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How We’re Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Hey everyone, and welcome back to Harry Levine Insurance on YouTube.

We’re recording today live from home. We’re in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic (at least, what we hope is the middle) and we’ve transitioned our entire team to a work from home model.

The great news is we’ve been able to truly adapt, find some great software solutions, and make sure that we can be there for you, just as if it was a month or two ago and we were working full steam ahead at either of our physical office locations.

 

HLI Is Local, Central Florida-Focused, and Available

What we want to really emphasize today is how Harry Levine Insurance is handling our current global circumstances and how it affects you.

We’re here for you!

We’re still your local Central Florida and Greater Florida insurance agency. And we’ve been able to fully embrace the reaches of the internet to make sure that you’re still receiving the same high-quality service as always.

 

What HLI Is Doing For Our Current Clients

What are we doing for our clients right now? Well, we’re doing absolutely everything that we’ve always done.

We’re manning phones, we’re responding to emails, we’re taking requests through our website, we’re issuing new business, and we’re servicing existing policies. So please keep in mind that, despite the great challenges that are out there right now, we’re at full steam ahead and we’re here for you.

Woman working on laptop with family in background

What Can HLI Offer to Non-Clients Right Now?

What can we do right now for people who aren’t our clients?

Well, that’s a fantastic question. We’re here for them too! Tell a neighbor, tell a friend, jump on a Zoom video conference (because of course you’re not hanging out with them). Let them know that we can review their insurance programs for them. We can make sure that they’re receiving every discount that they deserve and that they have the right insurance products for them.

A lot of people are quick to think, “Ooh, I can look for a lower price now I’ve got some extra time on my hands. That sounds like a good idea.” But we encourage you to, first and foremost, always put coverage first.

Premiums are incredibly important and getting the best economic situation for you is also critical. However, this is not a time to cut coverages.

We hear a lot about automobile insurance carriers giving some rebates or refunds, things like that, and that makes good sense because people are on the road quite a bit less. However, whether you’re going to the grocery store or going to a medical appointment, or for whatever essential purposes you may be out of your home right now, it is a very, very serious time when it comes to accidents and their potential costs. Especially with everyone feeling the economic pains, there’s probably no more dangerous time to be involved in a high-stakes lawsuit should an accident occur.

car cutout and gavel

That’s why we feel it’s critically important to make sure that you have the right product for you, a part of which is the best price that you can find for the most appropriate coverage for you. Not just the lowest price on the marketplace.

Another thing we can do, particularly on the commercial business side, is to make sure that your program fits your business. We’ve done a ton of reviews as of late, particularly for commercial insurance, that’s based on sales and revenue. That way we can ensure that premiums are as close to true as possible and that your needs are truly being met.

Because even if your business is shut down, you may have inventory in storage, you still have a physical location in many cases, and there’s still a ton of risk out there, even though things seem to have come to a halt.

 

How Does Business Interruption Insurance Work?

One of the biggest questions that we’ve been receiving right now during COVID-19 is about Business Income and Interruption protection on commercial policies. Even President Trump has weighed in on it and here’s what I know.

First and foremost, I’m not a claims adjuster and only a licensed claims adjuster can speak to the individual outcome of any specific claim or potential claim. However, in general, we are encouraging people to file claims for Business Income and Interruption, but we’re also cautioning them to go into the process with no expectation.

There’s a ton of public debate swirling over whether or not individual insurance policies cover Business Income and Interruption for a viral pandemic. There are many insurance contracts that actually have specific language that excludes such things, along with other things like nuclear explosion or the outbreak of war.

That’s simply because it’s very hard, if not impossible, to price for those things based on anticipated risk because there’s no way to know what the probable loss (or cost) of those events are.

"Sorry We're Closed" sign in business door

There are policies, however, that are either silent or somehow indicate that there might be coverage, so that’s why we really need to sit back, encourage everyone to go ahead and file that claim, but also realize that nobody really knows at this point what the final outcome’s going to be. And the final outcome may be very different depending upon your insurance contract and your insurance company.

By and large, though (and this is only anecdotally) what we are observing is that every single Business Income and Interruption claim that we have filed so far (and we’ve filed many) has been denied based on exact policy language and the exclusions that are currently being debated.

Will the government and/or state Departments of Insurance step in and take action such that that might change? Maybe so, maybe no. The truth is, we’re kind of along for the ride on that. So stay in touch with us, stay in touch with your agent, and make sure that you understand your coverage and that you’re making the best decisions you can based on the best information you can receive.

On the personal line side, it is all about automobile insurance refunds. And don’t forget: you’re using your home quite a bit more now, so now’s certainly not the time to cut corners on your home insurance. You’re putting great strain on plumbing systems, HVAC systems (air conditioning and heat) and other things like that as they’re being utilized now basically seven days a week, 24 hours a day vs. where someone might have been out 8-10 hours a day working previous to this time.

