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Jul 31
Disability Benefits For An Organ Donation?
​Photo by martakat83. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Question from a Big I New York member: One of our employees is considering donating a kidney. Would the disability that follows be covered under the New York State Disability Benefits Law?

Answer: Yes. The New York State Disability Benefits Law is found in Article 9 of the New York Workers’ Compensation Law.

  • That article says that “Disability benefits shall be payable to an eligible employee for disabilities …”
  • The definitions section of the article says that “disability” is “the inability of an employee, as a result of injury or sickness not arising out of and in the course of an employment, to perform the regular duties of his employment …”
  • The same section says that the terms “injury” and “sickness” include “incapacitation as a result of being an organ donor in a transplant operation.”

Since incapacitation as a result of being an organ donor in a transplant operation is “injury or sickness,” and disability results from injury or sickness, then it follows that an eligible employee may receive disability benefits for some period of time after a kidney donation.

Jul 26
On Mary’s Mind: The Best Opportunities are the Ones You Might Not be Aware Of

By Mary Byrnes​AAI-M, AU​, Education Department

Some of the best opportunities are the ones that you might not be aware of.  We're going to set aside vacations, winning the lottery, etc. because we all want those things.  We have quite a few conversations with Big I New York members and it's not uncommon for us to hear “I didn't know you have that."  So, I wanted to tell you about something that's really great and pretty unique.

Commercial lines is so interesting; it's not cookie cutter, each insured is different, and you really need to keep your eyes and ears open for exposures that need to be treated.  You also have to know how to treat those exposures once you see them.  As I've mentioned before, spending most of my working career in commercial lines as many of you have, you really develop a passion for it.  Your role as agent to many clients expands to counselor and educator.  At the risk of sounding like a true insurance geek, it's pretty cool to figure out a solution for your client.

How do you take a new producer or one that wants to transition to commercial lines, an account exec, account manager or a customer service rep and give them the background to recognize and treat CL exposures, to develop the calling and passion for it?  How do you train to do these things by yourself and still do the day to day things that you need to do?

We've had a long partnership with New Level Partners, many of you know them from their popular “New Hire Training" program.  About 2 years ago, we started talking to Bill Harwood and Nancy Langton about how the commercial lines training options out there were kind of limited and agencies had to send the attendee out of state, put them up in a hotel, etc.  We thought, wouldn't it be great if we could build a program, give real life examples, provide the knowledge to be able to see, hear and treat the exposures and be able to do it from your office.  That was our initial idea and it took on an awesome life of its own the more we talked about it.

This all culminated to Risk Solutions IQ.  It's a 10 week program that will accomplish all of the training in commercial lines risk recognition, coverage knowledge, and real life that you'd give if you had the time.  Plus, it provides structured training to help your team member stay on a learning track while being able to still work.  RSIQ includes training in Commercial Property, Commercial GL and Workers Comp.   Different types of insureds will be analyzed throughout the program, because exposures are not cookie cutter.   At the end of the program, the attendees will each have to complete a risk solution presentation with the instructor. 

If you have someone in your office, that you'd just like to give them the edge to really make it in this business of commercial lines, give it a shot, sign them up for the program that starts August 6th on our RSIQ page.   Gosh, I wish this was available when I first started out, instead we had those books with the red plastic rectangle that decoded the answers for you.  (If you remember those old books, let me know.)​

Jul 22
Big I New York Welcomes Jim Lombardo as AVP of Learning and Development

Jim Brings More Than 35 Years of Experience in the Insurance Industry to the Premier Association for NYS Insurance Agents & Brokers​

JIm-Headshot_300x200.jpgSyracuse, New York, July 22, 2019 –  Big I New York is proud to welcome Jim Lombardo as the association's AVP of Learning and Development. Lombardo will be responsible for expanding the association's strong education and research offerings to meet the needs and expectations of 21st century learning.

“Simply put, I want Big I New York to be the first and only place where any independent agent goes for education, knowledge, research, and support," Lombardo says. “Our education department will leverage our first-class research and government relations areas to create content our agent/members can use and apply to their everyday operations."

