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.

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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.

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“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

2017 Teddy Awards

The Era of Engagement

The very best workers’ compensation programs are the ones where workers aren’t just the subject of the program, they’re a part of it.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 5 min read

Employee engagement, employee advocacy, employee participation — these are common threads running through the programs we honor this year in the 2017 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Awards, sponsored by PMA Companies.

A panel of judges — including workers’ comp executives who actively engage their own employees — selected this year’s winners on the basis of performance, sustainability, innovation and teamwork. The winners hail from different industries and regions, but all make people part of the solution to unique challenges.

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Valley Health System is all-too keenly aware of the risk of violence in health care settings, running the gamut from disruptive patients to grieving, overwrought family members to mentally unstable active shooters.

Valley Health employs a proactive and comprehensive plan to respond to violent scenarios, involving its Code Atlas Team — 50 members of the clinical staff and security departments who undergo specialized training. Valley Health drills regularly, including intense annual active shooter drills that involve participation from local law enforcement.

The drills are unnerving for many, but the program is making a difference — the health system cut its workplace violence injuries in half in the course of just one year.

“We’re looking at patient safety and employee safety like never before,” said Barbara Schultz, director of employee health and wellness.

At Rochester Regional Health’s five hospitals and six long-term care facilities, a key loss driver was slips and falls. The system’s mandatory safety shoe program saw only moderate take-up, but the reason wasn’t clear.

Rather than force managers to write up non-compliant employees, senior manager of workers’ compensation and employee safety Monica Manske got proactive, using a survey as well as one-on-one communication to suss out the obstacles. After making changes based on the feedback, shoe compliance shot up from 35 percent to 85 percent, contributing to a 42 percent reduction in lost-time claims and a 46 percent reduction in injuries.

For the shoe program, as well as every RRH safety initiative, Manske’s team takes the same approach: engaging employees to teach and encourage safe behaviors rather than punishing them for lapses.

For some of this year’s Teddy winners, success was born of the company’s willingness to make dramatic program changes.

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Delta Air Lines made two ambitious program changes since 2013. First it adopted an employee advocacy model for its disability and leave of absence programs. After tasting success, the company transitioned all lines including workers’ compensation to an integrated absence management program bundled under a single TPA.

While skeptics assume “employee advocacy” means more claims and higher costs, Delta answers with a reality that’s quite the opposite. A year after the transition, Delta reduced open claims from 3,479 to 1,367, with its total incurred amount decreased by $50.1 million — head and shoulders above its projected goals.

For the Massachusetts Port Authority, change meant ending the era of having a self-administered program and partnering with a TPA. It also meant switching from a guaranteed cost program to a self-insured program for a significant segment of its workforce.

Massport’s results make a great argument for embracing change: The organization saved $21 million over the past six years. Freeing up resources allowed Massport to increase focus on safety as well as medical management and chopped its medical costs per claim in half — even while allowing employees to choose their own health care providers.

Risk & Insurance® congratulates the 2017 Teddy Award winners and holds them in high esteem for their tireless commitment to a safe workforce that’s fully engaged in its own care. &

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More coverage of the 2017 Teddy Award Winners and Honorable Mentions:

Advocacy Takes Off: At Delta Air Lines, putting employees first is the right thing to do, for employees and employer alike.

 

Proactive Approach to Employee SafetyThe Valley Health System shifted its philosophy on workers’ compensation, putting employee and patient safety at the forefront.

 

Getting It Right: Better coordination of workers’ compensation risk management spelled success for the Massachusetts Port Authority.

 

Carrots: Not SticksAt Rochester Regional Health, the workers’ comp and safety team champion employee engagement and positive reinforcement.

 

Fit for Duty: Recognizing parallels between athletes and public safety officials, the city of Denver made tailored fitness training part of its safety plan.

 

Triage, Transparency and TeamworkWhen the City of Surprise, Ariz. got proactive about reining in its claims, it also took steps to get employees engaged in making things better for everyone.

A Lesson in Leadership: Shared responsibility, data analysis and a commitment to employees are the hallmarks of Benco Dental’s workers’ comp program.

 

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