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Aug 16
'Best Interest' Rules for Annuities Now in Effect
As you may be aware, Big I NY and PIANY filed a lawsuit against the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) in November of 2018 over an amendment to Regulation 187. We argued that the amendment sets a troubling new standard of “best interest” for life insurance sales, and improperly alters the agent/broker-customer relationship. We are disappointed to report that the court has ruled to uphold the amended regulation.

We remain concerned that this will have negative impacts on New York’s insurance-buying public, and that this amendment will restrict open, honest discussions with our clients—thus weakening the life insurance market and ultimately harming consumers.

Big I New York and PIANY – who collectively represent thousands of insurance agents and brokers across New York State – are carefully considering all available options.

New rules creating a "best interest" standard for annuity sales became effective August 1, 2019. Insurance carriers, agents and brokers must now comply with the new rules for all transactions related to annuity contracts. The same rules will apply to life insurance sales starting on February 1, 2020.

Visit Big I NY's Life Insurance & Annuities Best Practices (Reg 187) resource page for more information on compliance (you must be logged in to view this page).

Contact Scott Hobson if you have any questions.
Aug 16
​Governor Signs New Sexual Harassment Provisions Into Law

imageThis week, Governor Cuomo signed sweeping sexual harassment legislation into law. The legislation includes several significant changes affecting employers in New York.

Elimination of the “Severe and Pervasive" Standard: 

Sexual harassment no longer must be demonstrated to be “severe and pervasive" to be legally actionable. The new law re-categorizes sexual harassment as “unlawful discriminatory practices," and allows for legal action when an individual is subject to “inferior terms, conditions, or privileges of employment" due to their membership in a protected class (age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, familial status, marital status, domestic violence victim status). Effective October 30, 2019.

More time to file a claim:

The statute of limitations for sexual harassment claims in lengthened from one year to three. Effective August 12, 2020.

Non-disclosure agreements affected:

Prohibits non-disclosure agreements from including language restricting an employee from filing a sexual harassment claim. Effective January 1, 2020.

Notice provided to employees:

Requires that all employers must provide their employees, upon hire and at the time of the annual sexual harassment training, notice containing the employer's sexual harassment policy and information and the information presented at the sexual harassment training. Such notice must be in the employee's primary language. The Commissioner of Labor will create templates of the model sexual harassment policy in various languages. Effective immediately. 


Aug 14
NYSDFS Floats Rules For Health Insurance I.D. Cards

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Health insurance identification cards will have to provide specific types of information and might not be physical cards at all, if regulations proposed today by the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) take effect. The proposed regulation on the content of the cards was published in the August 14 edition of New York State Register, the official publication of all state agency regulatory actions.

The proposed rule applies to:

  • Insurers licensed to write accident and health insurance in New York
  • Non-profit medical and dental indemnity corporations or health and hospital service corporations
  • Municipal cooperative health benefit plans
  • Health maintenance organizations
  • Student health plans

They will be required to provide health insurance I.D. cards within 30 days of the effective date of the individual's coverage under an accident and health policy that covers comprehensive hospital, surgical, and medical care. The cards must be issued to the primary insured and to that person's dependents who are over the age of 18.

The cards must be mailed individually to the primary insured and each dependent over age 18. If the dependent resides with the primary insured, they can be mailed together.

In a nod toward modern technology, the rules allow the cards to be in electronic format if the primary insured or dependent consents. This would permit insureds to store their health insurance information on their smart phones.

The rules require cards to provide at minimum the following information:

  • Primary insured's name and I.D. number
  • Each insured dependent's name and I.D. number (if applicable), either on the primary insured's card or on a separate card
  • The insurer's full legal name or its licensed name
  • A statement that the insurer provides and insures the coverage
  • The name of the insurance product or plan
  • A statement as to whether coverage includes out-of-network benefits
  • The names of any health care provider networks and formularies that apply to the product or plan. These names must also be posted on the insurer's website, and the names on the card and the website must match
  • Phone numbers where the insured or health care provider can readily obtain assistance; confirmation of eligibility; verification of benefits; and prior authorization of health care services, if applicable
  • Insurer's web address
  • Applicable annual or plan year deductible
  • Co-payment information that applies to participating health care providers for primary care office visits; specialist office visits; urgent care; and emergency room visits

If any of the information required to be on the card changes, the insurer must provide new cards to the primary insured and dependents over age 18 when the policy or plan renews. Cards issued by an administrator of a self-funded plan must state that the coverage is self-funded and not provided by the insurer.