Lombardo joins the team from AmeriCU Insurance Services, LLC, where he served as the Chief Operating Manager. He earned his Bachelor's Degree from SUNY Geneseo and his MBA from SUNY Empire State. He holds the CPCU, AAI, and AIM designations, and has over 35 years of experience in the insurance industry, including serving as an adjunct instructor for Mohawk Valley Community College, Bryant and Stratton, Utica School of Commerce, Keuka ASAP, LeMoyne College and Big I New York.

“Jim's successful track record on the carrier and agency side coupled with his experience and passion for insurance education are unique," says Lisa Lounsbury, Big I New York President and CEO. “He is well positioned to understand the development needs within the industry and deliver on innovative ways to serve today and tomorrow's learner."

As AVP of Learning and Development, Lombardo looks forward to teaching and supporting agents, as well as helping the insurance industry develop new talent. Big I New York will have your back with high-quality classes and webinars, utilizing technology for ease of registration and participation, and reaching into schools and colleges to encourage the next generation of insurance agency personnel.


About Big I NY

Big I New York exists to fulfill the educational, political, and business interests of our more than 1,750 agencies and their 13,000 plus employees. 

We believe independent insurance agents serve customers best with trusted advice and the right coverage options to protect what matters most. Our member independent insurance agents and brokers can provide consumers with a choice of products from more than one insurance company and in turn give consumers unrivaled service, and the best auto, homeowner, and business coverage to meet their changing needs. In addition, most Big I New York members proudly identify themselves as Trusted Choice® agents and brokers, a national consumer brand uniting more than 21,000 independent agencies across the United States. 

For more information, go to or

Jul 22
Two Minutes With Tim: Pet Injury Coverage

​Off hand, I can think of only two subjects about which people are willfully and joyfully irrational:

  • Their sports teams
  • Their pets

The travails of the 2019 Boston Red Sox pitching staff will be the subject for another day. Today, let's talk about insuring our whiskered furry friends when they're riding in our cars. In this episode, a special guest joins me to talk about the coverage options available.

Jul 22
Flood Insurance-Carrier Options are Now in the Law
By Mary Byrnes​AAI-M, AU​, Education Department​​

Flood is one of those coverages that many need, but not many are ecstatic about buying. Effective July 1, 2019 a change went into effect that could open the door to perhaps more affordable options for coverage placement.  It's good if you have the information on what the reform act allows; it might give you an edge on your competition.

You've likely heard the talk at the Federal level about privatization of flood insurance, it's not just talk.

Federal law prohibits lending institutions (banks, credit unions, etc) from making loans on property located in a qualifying special flood hazard area if the community participates in the NFIP unless the property has flood insurance for the entire loan period.  You can find out which communities participate in the NFIP easily. 

Whether you've heard of the Biggert-Waters Flood Reform Act of 2012 is immaterial, but what you do need to know is that there is a big part of it that went into effect on July 1st.  It requires lenders to accept private flood insurance when they issue loans for real property that is in a designated high-risk flood area.

It lays out the conditions that lenders may accept a flood policy other than issued  by the NFIP or a plan offered by a mutual aid society:

1. Mandatory acceptance of private flood insurance


-Issued by an insurer that is properly licensed, admitted, or otherwise approved by a regulatory agency of that jurisdiction to provide insurance
-Coverage must be at least as broad as the Standard Flood Ins. Policy (SFIP) (watch limits, coverage, deductibles, etc)
-Cancellation provisions that are at least as restrictive as the SFIP
-Requires a 45 day notice before cancellation or nonrenewal
 -Notifies the policyholder that coverage is available under the NFIP
-Contains a mortgage interest clause similar to the SFIP
-Includes a provision that a lawsuit must be filed within one year after a written claim denial by the insured

There's a “compliance aid" provision to assist lenders in evaluating and accepting policies.  Lender may rely on the statement, “This policy meets the definition of private flood insurance contained in 42 U.S.C. 4012a(b)(7) and the corresponding regulation."  This statement means that the lender doesn't have to do any further review of the policy language.  This statement can be relied up by the lender, but if the statement is not on the policy, a lender cannot reject the coverage out of hand (the lender would need to review the policy for the required criteria).


