The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting daily life while also having a deeply concerning effect on the global economy. And while the insurance industry alone cannot support the enormous risks posed by pandemics, it has an important role both in transferring risk and in enabling improvements in risk management.
During a webcast in Marsh’s continuing series on the COVID-19 pandemic — which is now available for replay — Marsh President and CEO John Doyle discussed how public-private partnerships can offer pandemic risk solutions similar to those that have been established to address terrorism risk.
Marsh, Mr. Doyle noted, is working aggressively to develop prospective solutions for future events. “Time is of the essence,” he stressed. Mr. Doyle has written to both Congress and the Trump administration to offer Marsh’s assistance in creating a public-private pandemic risk solution.
Mr. Doyle outlined some of Marsh’s ongoing efforts to help clients navigate the current crisis, including through identifying critical trends that are emerging and assisting clients in assessing their resiliency plans. He also spoke about a supplemental benefits program that Marsh has launched in collaboration with Mercer. Although originally launched in Italy, the program is now available in a number of other countries, with coverage including indemnity for hospitalization and convalescence as well as post-hospitalization assistance.
Looking ahead, Mr. Doyle said businesses need to strike a better balance between resilience and efficiency, and stressed the importance of having a risk environment that is safer than it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The webcast took a deep look at the workers’ compensation landscape. Dennis Tierney, claims director within Marsh’s Workers’ Compensation Center of Excellence, noted that states have already taken workers’ compensation regulatory actions related to the pandemic, focused on health care workers and first respondents. He also warned that while overall claims frequency may drop since fewer people are working, some businesses should expect to see an influx of claims, some of which won’t be related to COVID-19. One challenge revolves around new employees who might not receive proper safety training, which could lead to injuries. There could also be claims related to telecommuting and non-ergonomic work setups at home. In addition, terminated or furloughed employees could file for workers’ compensation benefits in order to generate income.
Larry Pearlman, a senior vice president in Marsh Risk Consulting’s Workforce Strategies Practice, spoke about employers’ reporting and recordkeeping obligations related to confirmed COVID-19 cases. He also addressed a potentially dangerous reality: Distracted employees are more prone to make mistakes that could threaten their safety. Employers, he stressed, should redouble safety efforts and make their safety expectations clear, with specific recommendations and practices. Employers should also thank those who are doing the right things, remind their people about the importance of escalation, and show empathy.
The webcast devoted a substantial portion of time to answering audience questions. Dr. Lorna Friedman, Global Health Leader within Mercer’s Multinational Client Group, noted that while social distancing is difficult, it is the most significant tool available to fight the pandemic right now. She added that there is likely to be caution from individuals until a coronavirus vaccine is available.
James Crask, Global Resilience Advisory Lead within Marsh Risk Consulting, stressed that organizations should start to prepare for the time when they can reopen their premises. Staying in touch with their workforce, including any that have been furloughed, can help to facilitate the resumption of operations while easing employee anxiety.