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Category: Advocacy

Jul 31
DFS Suspends Cost Sharing for Outpatient Mental Health Services for Essential Workers

Today, the DFS adopted, on an emergency basis, the 60th amendment to Regulation 62. The amendment prohibits health insurers from charging copays, coinsurance, or deductibles for outpatient mental health services for essential workers, with the exception of high deductible plans. Health insurers are further required to notify outpatient mental health providers in their network that they may not collect any copay, coinsurance, or deductible from essential workers for such services.

The regulation is currently in effect until September 28th, 2020.

Read the amended regulation here

Jul 31
Liberty Mutual Insurance Waives Growth Requirement for Agencies in Profit-Sharing

Liberty Mutual Insurance announced that they are rolling out updated guidelines for their 2020 commercial lines profit-sharing agreement and will be waiving the 10% written premium growth requirement to earn a profit-sharing bonus.

"Despite the incredible challenges they've faced during the pandemic, independent agencies never stopped working hard. They continue to help customers protect what matters most, while keeping their teams safe and businesses afloat. But our shared customers have been hit hard and agencies need carrier support," said Big I NY's Chair of the Board, David T. MacLachlan, CPCU.

"I commend Liberty Mutual for leading the way, waiving the growth requirement for agencies in profit-sharing. There continues to be much economic uncertainty. Liberty’s move is just one way to help agents move more confidently towards the future, and I strongly encourage other carriers to follow suit." ​

New York members requested this leeway when asked how carriers can best support them at this point in the pandemic. The Big I NY exclusive report '
Independent Agency Approach to Visits During COVID-19' explains how agencies are handling in-person and virtual visits, and the safety precautions being implemented. Read the report.

Read the full IA Magazine article sharing this Liberty Mutual news. ​

Jul 24
Albany Update: Legislature Adjourns, Victory on Business Interruption, “Bad Faith" Bills


What you need to know:

    • The New York State Senate and Assembly have adjourned for the year.

    • Several bills that Big I NY opposed, including business interruption coverage mandates and “bad faith" liability were not passed.

    • The legislature will hold joint hearings on COVID-19 between July 28th and August 25th. 

​As of July 24th, the NY Senate and Assembly stand adjourned at the call of the Majority Leader and Speaker​, respectively. Unlike in past years, all bills “on third reading," meaning those that have passed the relevant committee(s) and are eligible for a vote by the full house, remain on third reading. Legislative leaders can call legislators back to session at any point during the remainder of the year, and can resume voting on bills. The legislature will hold joint hearings on COVID-19 between July 28th and August 25th, and the prevailing opinion is they are likely to reconvene​ session in the early fall.

Business Interruption Bills Defeated:

From their first introduction, Big I NY strongly opposed bills to retroactively mandate that business interruption coverage apply to pandemic related-losses.​ Such proposals would decimate the private insurance market, harm all NY policyholders, provide limited benefit to hurting businesses, and are almost certainly unconstitutional. We further oppose legislation to that would proactively mandate such coverage​, as it would also create a crisis of cost and availability for business interruption coverage. During the final crucial weeks of session, we launched a grassroots campaign pressuring legislators to reject these harmful bills, resulting in well over six hundred emails sent and four dozen phone calls to members of the NY Assembly.​​

“Bad Faith" Liability Bills Defeated:

Big I NY worked closely with the carrier trades to oppose legislation that would impose sweeping legal liability on insurers for a range of “bad faith" claim settlement conduct. This legislation, which is a priority for the plaintiff's bar, would result in an avalanche of litigation against insurers, driving up premiums for all New York customers.

Dog Breed Legislation Withdrawn from Committee Agenda:

On Monday, the Senate Insurance Committee was scheduled to vote on S.7924​​​, which would prohibit insurers from canceling, refusing to issue or renew, or charging higher premiums for homeowners’ insurance based on the breed of a dog. Big I NY opposed this legislation, and it was subsequently pulled from the committee agenda at the sponsor's request. The bill therefore did not advance. 

Bill Authorizing Sale of Group Fleet For-Hire Auto Passed:

Both the Senate and Assembly passed legislation requiring NY insurers to establish a group fleet policy insuring against the losses or liabilities arising out of the ownership of motor vehicles engaged in the business of carrying or transporting passengers for-hire, having a seating capacity of not less than eight passengers. The legislation takes effect immediately upon signature by the governor.

​Police Liability Insurance Legislation Not Considered:

Legislation to require police officers to carry liability insurance garnered attention nationally, but was not acted on in either the Senate or Assembly.


Jul 17
Albany Update – Legislature Returns, Committee Meetings Held, Business Interruption Campaign Launched
swh headshot blog.jpgWhat you need to know:

State lawmakers return to Albany on Monday for a full week session, which is expected to be the last “regular” session week. 
Members of the legislature will reconvene virtually in early August for a series of hearings on issues related to COVID-19. A list of specific issues is not yet available. 
Big I NY opposes retroactive business interruption coverage mandates and “bad faith” lawsuit bills. We are monitoring underwriting restrictions based on dog breeds and COVID-19 Workers Compensation proposals. 