2.       Discretionary acceptance of private flood insurance

 ​Lending institutions can at their discretion accept private flood insurance without determining if it meets the criteria of a “private flood policy" as defined by Biggert-Waters (you can find the definition on the directive to credit unions by the NFIP definitions section).  It is not mandatory that the lending institution use this option.

 3.       Coverage by mutual aid societies

Mutual aid societies mean an organization whose members share a common religious, charitable, educational, or fraternal bond.  The one that I could find a reference to was the Amish Aid Plans.
The directive of the National Credit Union Administration is really well laid out and an interesting reference.

This is a step in the right direction, hopefully you'll find somewhat better coverage for your insureds and maybe some rate relief.
Jul 19
Big “I” Applauds House Repeal of “Cadillac” Tax
​WASHINGTON, D.C., July 17, 2019—The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I") today applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing legislation which would repeal the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) 40% excise tax or “Cadillac" tax. Reps. Joe Courtney (D-Connecticut) and Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania) are the lead sponsors of H.R. 748, the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act.

“As the country's oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents, the Big 'I' is greatly concerned about the impact of the ACA's 40% excise tax," says Charles Symington, Big “I" senior vice president of external, industry & government affairs. “This harmful tax will not only hit many of our small business members and their clients starting in 2022, but over time will affect more and more individuals because the tax threshold is tied to a very slow measure of inflation. This snowball effect will do irreparable damage to the employee benefits marketplace. The Big 'I' fully supports repealing this destructive tax and thanks Reps. Joe Courtney (D-Connecticut) and Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania) for their hard work to ensure this tax never sees the light of day."​

Congress has repeatedly acknowledged problems with the “Cadillac" tax and most recently delayed the tax until 2022. Starting in 2022, the ACA will impose a 40% tax on health benefits that exceed an established annual cost. The Alliance to Fight the 40 predicts that the tax will lead to a reduction in employer-sponsored coverage and an increase in employee cost sharing— the exact opposite of the ACA's stated goals. This will be harmful to middle-income Americans across the country. For these reasons, the Big “I" strongly supports legislation to repeal this tax.

“It is imperative that Congress protect the employer-sponsored healthcare system for the 181 million Americans who depend on it," says Wyatt Stewart, Big “I" senior director of federal government affairs. “Given the overwhelmingly bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, the Big 'I' strongly urges the U.S. Senate to pass this legislation as soon as possible."​

Founded in 1896, the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I") is the nation's oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing more than 25,000 agency locations united under the Trusted Choice brand. Trusted Choice independent agents offer consumers all types of insurance—property, casualty, life, health, employee benefit plans and retirement products—from a variety of insurance companies. 
Jul 17
Fast Five: Jim Lombardo

JIm-Headshot_300x200.jpgGet to know our new AVP of Learning and Development, Jim Lombardo.

​Why does continuing education matter? It is imperative that we as professionals stay up to date on changes, events and topics that could impact our customers. As independent agents we want to ensure our clients get the best, most recent and most comprehensive protections available and we need to stay current in order to offer that.​

Share two past experiences that will help you lead Learning and Development. Well first of all, being an agent for the past twenty plus years- starting an agency, buying an agency, selling an agency will all help me help others. Secondly, I have experience as a company employee- underwriting, marketing, claims and training.

Describe a typical morning.  I get up, have a small cup of coffee, a light breakfast and catch up on the scores from last night's baseball games, the news and emails.

What surprised you in your first week with Big I NY?  I was taken aback by all that we offer- many things I was aware of and utilized but also many more offerings that I didn't know about- I am excited to make sure we incorporate as much as possible into our course offerings.

Any hidden talents?  I can play drums, guitar and banjo.

Bonus round - plug anything you want... (charity, passion, business...anything)  I am very proud of my children's accomplishments, their professions and their ability to think on their own (even though I don't always agree with their position!!...ha ha).

Jul 17
Why Hiring Older Workers is Good for Your Business

“In coming decades, many forces will shape our economy and our society, but in all likelihood, no single factor will have as pervasive an effect as the aging of our population." – Ben Bernanke​

When it comes to retirement, a significant cultural shift is well under way. More and more people are choosing to remain in the workforce beyond traditional retirement age. An entire demographic is reimagining retirement, and this change requires employers to simultaneously reshape their own notions about work, retirement and age in order to stay competitive.

