An Indispensable Partner
After decades coaching college football, Dave Roberts launched a new venture — Vital Care EMS, a South Carolina medical transportation company. There was a steep learning curve at first, and the company’s experience mod went “through the roof.”
Willis Towers Watson’s Christopher Bailey stepped in and analyzed Vital Care’s program top to bottom, identifying everything from quick-fix issues to long-term improvements. Roberts, the company’s president, credited Bailey with helping him turn things around.
“[He] helped us grow from five trucks and 20 people to 100 trucks and 400 people,” said Roberts. “He’s always given me great advice — even when I don’t want to listen to him.”
Roberts said the company could never have grown so fast without Bailey.
“We’ve been approached by every person in the state to [change brokers] and I won’t even go there,” he said. “I have the highest regard for him.”
“He is the bomb,” said Dustin Pelletier, franchise owner and operator of the Big Air Trampoline Park in Spartanburg, S.C. Pelletier said Bailey had never worked with a trampoline park before. But he learned the industry so fast and so thoroughly that he soon found better insurance solutions than even Big Air corporate could offer.
“He got me better cover with less expensive premiums — better than corporate,” he said.
In fact it’s so good, said Pelletier, that corporate is asking, “Hey, can we get that guy’s number?”
A Champion for Small Employers
Dixie Leavitt’s Riley Holman understands that often the person managing workers’ comp for a small entity wears several other hats as well. That’s why he makes it a priority to streamline and simplify coverage as much as possible, while offering expert advice on safety improvements that won’t break the bank.
He also understands that even one workplace tragedy can turn a small business upside down in a moment.
Holman saw that playing out with a sand and gravel company in a tough position. A workplace accident had led to a double fatality and a large claim payout.
Carriers were not inclined to take the company on, and they were only able to find coverage with a nonstandard carrier, paying more for less coverage than they needed.
“We were practically uninsurable,” said the company president. “Other brokers said, ‘There’s almost nothing we can do.’ “
Holman disagreed. He knew of a standard carrier with an appetite for their business. He arranged for underwriters to do a loss control visit to better understand the actual exposures, as well as the measures the company was taking to prevent future incidents.
“Riley leveraged his relationships and brought the carriers out to see the operations and to show that the fatality didn’t tell the whole story,” said the company president.
The new program saved more than $100,000, rescuing the company from being slowly strangled by excessive premiums.
The Milwaukee Center for Independence was thrown for a loop with a substantial legislative change impacting the state’s workers’ comp law. The law specified that the entity providing financial management services would become the employer of record for workers’ comp purposes for workers providing long-term care benefits under programs administered by the state.
That put MCFI, a nonprofit, in the crosshairs, as the fiscal agent responsible for withholding income taxes for employees of one such program.
The law “would have meant we had to put 18,000 workers’ comp policies in place,” at an expense of about $2.9 million, said Rob Wedel, CFO and vice president of finance for MCFI. It’s a burden that could have buried MCFI. But Gallagher’s Linda Joski came to the rescue.
“Linda settled everybody down and got the right people in place, connected [the carrier] United Heartland and the state and got everyone on the same page with a viable solution,” Wedel said.
Joski helped arrange one master program for all participants involved, eliminating the administrative burden of single policies. Joski also negotiated using MCFI’s experience mod of .72 rather than the typical 1.00 used for new entities — resulting in additional savings of 28 percent (about $2.3 million).
Joski’s dedication and creativity “saved the state of Wisconsin about $5 million … it was just phenomenal,” said Wedel.
Bringing the ‘Wow’ Factor
Machelle McKenzie’s clients tend to talk about her in extremes — but in a good way.
“If she ever leaves, my business goes with her,” said Cheryl Wyatt, director of human resources for Stronghold Ltd. in La Porte, Texas. “There’s nothing she can’t answer, and I never have to wait for a response. I literally send emails at 2 in the morning … and I actually get her at 2 in the morning.”
Wyatt’s company split into two entities in early 2016, a complex undertaking with a high volume of moving parts.
“We wanted all of our billing to be separate,” said Wyatt. “Machelle had to split out the cost by entity. In particular for workers’ comp, that’s not easy … we work in almost every state.”
Wyatt was impressed with how quickly McKenzie was able to find a workable solution, not to mention how quickly she completed the project.
“She did it in a couple of weeks,” said Wyatt. “It would have taken me six months.”
Clients value McKenzie’s ability to assess every angle and identify substantive ways to help the business succeed.
For one client, McKenzie recently discovered and corrected a carrier reporting error, bringing the company’s experience mod down from .98 to a more manageable .80. For another, she got a letter of credit reduced from $990,000 to $200,000.
The Next Frontier in Claims Audits
Jenny Novoa, director of risk management for The Gap, threw down the gauntlet for her broker, Willis Towers Watson’s Joe Picone: Help us find a better way to evaluate third-party administrators (TPAs). More specifically, Novoa wanted to measure TPA performance based on outcomes rather than using standard “best practice” audits.
“We had to figure out how to build a tool to do that,” said Novoa.
Picone rolled up his sleeves and dug in, recruiting additional stakeholders from Foot Locker, Saks Fifth Avenue and Corvel.
To build the new audit tool, Picone, Novoa and the team incorporated numerous factors into the claim process such as employee co-morbidities, failures in the return-to-work process and life events as well as the hiring process and performance management.
They completed audits using both the new tool and the old tool, and compared the results, which turned out to be a revelation. Using the traditional audit tool, some claims scored high even though they had poor outcomes, while some with good outcomes had lower scores.
For example, a file that received a perfect “100” score on a best practice audit may have exceeded expected medical disability guidelines by 400 percent.
Using the outcomes-based audit tool, there was a far higher correlation between high scores and good outcomes. It’s a “very cool tool,” said Novoa — the first of its kind in the industry.
Rolling Into Claims Success
Power Brokers love a challenge. Marsh’s Dennis Tierney got that and more when he took on Motivate International as a client. A global bike share leader, Motivate International partners with governments and brands in major cities around the world.
The company was at a crossroads after the acquisition of a troubled bike share operator. The acquired company, which didn’t have a risk management department, had amassed $10 million in claims in only three years.
“Our broker at the time was on cruise control,” said Grant Barkey, Motivate’s risk manager. “We needed somebody who was strong on claims, someone who understood our business.”
Barkey partnered with Tierney and his team at Marsh, and he is effusive when explaining how far things have come since then.
“My entire team is pretty rock star,” said Barkey. “[They] really turned around our claims and claims management.”
One key hurdle, said Barkey, was that carriers didn’t really understand the bike share business, which is a fairly young industry, or its sometimes nuanced exposure. But Tierney got it, Barkey said, and strove to make sure that carriers could wrap their heads around it.
The company ultimately ended up with a new carrier, said Barkey, and Tierney has been instrumental in ensuring that the carrier has a solid handle on Motivate International’s exposures. The company has made incredible strides in closing out open claims and setting up special handling agreements with the carrier.