This regulation has been proposed by the DFS and is not in force yet. The department will accept public comments on the proposal until October 13, 2019.

Aug 12
On Mary's Mind: Active Shooter Coverage

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

The recent news of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, El Paso & Dayton mass shooting incidents has sent us all reeling and left with so many unanswered questions.  The horrors of the individuals and families impacted by these events are unfathomable.  ​

These incidents and the ones that have come before them bring the question of coverage to the forefront for not only our industry but also for insureds who want coverage.  We are starting to see “Active Shooter Coverage" becoming available.  The most interested in coverage are likely to be places where there are large gatherings of people.  If you provide coverage to schools, churches, special events, municipalities, etc. it's not outside of the realm that you'll be questioned about the exposure or coverage.  These types of insureds won't just be looking for the coverage, but they'll probably also be interested in the risk management features of preparedness and crisis management if it's ever needed.

Would this exposure be covered by the CGL and umbrella?  They may be or perhaps not. The trigger on much of the coverage on these forms is “legal liability" of the insured.   Was the insured negligent in some way or did they conduct their business in a reasonably prudent manner?  Many of the types of operations have policies designed for that type of entity specifically and they will vary from carrier to carrier. That question cannot be answered definitely.  Defense may be provided as the duty to defend is usually provided if there is a chance of legal liability on the part of the insured.    

Will the Terrorism Coverage apply?   Terrorism is defined and acts are declared as acts of terrorism at the Federal level (TRIA).

The best advice to gauge whether coverage applies or not is to become very familiar with the policy forms and endorsements. As you're aware…the ifs, ands, buts and howevers all have a world of meaning. 

If you have an insured who is interested in active shooter response training, New York State, Homeland Security and Emergency Services has a training program that is conducted in the Utica area.  They have a train the trainer workshop “Active Shooter Exercise Development Workshop".  There is no fee for the course.  They state, “Participant Audience have come from but are not limited to: Law Enforcement, Elected and Appointed Officials, Schools, Houses of Worship, Entertainment Venues, Health Care, Fire Services, Emergency Management, Emergency Medical Services and Hospitals. Attendees must also be a U.S. citizen or have prior approval to attend. The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) reserves the right to determine eligibility for this course."  Under the Lodging portion of the info, it says that they provide lodging for public sector personnel with some specific criteria listed.  Their calendar is available if you have an insured that might be interested.

It was never anticipated that this would be a subject that we would ever have to tackle.  On that sad note, I hope that this provides you with some answers to help you guide your insureds.

Aug 12
Reminder: It's Peak Hurricane Season

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Lynne McChristian of the Insurance Information Institute has an important reminder today:

Peak hurricane season has arrived. ...

Mid-August through the end of October historically is when most hurricanes form. Remember HIM? Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria made landfall between mid-August and the end of September in 2017. Two Category 4 storms and one Category 5 occurred in a matter of weeks in a season predicted to be slightly above average.Last year’s Hurricane Michael hit in late October. While this year’s latest prediction is for a “near-average season,” hurricane researchers will tell you that it only takes one hurricane making landfall near you to break the law of averages.

To that list, I would add:

This can be a very dangerous time of the year, and you don't have to be located near the Atlantic Ocean to feel the impact of a major storm. Insurance agents, this is an excellent time to contact your clients about storm preparedness. That message makes a good impression on your clients because:

  • It shows you care about their well-being
  • You don't benefit financially; the money they spend to get ready will not go to you
  • It's not an attempt to sell them anything

The northeast does not normally experience the destruction from storms that our fellow citizens in the south face, something for which we can all be grateful. However, damage to our properties and injuries and deaths are very real possibilities. A smart phone app can't help your clients prepare, but you can, and it's a great way to prove your worth to them.

Aug 09
Reminder: 'Best Interest' Rules For Annuities Now In Effect

​Big I New York members are reminded that new rules creating a "best interest" standard for annuity sales are now in effect. The same rules will apply to life insurance sales starting next winter.