A few fast facts:

  • By 2024, one in four workers in the United States will be 55 or older. By comparison, in 1994, workers over the age of 55 accounted for about one in 10 workers. (US Department of Labor)
  • In 1996, less than 46 percent of people age 60 to 64 were working. In 2016, that percentage grew to 56 percent. In 2026, it's expected to reach almost 60 percent. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • 85 percent of today's baby boomers plan to continue to work into their  70s and even 80s. (Special Committee on Aging)

At WAHVE, we believe in the power and performance of experienced workers. We make it easy for you to hire work-at-home vintage professionals who are matched to the specific needs of your business. But if you're like many employers, you might still be wondering how hiring an older work-at-home employee can benefit you:

  1. Retain valuable knowledge – This may be the most obvious benefit of hiring an older worker, whether they work remotely or not. Retiring workers have a career's worth of institutional knowledge at their fingertips that can't be easily, quickly or inexpensively replaced. In addition to having the knowledge and skills required to perform the job itself, they have years of experiences that have taught them how to navigate difficult situations, solve problems on their own and effectively manage relationships with colleague and clients.
  2. Fill the talent gap – As we discussed in Can Remote Work Fill the Talent Shortage, there are more than 7 million job openings in the United States, and not enough employees to fill them. Employers often can't find the qualified workers that they need. To fill this gap, it's inevitable that employers will need to consider hiring older remote workers. Employers benefit from their vast knowledge, while employees benefit from being able to stay employed and enjoy the work-life balance they desire.
  3. Boost work ethic – According to an article in Deloitte Insights, research shows that older workers are more likely to demonstrate positive “organizational citizenship." This means they are more likely to work hard, show up on time, help coworkers, and go the extra mile when needed.
  4. Innovate – Innovation is an attribute usually reserved for younger workers, but research suggests that older workers can be just as creative and innovative as younger peers if given the chance. Additionally, creating a generationally diverse workforce can also spur innovation, as discussed in Why Generational Diversity Is the Ultimate Competitive Advantage.

There's no turning back. Our population is aging. People are living longer and retiring later. And more people than ever are working from home. Older workers offer incredible value to employers who hire them. Are you ready to reap the benefits?

 About the author

SharonEmek.jpgSharon Emek, Ph.D., CIC, is founder and CEO of Work At Home Vintage Experts (WAHVE).  WAHVE ( is an innovative contract talent solution that matches retiring, experienced career professionals with a company's talent needs. WAHVE bridges the gap between an employer's need for highly skilled professional talent and seasoned professionals desiring to extend their career working from home. From screening to placement, WAHVE is a comprehensive solution to qualifying, hiring, and managing experienced remote talent.​

Jul 15
Workers Comp Loss Costs To Drop 10%

​The New York State Department of Financial Services has approved an average 10 percent decrease in Workers' Compensation loss costs, the New York Compensation Insurance Rating Board announced today. The new loss costs apply effective October 1, 2019. The decrease was recommended by the board in the filing it submitted to the department on May 15.

The board also said that it will post the full schedule of loss costs by classification code on its website shortly.

Jul 15
Sexual Harassment Training - Deadline Approaching!

By Mary Byrnes​AAI-M, AU​, Education Department

Sexual Harassment Training is required to be provided by all NYS employers to all of their employees by October 9, 2019.  It's a little less than 90 days until the deadline.  If you haven't provided the required training to your employees yet, there's still time. Big I New York is providing an easy-to-follow, helpful guide on how to get it done.  

Our guide includes options for DIY training, a webinar vendor option, or bringing someone in to do training in a meeting setting. Many agents we've spoken to have decided to go with the DIY training, and that's what we did at Big I NY.  The guide walks you through each step and provides the links to videos for the DIY option, and you can do that one at no cost.  We try to make it as easy as possible for our member agencies to comply with the requirement; it's another great benefit of Big I NY membership. 

You can find the helpful guide to sexual harassment prevention training on our website.  

Please note, New York City has separate requirements for training including both employees and how independent contractors are counted.  If your agency is located in NYC, you should visit the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC website.

For those agencies that have administered the training to their agency staff, you're ahead of the game.  Woohoo!  Way to go!​

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