Risk Insider: Carolyn Snow

It’s Time for the Certificate of Insurance To Die

By: | February 17, 2016 • 2 min read
Carolyn Snow is director of risk management at Humana and served as president of RIMS in 2014. She can be reached at [email protected]

As a novice underwriter, one of my responsibilities was approving requests for certificates of insurance.  At that time, insurance companies actually underwrote the request and issued the COI.

Finally the carriers figured out it was a waste of time and money since virtually nothing adverse ever happened. Then they told the agents/brokers the COI was their job.

I naïvely hoped COIs would also go away over the course of my career, but the opposite has occurred.

Over time the occasional certificate has turned into a glut of paperwork.  Requests for Proposals contain massive amounts of conditions driven by consultants who make their living by coming up with unnecessary requests.

It’s time for the certificate of insurance to die and I am in favor of a violent death.

Companies have sprung up to check certificates and if it says Smith Inc. instead of Smith Incorporated it must be done again. Don’t get me started on requests for additional insured status.

Most years RIMS has a session on certificates and people flock to it by the hundreds.  Over time it has been one of the most popular sessions.

COIs float around offices like dust in a desert.  People request them, people issue them, people get them and people file them.

At least a couple of times a week I get an envelope that floated around the company for days and finally gets to me. I, of course, give it to someone else.

Brokers have departments dedicated to certificates and even with the best automated systems they still take time.  The request generally comes from a business area which really does not understand what they need or how to complete the request form, so someone must help get the information together.

Once done and sent to the original requester they frequently discover they really needed something else or the consultant does not like the size of the font and it all starts again.

Where is the voice screaming – Stop the Insanity!

The value of the certificate is far outweighed by the waste of time and money and inefficiencies of the systems.  The whole process could be handled by simply putting an attestation in the agreement that certain levels of insurance will be maintained and in event of loss involving the agreement, the insurance must be produced.

All those paper certificates should be shredded and used for a ticker tape parade in Time Square.  I have always wanted one, but I am pretty confident I am not going to be on a Super Bowl winning team at this point in my life.

Since there is an entire industry built around the process, no doubt some will disagree. If you do, don’t write, call or text me.  My mind is made up and totally closed on the subject.

Emails will be deleted, texts will be ignored, phone calls will be disconnected and snail mail will go in the shredder for the parade.

It’s time for the certificate of insurance to die and I am in favor of a violent death.  In fact, I confess to committing the murder.

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.


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.


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]