The changes to New York Insurance Regulation 187 require insurance carriers, agents and brokers to adopt a number of procedures and practices to act in the "best interest" of the client with regard to annuity and life insurance transactions.

Effective August 1, 2019, insurance carriers, agents and brokers must comply with the new rules for all transactions related to annuity contracts. However, they are not required to comply with regard to life insurance transactions until February 1, 2020. Visit the Life Ins. & Annuities Best Practices (Reg. 187) page in the Answer Center of the Big I New York website for guidance and tools you can use for compliance.

Aug 09
Big I NY Calls on Governor to Sign Regulatory Relief Bills

imageToday, Big I NY joined twenty-five business associations and chambers of commerce in calling for Governor Cuomo to sign two bills that would reduce regulatory compliance burdens on small businesses. In a joint letter delivered to the governor and legislative leaders, the group stressed that the bills would improve the state's business climate and suppport regulatory compliance.

The first bill, A.7540-B/S.5815-C, would provide a cure period for small businesses to correct the first-time violation, rather than be required to pay a substantial fine, while also continuing to protect the public. First-time violations would not be forgiven for regulatory offenses that harm public safety, health, or the environment, violate human or civil rights laws, violate penal law, or result in loss of employee wages or benefits. 

The second bill, A.842/S.5812​, would require state agencies to consider how proposed rules would affect small businesses, including the minimum time needed to comply with any new regulations. State agencies would need to consider the practical, financial, and legal constraints for small businesses, and describe how they intend to communicate the new requirements.

These common-sense changes would help ease burdens on independent agencies and brokerages across the state. The bills, which passed both houses of the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, are expected to be delivered to the governor in the coming months. Once delivered, the governor has ten days to sign or veto the bills.


Aug 09
NY Makes it a Crime to Stage a Car Crash for Insurance Fraud

​ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York state has a new law making it a felony to intentionally cause a car crash in order to collect an insurance payout.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the legislation Thursday.

While insurance fraud and reckless endangerment are already illegal, supporters say the new law will strengthen criminal penalties and give authorities new tools to punish dangerous fraudsters.

So-called “crash-for-cash" schemes involve drivers who purposefully crash into other vehicles. Culprits then try to profit from insurance payouts for unnecessary medical care.

The new law makes it a separate felony to seriously injure another person in a staged crash.

The bill was dubbed “Alice's Law" for Alice Ross, a grandmother killed in Queens in 2003 when a driver looking to commit insurance fraud intentionally hit her vehicle.​


Aug 05
On Mary’s Mind: You Have a New Employee - Now What?

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

​If there's one truth, it's that change is inevitable.  So whether you're saying good luck to someone who's been with your agency forever and is retiring, or you're welcoming someone new, some things will need to be done.  We live in a gorgeous state; there's no two ways about it, but we've got some red tape too. 

Let's work through the red tape first.

We're going to focus on licensing and Sexual Harassment rather than on HR type issues.

Someone leaving?

  • If they are a sub-licensee on the agency corporate/LLC license, they're going to need to come off the license.  It's simple to do, just send an email  to the DFS (licensing@dfs.ny.gov)
  • If that person is the only sub-licensee on the corporate/LLC license, you're going to have to figure out who's going to replace them, don't wait until the last minute. This has to be done with a paper application with the DFS, it doesn't happen on a dime. We always recommend that there be more than 1 sub-licensee, that way if one of them is incapacitated for any reason, the agency doesn't come to a halt. 
  • If the person who is leaving is going to keep their license, they must go in to the DFS website and change their address, agency affiliation,  and email within 30 days of the change
  • If they are keeping their license, they'll need to change their Cybersecurity individual filing.  For more information on how to do that, check out our Cybersecurity Page at Big I New York.

Hiring someone new?

