International Studies

Universities Cancel Classes in Israel

Citing security concerns, many U.S. schools have cancelled study programs in Israel. Other travelers appear more cautious than scared.
By: | August 27, 2014 • 4 min read

Amid the turmoil in the Middle East, a number of major American colleges and universities have cancelled fall semester undergraduate study programs in Israel.

Although a cease fire was recently announced, UMass Amherst had already cancelled all study for undergraduates in Israel for the fall semester, due to the fighting in the Gaza Strip, university officials announced.

Advertisement




The university said its International Risk Management Committee made the decision based on advice from the U.S. State Department, insurance companies, risk management consultants and other sources.

Insurance companies cover students for health, accidents, security and even evacuation, for some colleges.

New York University suspended its Tel Aviv program for the fall semester after being approached by some students and their families who expressed concern about the situation in the region.

“The safety of these 10 students was our foremost concern in our deliberations about whether or not to disrupt the academic program,” the university said. “We look forward to resuming classes at the Tel Aviv site in January.”

Other schools that have suspended programs in Israel or the West Bank include Trinity College in Hartford, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Claremont McKenna College in California, and Penn State, according to the Associated Press.

Colleges told the AP that security was the top concern.

“The State Department recommends that U.S. citizens consider the deferral of non-essential travel to Israel and the West Bank,” according to the department’s latest travel advisory for the region.

“Israel is certainly on our list for civil unrest” at Middleburg, Va.-based Wallach & Co. Inc., providers of international travel insurance, said Belinda Smallwood, office manager.

“Basically, there are certain countries that go on the civil unrest list and underwriters can choose whether they want to add more war risk coverage,” she said.

John W. Cook, president of East Hartford, Conn.-based QuoteWright.com, said coverage for travel to Israel is still available, but the following exclusions are common to all travel insurance policies: declared or undeclared war, or any act of war; and any government regulations or prohibitions.

“So cancellations or interruptions caused either directly or indirectly by the military action will probably not be covered,” said Cook, whose firm’s website allows consumers to compare, review and buy travel insurance.

Thomas R. Petersen, vice president, Petersen International Underwriters

Thomas R. Petersen, vice president, Petersen International Underwriters

Thomas R. Petersen, vice president of Valencia, Calif.-based Petersen International Underwriters, said his firm has noticed that Israel has made an “incredibly strong push to say how safe it is to be in Israel.”

“When you get rockets lobbed near to the airport, it’s getting awfully close, but that doesn’t seem to penetrate a lot of people’s thinking,” said Petersen, whose firm is a Lloyd’s of London cover-holder that handles all forms of special risk insurance administration.

Petersen said his firm has not seen a decrease in sales of travel medical policies for Israel. “What we have seen is an increase in inquiries in war and terrorism coverage,” he said.

“I would say compared to normal it’s probably, on average, a 500 percent greater amount [of inquiries] compared to last year,” Petersen said. “Is that 50 more inquiries? Probably. I know it’s a significantly higher number of people asking about war and terrorism coverage than they ever have in the past.”

Indications are the same number of people in general still plan to travel and they don’t fear it, Petersen said. “They may be more cautious as opposed to scared,” he added.

Petersen noted that many of the requests his firm receives for travel medical policies are from fairly young people.

Advertisement




“A lot of them in theory have to be students, because a lot of them stay for six months or nine months or a year at a time,” he said. “I mean they’re not going just to see the Wailing Wall and then getting back here. They’ll be spending time there.”

Wallach & Co.’s Smallwood said the firm’s global health care plan for undergraduate students studying abroad lasts up to six months.

“You purchase it by the week and it’s $250,000 in coverage with a $100 deductible per illness or injury,” Smallwood said. “It covers accident and sickness coverage, which includes medical evacuation and repatriation.”

The standard rate would be $9 per week. In Israel, Wallach would have to know where a student was going to be located to determine a quote, Smallwood said.

Israeli educational programs are not the only victims of civil unrest. UMass Amherst also suspended programs in Syria, and St. Lawrence University in New York called off its program in Kenya, citing a State Department travel advisory.

Steve Yahn was a freelance writer based in New York. He had more than 40 years of financial reporting and editing experience. Comments can be directed to [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

Advertisement




That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

Advertisement




Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]