Certain strategies can provide greater stability for agents and their clients amid stormy seas. Chief among those is selecting the right insurance partner. What other considerations come into play?
STABILITY IN AN UNSTABLE MARKET
Amid uncertainty, agents must advocate for business clients that may be struggling
By Krista Mayes
The global health crisis. The hardening insurance market. More uncertainty ahead. Weathering the perfect storm of an unstable and everchanging market is the new normal. And independent agents have the added responsibility of advocating for clients whose businesses may be struggling while carriers simultaneously increase rates and scale back on coverages.
Agents and programs working with behavioral healthcare organizations bear this responsibility more than most. In the behavioral healthcare market, a niche our team at Addiction Treatment Providers (ATP) has been focused on serving for 15 years, two-thirds of participating member organizations surveyed by the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) reported a decrease in revenue since February 2020.
While the pandemic has had an impact by complicating all facets of life and business, we’ve been seeing the behavioral health sector insurance market turning for the better part of the last two years. Carriers have been increasing auto and umbrella rates, tightening underwriting and modifying appetites to get on the road to profitability. This includes sub-limits for abuse and other underlying exposures within umbrellas, carving out for-profit entities and putting moratoriums on all new business within the sector.
While the pandemic has had an impact by complicating all facets of life and business, we’ve been seeing the behavioral health sector insurance market turning for the better part of the last two years.
There are, however, strategies that can provide more stability for you and your clients amid stormy seas. Agents know that chief among those is selecting an insurance partner that can help you mitigate the effects of market disruption and navigate what’s ahead. There are characteristics that apply to all risk placement and then there are a few to look for when placing high-risk, complicated, niche business.
Placing business with a financially strong, top-rated carrier is a given. For harder-to-place niche business, program business is sometimes the only option for the specialized, comprehensive coverage certain types of risks require. When this is the case, working with programs that have a strong relationship with a highly rated carrier is obviously important. Programs many times present more stability when they have a track record of commitment to their niche sectors. They are invested in the program’s success and can be more nimble than a direct writer.
Robust coverage and appetite
Finding a one-stop-shop for robust insurance coverage is key for clients in any industry— and it’s still a very real possibility in today’s market. Comprehensive coverage is the crux of a turnkey insurance solution that provides protection against a range of risks and streamlines your account management with one trusted partner.
In the behavioral healthcare space, beyond the basics of general liability, abuse/molestation, professional liability, property and auto coverage, be on the lookout for programs that offer additional key coverages like accident and health coverage for participants and volunteers, workers comp and cyberliability.
A program with an appetite for a wide range of nonprofit and for-profit organizations (e.g., outpatient addiction treatment facilities, residential addiction treatment facilities, intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs, medication assisted treatment (MAT) clinics, sober living homes/recovery residences and outpatient mental health facilities, among others) can also help you safeguard and serve your clients more efficiently, while delivering value from a partner that is truly steeped in the industry.
In-depth industry experience
As the saying goes, “Experience is the best teacher.” This is certainly true in the world of insurance. An insurance program that has invested in a niche market for years has the benefit of first-hand experience in helping a particular type of organization adapt to challenging market condition—as our team shepherded agents and their behavioral healthcare clients through the devastating financial crisis in 2007-2008.
Adversity aside, the more experience an insurance partner has in serving a specific market, the better equipped they are to understand your clients’ exposures, protect them with expertly crafted coverage and help you build on your own knowledge—furthering the expertise you bring to your clients.
Proactive thought leadership
An insurance program’s thought leadership is also a good indicator of its bona fide expertise. Research or ask how they are involved in the business community of a specific industry. Do they publish industry-specific insights demonstrating their expertise? Are they an active member of well-respected industry associations? In the behavioral healthcare community, these would be groups like the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence (AATOD) and the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR).
Working with a partner that is at the forefront of industry developments and trends goes a long way in providing the kind of steady, proactive and forward-thinking service you and your clients deserve.
The importance of having an insurance partner that has demonstrated its dedication to the industry and remains firmly committed to continue serving the market moving forward cannot be emphasized enough. Don’t be shy to ask a specialty market outright about their commitment and how they plan to continue supporting agents and insureds, especially in a difficult market. Be on the lookout for programs that are finding new, creative ways to meet the needs of the sector and help agents like you achieve their goals.
A good insurance partner does not attempt to be all things to all agents. But with a specialized focus, robust offerings, proven expertise and a steadfast commitment to the industry, it can provide sorely needed stability in an unstable market … and so much more.
Krista Mayes is the program director of Addiction Treatment Providers (ATP) Insurance Program. Built by NSM Insurance Group, a provider of specialty insurance programs, ATP has been partnering with independent agents for more than 15 years to deliver programs that provide coverages addiction treatment and mental health facilities need. To learn more, visit ATPins.com or contact Krista at KHMayes@nsminc.com.