Here are the latest developments:

Big I NY Launches Business Interruption Campaign:

This week, we rolled out a statewide grassroots campaign to oppose A.10226-B (Carrol)/S.8211-A (Gounardes), which would retroactively mandate that business interruption coverage apply to pandemic-related losses, even when such coverage was specifically excluded. This legislation would decimate New York’s insurance market, with serious consequences for policyholders of all types of insurance. Click here to send a message to your lawmaker​

“Bad Faith” Legislation Advances in the Assembly:

The Assembly Insurance Committee voted 14-6 to advance A.5623-B (Weinstein), which would create a private right of action to allow a policyholder to sue an insurance company for a wide range of claims settlement practices. Big I NY opposes this legislation, as it is unwarranted and would substantially increase the cost of insurance. New York policyholders already have multiple remedies, including suing for breach of contract, violations of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and filing a complaint with the Department of Financial Services. California courts briefly authorized “bad faith” lawsuits, only to see insurance premiums spike by almost 20% before ultimately reversing the decision.

Dog Breed Legislation Considered in Senate:

On Monday, the Senate Insurance Committee will consider S.7924 (Martinez)​​, which would prohibit insurers from canceling, refusing to issue or renew, or charging higher premiums for homeowners’ insurance based on the breed of a dog.

Workers Compensation Presumption of Workplace Exposure Bills Not Considered:

Legislation to create a rebuttable presumption that COVID-19 is an occupational disease covered by workers’ compensation have not advanced to a committee vote. 

Jun 29
DFS Adopts (Slightly) New Insurance Regulation, Big I NY-Supported Change Included

swh headshot blog.jpgYesterday, the NYS Department of Financial Services (DFS) issued a new emergency regulation​, which is a slightly revised version of the March 30th emergency insurance regulation imposing a moratorium on policy cancellations and proving a 12-month grace period for repayment. The previous emergency regulation expired on June 28th, and the replacement emergency regulation is in effect until the expiration of Executive Order 202.13, currently July 6th.

The new emergency regulation is substantially the same as the original emergency regulation. Importantly, however, the new regulation does not include the requirement that producers notify customers of the regulation's provisions. Big I NY had urged the DFS to eliminate this requirement, as it would be duplicative, significantly burdensome to agencies, and of little to no value to customers. We applaud the DFS for making this common-sense change.​

Contact Scott Hobson with questions.

Jun 26
​Big I NY Calls for Common-Sense Amendments to Emergency Insurance Regulation

swh headshot blog.jpgBig I NY has asked the Department of Financial Services for two amendments to the current emergency insurance regulation, which imposes a moratorium on cancellations and non-renewals, and grants a 12-month grace period for repayment of premiums, for policyholders suffering hardship due to COVID-19. 

We expect the emergency regulation will be amended or re-issued prior to its expiration on June 28th, since the governor has ordered that the cancellation moratorium and grace period provisions remain in effect until July 6th (a detailed discussion of the reason for the two different dates follows).

We have asked the DFS to:

  • Remove the requirement that producers notify customers of the provisions of the regulation, or at a minimum, codify that (consistent with the Department's prior guidance):
    • Producers do not need to duplicate notice already sent
    • Email delivery is acceptable
    • Prior consent from the customer is not required
  • ​Clarify the premium finance regulation to state that the obligation to offer alternative payment arrangements applies separately to each missed installment payment. 

These common-sense changes will make it less burdensome for agents and brokers to comply with the regulation, and provide customers with financed policies greater clarity about the protections they are afforded.

Why the two different dates? It comes down to the relationship between executive order and an emergency regulation. To reiterate, the cancellation moratorium and grace period provisions are currently in effect until July 6th.

On March 29th, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.13, which among other things, directed the DFS to adopt an emergency regulation to impose a moratorium on policy cancellations and non-renewals, and provide a 12 month grace period for repayment of premiums.

On March, 30th, the DFS adopted the required emergency regulation​, which remains in effect as long as dictated by the Governor's Executive Order and subsequent extensions. However, as a matter of law, emergency regulations are only effective for 90 days, after which they must be renewed (for 60 days at a time) or expire.

Currently, the Governor's executive order dictates that the cancellation moratorium and repayment grace period are in effect until July 6th. However, the emergency regulation expires on June 28th. Thus, the DFS must either extend the order (60 days), or issue a new emergency regulation which complies with the governor's directive in E.O. 202.13 (90 days). ​​

Jun 17
State Law Bans Telemarketing Calls During State of Emergency

​A New York State law enacted last year prohibits businesses from making unsolicited telemarketing phone calls during a state of emergency. Consequently, insurance agents and brokers should avoid making these calls during the present COVID-19 state of emergency. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared a statewide state of emergency on March 7, 2020. It remains in effect until September 7, 2020.

The law passed both chambers of the New York State Legislature unanimously last June and was signed by Gov. Cuomo on December 18. It amended the existing general business law pertaining to telemarketing.

