!  The Front Line Report by Hillard Heintze reports that there are over 100,000 social engineering attacks launched each day.

Loss prevention is a vital part of risk avoidance and employee training, partner background screening and financial checks and balances and other similar measures can serve to be effective.  As we know, even the best...

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Do I Need Insurance for a Child Going Away to College?

Our Personal Insurance expert, Kristy, has been getting calls all month on insurance coverage questions from concerned parents who are sending their kids off to college in the next week or so. Their questions pertain mainly to the amount of coverage available under their policy for their children that are going to be living in a dorm. The answer is this: Most personal possessions are covered under the parents’ homeowners or renters’ insurance policies; however, some home insurance policies may limit the amount of insurance for off-premises belongings to 10 percent of the total amount of coverage for personal possessions. This means that if the parents have $70,000 worth of insurance for their belongings, only $7,000 would be applicable to...

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Are you prepared for a DOL audit?

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has broad authority to investigate or audit an employee benefit plan’s compliance with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).  Audits are performed by the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).  To perform these audits, EBSA employs over 400 investigators.

Unlike the IRS, the DOL doesn’t conduct random audits, so when an employer receives a notice from EBSA that its plan has been selected for audit, the DOL is looking for something specific. It may be acting on complaints from plan participants, a government referral, a referral from a service provider, or items “red flagged” by its computer programs.  According to a DOL audit report for the 2014 fiscal year, approximately 5 out...

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Value Proposition

I am currently enrolled in a six month program called “Reach Your Peak”, structured to help develop your overall ability to promote yourself and your product. The first step in the program is to develop a value proposition.  A value proposition summarizes the reasons why a potential customer should buy your product.  In developing a value proposition, I have found that the proposition needs to address the benefits to the client of how we create value and how we differentiate ourselves from others which is difficult in an industry with a product perceived as a commodity.  A value proposition should be clear, concise and compelling.  What are the services that are intrinsic to Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as...

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The Appeal of Voluntary Employee Benefits

By:  Carolyn Robbins, HMarsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as Insurance Associates

According to a recent study by the world’s leading insurance and financial services trade association, LIMRA, “7 in 10 employers offer voluntary benefits to improve morale for their existing employees and to attract and retain new talent”.  The study included 1,321 employee benefit decision makers for firms with 10 or more employees.

Employers are being faced with escalating premiums on their traditional health insurance plans.   In many cases, employers have had to reduce those benefits. Now they must look for other ways to enhance their overall benefit package to retain their employees and to help them attract new employees.   Voluntary benefits allow them to do so without increasing...

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“Off-the-shelf” insurance is not appropriate for Complex Situations

A new client was introduced to us by a friendly competitor who needed help with a Builders Risk placement. He knew we were experts in construction and trusted us to do the right thing. When presented with the facts, we knew the placement would be out of the ordinary and a challenge.

The client was a well-recognized non-for-profit institution dedicated to research and education on issues of government, politics, economics and social welfare. The project was the renovation of a historic building located near DuPont Circle built in 1917. The project included adding a second basement level below the first and adding a Penthouse level. A large first floor auditorium was added and the entire structure was to be completely...

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Is a Group Captive Insurance Program right for your business?

Ed Kushlis, CPA, CPCU
Senior Vice President
Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as Insurance Associates Company, Inc.
April, 2015

A Group captive insurance program can be an attractive alternative to traditional casualty insurance (Auto, Workers’ Compensation, General Liability).   Securing your insurance through a group captive provides an enhanced level of control and financial independence.

A group captive is an insurance company structured to provide insurance for its member owners and it is controlled by the members.  You and several other members own the company that provides your commercial property & casualty insurance.  Therefore, you have a much greater degree of influence and control and you, not an insurance company, benefit when the captive is profitable.


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Daylight Savings Time, Bad News For Your Experience Mod?

By William (BJ) Westner Jr., CPCU, CLU, RHU, FLMI
Claims Consultant, Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as Insurance Associates Company

In just one month, Daylight Savings Time will be upon us again.  While this usually brings a certain level of happiness to most because there are more hours of sunlight after work, it also brings an increase in workplace injuries.  All contractors could benefit by preparing ahead of time for this change and making necessary changes that can reduce the increased risk of injuries in the period of time immediately following Daylight Savings Time.

One of the most detailed studies ever done on Daylight Savings Time and its consequences on workplace safety was published in a 2009 article...

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Continued Stable Surety Underwriting Good News for Contractors

Despite the sputtering local construction economy and the recent contractor failures that have made headlines, surety companies have remained disciplined in their underwriting decisions over the past few years.  Declining premium volumes have not led to relaxed underwriting standards, which is good news for the well-run, well-capitalized construction firms.

Perhaps it may just be a quarterly aberration, but the recently released September 30, 2014 Premium/Loss figures from The Surety & Fidelity Association of America might throw some caution on this continued optimism, based on the profitability of the surety industry.  According to the figures, the 2014 3Q loss ratio was 47.6%.  A loss ratio of this level will generally result in a bottom line loss for a surety company. Granted,...

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Q&A: What lessons can contractors take away from a recent insurance claim you’ve encountered?

“ABC’s Construction Executive”


A recent workers compensation claim involving a crushed pinkie finger was a great example of how valuable a vigorous Return to Work program can be.

In this instance the employer worked closely with the treating doctor and insurance carrier to ensure that they offered a modified duty position that fell well within the worker’s medical limitations.

The employer went so far as offering per diem and hotel accommodations since the temporary position was outside the worker’s usual working territory. Furthermore,  they collaborated with the carrier to relocate his physical therapy to a facility close to the new job location.

Although the worker declined the position and appealed for continued Temporary Total Disability  benefits, the hearing examiner...

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Section 831(b) Micro-Captives – Worth Considering, but Proceed with Caution


There continues to be a buzz about Section 831(b) micro captives as having multiple benefits for companies that make the election and own a captive insurance company that meets IRS requirements.

Potential customers are attracted to the idea of establishing  an 831(b) captive because of the substantial potential benefits, including :

  • Insurance companies with less than $1.2 million in annual premiums pay $0 income tax on insurance profits (only investment income is taxed)
  • The Captive can insure risks not currently insured
  • Captive profits may be distributed as tax-advantaged dividends or capital gains
  • Premiums are deductible if market comparable and can be valued by an actuary
  • Can potentially transfer millions to heirs tax efficiently

However, there are qualifiers...

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One Thing You Can Easily Do to Lower Your Experience Mod.

The holiday season is here!  It’s a wonderful time of giving and getting, wishing and wanting.  It’s natural that every contractor wants a lower experience mod, but are contractors doing everything they can be doing in order to achieve a lower experience mod?  I stumbled upon a fantastic article, A Holiday Wish List for Workers’ Comp Insurance Professionals , and it lists out six different items that all in the work comp industry would enjoy.  While all six are great, one in particular is my favorite because it is something that each contractor has control over and it has a direct impact on their experience mod.

Inform the treating doctors of alternative work availability and the return-to-work process can have a tremendous impact on the contractors’ mod as well...

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Are you Distracting Your Teen Driver?

Are you Distracting Your Teen Driver?

Fifty-three percent of teens who reported talking on a phone while driving were talking with their parents.  It’s a dilemma for the parents because you want to know that your child has arrived safely at their destination but you don’t want to call him or her while they are behind the wheel.

Kristy Kuykendall, Personal Insurance Consultant at Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as Insurance Associates Company, has a 15 year old daughter that will turn 16 in December so this will become a reality for her all too soon.  Kristy said they have already begun discussing safe driving habits at home and have created a contract that she and her daughter will...

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