But to go back to the auto insurance refunds, or rebates, or whatever you’d like to call them. We primarily work with nine auto insurance carriers and seven of them have announced plans that range from flat credit back to your account to anywhere from a 15-25% credit on premiums for the months of March and April. (Some of them, I believe, also address May. It’s typically two months, either March and April or April and May program.) And we’re looking forward to people benefiting from that.

And those, to me, make perfect sense, because people aren’t on the road anywhere near as much as previously.

 

Will My Premiums Be Affected By the Pandemic?

So let’s look at a couple of quick notes that are worth addressing.

One is, “Will my premiums be affected by the pandemic?” In short, we kind of already talked about that. We see some relief on the automobile side. On the homeowner side, that’s gonna be a slower line of business to react.

And again, as I mentioned, people are putting much greater strains on their home systems, so I think it’s reasonable, although we have to wait until we have real data, to think that homes are actually going to experience increasing losses as their systems are used much, much more than they normally would be.

 

Why Are Other Companies Not Answering My Calls?

“Why can’t I get a hold of someone at Such-&-Such company?” whether it’s your insurance company, utility company, or some other vendor that you do business with.

I think everybody understands at this point that we are mostly working from home. Some mega-businesses probably still have some call centers open if they’re on the essential list.

woman answering business calls from home

We’re actually on the essential list here at Harry Levine Insurance, but we’ve made the proactive choice to transition everyone to remote work. We just feel like it’s the right thing to do at this point. We feel like it makes our people feel more comfortable and enables them to be there for their families much more readily and effectively than if we were demanding that they still come in to work at the office. It just doesn’t seem right.

Understand that, for us, you’re still able to reach somebody during business hours and we are here for you at 110%.

But again, sometimes there are delays, sometimes there are communication systems errors…and I’m talking about the marketplace at large. So far, we’ve had a fantastic experience and we look forward to continuing to serve you this way.

 

How Do I Get Auto Insurance Discounts Now That I Am Stuck At Home?

“How do I apply for discounts on auto insurance? I’m not using my car.”

Again, and I’ll be brief, as to not repeat myself too much, your carrier is very likely coming up with a program to send some premium back to you to reflect your decreased usage of your vehicle.

This is a critical time for people not to look to cut coverage, particularly in the liability area.

If you’re like the rest of us, you probably still need to go out to the grocery store or medical appointments. Unfortunately, we live in a very litigious society, which means that if you are to get into an accident and someone gets injured, it’s important to remember that many people are feeling an economic pinch from COVID-19. Therefore, you really want to make sure that, if an accident occurs and you do find yourself talking with a personal injury attorney (who’s working for the other side, not for you) that you have proper insurance protection so that the economic pinch doesn’t get exacerbated, so to speak.

 

Can I Get Insurance For a Pandemic Like COVID-19?

“Can you purchase policies to protect against future disasters like this?” is another question we’re seeing quite a bit.

The short answer is: I think you’ll be able to very, very soon. A few years ago, there was a company that came up with a Pandemic Insurance policy and people didn’t see the need for it, people didn’t buy it.

They actually had zero sales. Zero.

rows of empty movie theater seats

And fortunately, after Hurricane Michael and Maria, we had three or four storms plus fires in California in 2017, I believe. We saw a thousand-fold increase in flood insurance protection and a year or two later, it waned away.

People didn’t renew their policies, they forgot the images on the news of Hurricanes Michael and Maria, and all of a sudden they didn’t need or want that coverage again. And we have to be very, very careful not to have such a short memory with a situation like that or with a situation like this.

Pandemic coverage was a thing. It did not sell because this was unfathomable, and here we are, facing it up close and personal.

I do know that ISO, the Insurance Services Organization, has begun drafting endorsements that would provide coverage, particularly in the business income realm, for pandemics.

Whether those are going to catch on first means: Do insurers make them available? Just because ISO authors them as templates does not mean that they will be adopted and sold by insurance companies.

Assuming they are, then they actually have to be purchased by consumers. I’m sure in a perfect world, COVID-19 quarantining ends quite soon, we’re all saved from the plague, and this product exists and we understand how this is something that can happen in our world and a risk we need to protect ourselves against.

Will that be how it plays out? That remains to be seen. I know we’ll certainly be recommending any available products to our clients upon their availability, which we have yet to see. But we do know that they’re in a development phase.

So that’s a ton about what we’re doing and, in a nutshell, how Harry Levine Insurance is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine. We thank you for listening.

About the Author

Jason Levine

Jason received a Masters of Science & Management in Risk Management & Insurance from Florida State University. He has been with Harry Levine Insurance for 9 years and handles the leadership of daily operations. He was the 2013-2014 Florida Association of Insurance Agents Young Agent Council's Agent of the Year. Currently serves on FAIA Board of Directors.

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