  • If they are licensed, they'll need to change their business address and email in the DFS website.  This should be done within 30 days of the change.
  • It this employee was a sub-licensee on another agency's license, they'll want to make sure that they are taken off of the other agency's license.  They have no control there any longer and they don't want the liabilities.  They can just send an email to the DFS (licensing@dfs.ny.gov)
  • Change the individual Cybersecurity filing on the DFS site, you'll find guidance on what needs to be done on our Cybersecurity Page at Big I New York.
  • Sexual Harassment training-NYS says, new employees should be trained “As employers may be liable for the actions of employees immediately upon hire, the State encourages training as soon as possible. Employers should distribute the policy to employees prior to commencing work and should have it posted."

 Training for the New Hire - If you hire someone who has no insurance experience, it's really hard for the agency to train them on agency procedure and what insurance is as well.  There are tools to help you.

  • What is insurance and how does it work?  We have training programs that are self-paced and interactive.  There are programs for Personal Lines, Commercial Lines, and a combination of both which includes the 15 PL sections & 23 CL sections.  Plus, each of these includes 7 different segments on general insurance knowledge, that start out with “What is insurance?" and each segment builds on the previous one.
  • Since these are self-paced, you could have the employee do the training during part of the day and learning your agency management system and agency procedures during another part of the day.  You can really make it work for you.
  • If you have an employee that is totally new or who has done Personal Lines forever, but that wants to tackle Commercial Lines these are a great option for you.
  • For all of these programs, the manager can be advised of the progress of the participant.
  • Although these courses aren't a substitute or preparatory for licensing, they will provide a great foundation to be drawn on when the licensing class is attended (it'll save them from having the deer in the headlights look).

Licensing your new employee - Which class to send them to

  • If you're thinking of sending someone for the Personal Lines only license, let me give you some cautionary advice.  Unless you are positively, absolutely certain, without a shadow of a doubt that they will only ever handle Personal Lines…don't do it!  Resist the temptation of only 40 hours.
  • If someone has their PL only license and later move into a CL role with the agency, they have to go back for the remainder of the training (if the vendor will even offer it) AND they'll have to take the WHOLE licensing exam including the Personal Lines again.  Even if they qualify for the classwork waiver, they still need to sit for the entire exam. 
  • Unless the new licensee is going to be a party to an agency/carrier contract they will likely not need a Property/Casualty Agents (PC) or Life, Accident & Health (LAH) license, these are both agents licenses.  More often than not, they will need either a Brokers License (BR) for property/casualty or a Life Broker (LB) for life &/or accident & health.  The PC & LAH licenses follow the relationship between the licensee and the insurance carrier, whereas the BR & LB follow the licensee.  It is very common for us to see licensees with a PC or LAH that show as “inactive" because the licensee has no certificate of appointment with a carrier.  The DFS allows 1 renewal of an inactive license, upon the second renewal date, an inactive license won't be renewed.

If you have any questions about licensing, the training for new hires, Cybersecurity etc., just get in touch with us.  Really, we're here to help.  If your agency has never used the training for new hires and you think it might be a good option for you and you'd like a demo, let us know, we'll make it happen.  ​

Aug 02
TNC Drivers May Still Have Primary Coverage, Despite Rules Change

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Despite the expiration of a temporary regulation on July 1, transportation network company (TNC) drivers should still be able to rely on auto liability insurance provided by the TNCs.

When the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) issued Insurance Regulation 35-E in 2017, it included a temporary provision requiring group coverage for TNC drivers to be primary over drivers' personal policies. The provision was originally due to expire on January 1, 2019, but the DFS extended it to July 1, 2019. The department chose not to extend it a second time.

Consequently, the regulation no longer requires TNCs to provide primary coverage. However, it appears that most insurance carriers have decided not to offer TNC driving coverage as an option for personal policies. Big I New York is aware of only one carrier that offers this option. That carrier does not use independent agents as its primary distribution force.

The major TNCs appear to have stepped into this breach. Lyft offers drivers the opportunity to purchase a Rideshare Policy from GEICO, though it appears that this might not be available in New York. It's site doesn't provide any detail about any insurance it provides for its drivers.

Uber has this:

 

In addition, the public can download Uber's certificates of insurance. They carry group coverage from Allstate, written through AON.

Based on this, it appears that Uber is providing primary liability coverage for its drivers, and Lyft might be. Big I New York members who have clients that drive for a TNC may want to discuss the various coverage arrangements with them, and encourage them to confirm any coverage provided by the TNC.

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