The law prohibits a business or its employees (supervisors are responsible for employees’ acts) during a state of emergency, from, in order to induce an individual or business in New York to buy goods or services, making a phone call to them when they didn’t ask for the call or aren’t a current customer. This applies to a plan to sell goods and services that involves the business making more than one telephone call. However:

  • It doesn’t apply to contacts made through other media; and
  • It doesn’t apply to calls made to finish a transaction the individual or business already agreed to.

Big I New York encourages all agencies and brokerages to be aware of and follow these rules.

Jun 12
DMV to Resume Limited In-Person Transactions, Road Tests in Phase 3

The NYS DMV has issued official guidance on the reopening of DMV offices. 

As regions enter phase 3 of reopening, DMV will offer limited in-person transactions in state-run DMV offices by reservation only, prioritizing critical services, and will resume all other road tests at that time. Until then, there will be no in-person transactions in any DMV office and reservations will only become available as regions enter phase 3. 

Individual county-run DMVs are advised to follow the state timeline, but this is a recommendation, not a mandate.

As of June 1, state-run DMV offices in the counties of Albany, Onondaga, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, and the five boroughs of New York City have begun processing registrations and other transactions by mail, and as of June 4, are accepting transactions through secure drop boxes located at each office.​

DMV is currently accepting plate surrender via mail. The surrender date is the date the plates were postmarked. 

Jun 05
​Legislative Update: Uncertainty in Albany

What you need to know:

  • The state legislature is anticipated to reconvene throughout the year, rather than adjourning in mid-June as is typical
  • The legislature’s focus will be COVID-19, with many issues likely to affect IAs and policyholders
  • We don’t yet know to what extent other issues will be considered.

These are truly uncharted waters. Since mid-March, New York’s policy response to COVID-19 has been spearheaded by the state’s executive branch, through executive orders and emergency regulations. Until last week, the legislature was largely out of the picture.

That changed on May 23rd, when Senate and Assembly leaders announced they would resume work virtually, beginning with committee meetings and then reconvening session with members voting remotely. Committee meetings were held, and it is believed the legislature will reconvene in the next few weeks, though a date has not been announced.

Even with the regular legislative process disrupted, many new bills have been introduced to address COVID-19 crisis. Several would significantly affect you and your customers.

Business Interruption Coverage Mandates:
The insurance issue which is receiving the most attention is that of the applicability of business interruption coverage for COVID-19 related losses. Legislation has been introduced in both the Senate and Assembly which would retroactively mandate that business interruption coverage include pandemic-related losses. As we have reported previously, such a proposals are fundamentally unworkable, likely unconstitutional, and ineffective at providing small businesses with necessary relief. To date, none of these bills have been voted on in committee. Big I NY supports a federal proposal to provide universally available business continuity protection as a more equitable and effective solution.

Liability Protections for Responsible Businesses:
A recent poll found that more than 1 in 3 people are willing to sue their employer over COVID-19, even when the employer closely followed every protocol to sanitize the premises, maintain social distancing, require face masks and conduct COVID-19 testing of all employees. New York businesses face great uncertainty about their future legal exposure, particularly in our state’s notoriously litigious environment. Big I NY and allies in the business community are calling on lawmakers to adopt common sense liability protections for responsible businesses.

Workers Compensation – Presumption of Workplace Exposure:
Several pending bills would create a rebuttable presumption that COVID-19 is an occupational disease and therefore covered by workers’ compensation. One would apply to all workers, while another proposal would apply only to front line workers. Such proposals are likely to add substantial costs to workers’ compensation coverage; however, they could also help shield businesses from tort claims. We continue to monitor these bills and similar ones.

What’s next?
We are only at the “end of the beginning” of COVID-19, and New York’s policy response is likely to go on for years. We expect that the legislature will continue to meet intermittently throughout the summer, and may even return post-election for a lame duck session. Expect no shortage of new, and perhaps novel, bills to cross lawmakers’ desks.

We will continue to track all new legislation and weigh in with lawmakers on those that affect you and your customers.

Jun 05
DFS To Require Expedited Handling of Riot Claims

​New York insurers will be required to expedite ​handling of insurance claims resulting from recent episodes of civil unrest, according to a recent announcement by New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The announcement came during the governor's daily briefing on June 3.

A news release on the governor's website stated:

The Governor also announced the State Department of Financial Services will issue an emergency regulation to help businesses and consumers who suffered damage from looting and vandalism by requiring New York State-regulated insurance companies to expedite the resolution and payment of related insurance claims based on similar emergency relief applied in the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy. Additional relief provided by the emergency regulation will include allowing policyholders to make immediate repairs to damaged property if necessary to protect health or safety, and to submit claims with reasonable proof of loss, including photos, so businesses don't have to wait for police reports to file a claim. The emergency regulation will also offer small businesses and consumers the option to resolve disputes through an impartial mediation process paid for by the applicable insurer.​

As of Friday afternoon, the emergency regulation had not been posted on the department's website​

UPDATE: ​ A news release and the complete text of the emergency regulation​ are now posted on the DFS website. 

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