Leader’s Corner: Warmest wishes this holiday season from President, Jessica Getman
Dear Valued Customer,
I hope this finds all of you and your loved ones well and enjoying good health this holiday season, which has once again, snuck up on me. During the chaos that has become the norm in our home, which includes myself, my husband, our two young children and resident canine, I did take some time on Thanksgiving to reflect on the many things I am grateful for personally and professionally. Personally, coffee tops the list – haha!! On a serious and sincere note, to each of you, on behalf of the Brown & Brown family, I extend my most sincere gratitude for entrusting us with your business.
This issue marks the beginning of our second year publicizing this newsletter – something we are excited about. Our objective is to be your go-to for all things related to insurance and Employee Benefits because we believe we offer the best and most competitively priced products. And, we believe our sales and service team is the best in the business. Our hope is that, through our ongoing engagement (this newsletter being one, small component), we enable all of you to stay focused on your objectives and goals.
Wishing you and yours health, peace and prosperity this season and always!
Jessica Getman, President
State of the Market: Climate Change and the P&C Insurance Industry
Climate Change around the world. How will it impact your business? Insurance industry groups are studying the effects of climate change on the industry. The Geneva Association, whose members represent the world’s largest insurers and reinsurers, agreed in May 2009 to continue its CC+I research project on climate change and its economic impact on insurance. In a comprehensive report, “The Insurance Industry and Climate Change–Contribution to the Global Debate,” the association sets out the issues and the role insurance can play in the process of adapting to the negative effects of change, particularly in developing countries.
There is now a consensus among the scientific community that the climate is changing, with potential risk to the global economy, ecology, and human health and well-being. Also unknown is the extent to which weather patterns have already been affected. Any increase in damage and litigation over damage is likely to raise insurance company losses.
On the property side, they are redoubling their efforts to raise awareness of climate change and pointing out how potential damage can be limited through more prudent land use, stronger building codes and better planning. Some large companies have launched innovative projects to help developing countries adapt to climate change or have invested in renewable energy.
The mere change in the Earth’s climate may lead to increased exposure for insurers from the perils of wind, hail, flood or earthquake. Insurers are exposed to property and business income losses from these perils, without regard to whether the change in climate is determined to be man-made or not.
On the liability side, insurers are helping clients focus on risk management related to climate change, including avoiding harm to the environment. Failure to protect against or disclose such harm may lead to lawsuits.
Policy Update Alert: New Laws Affecting Cell Phone Use While Driving
Recently Oregon and Washington revised their cell phone use laws. As a result of these new laws, it is imperative to ensure your vehicle use policy is up-to-date and all employees are advised of the changes. Below are highlights of the changes made in each state earlier this year:
• Effective October 1, 2017
• The new law prohibits drivers from using any function of the phone that requires holding or touching.
• If you need to program an address or intersection, you’ll have to pull over and park. The car doesn’t need to be turned off, but it must be parked safely. That means stopped by the side of the road or in a designated parking spot.
• You may call 911 for emergency help only if no one else is in the car capable of doing it.
• This applies to all mobile electronic devices including but not limited to a device capable of testing, voice communication, entertainment, navigation, accessing the internet or electronic mail.
• A first offense that doesn’t contribute to a crash is a Class B violation with a maximum fine of $1,000.
• A second offense, or if the first offense contributes to a crash, is Class A violation with a maximum fine of $2,500.
• A third offense within ten years is a Class B misdemeanor and could result in a $2,500 fine and up to six months in jail.
• Starting in January, Judges will have the option of waiving the fine for first-time offenders who complete a Distracted Driving Avoidance class at their own cost. The violation, however, will stay on the driver’s record.
• Drivers who are 17 or younger may not use mobile devices, even with a hands-free device.
• Effective July 23, 2017
• The first citation will cost drivers $136. A second citation within five years of the first one will increase to $236.
• Under the new law, drivers can also get a $99 ticket for other types of distractions like grooming, smoking, eating or reading if it interferes with safe driving and you are pulled over for another traffic offense.
For additional information on policy development, contact your Brown & Brown Northwest agent.
Workplace Safety: Winter Worker Safety Tips
Winter months present additional hazards that are typically not factors for employees during warmer weather – specifically, slip and fall concerns. With snow and ice-covered conditions, you run the risk of taking major falls that can lead to serious injuries.
Education is essential in preventing winter weather-related injuries. Consider the following recommendations to prevent slip and fall injuries during the winter months:
• Wear the proper footwear that provides traction on snow and ice. Footwear should be made of anti-slip material; avoid plastic and leather-soled shoes or boots.
• Exercise caution when entering and exiting vehicles, and use the vehicle for balance and support.
• Try to walk only in designated areas that are safe for foot traffic. If you notice that a walkway is covered in ice, walk on the grass next to the sidewalk, which will have more traction.
• Avoid inclines that are typically difficult to walk up or down as they may be more treacherous in winter conditions.
• Take small steps to maintain your center of balance, walk slowly and never run. When possible, walk with your hands free to maintain your balance. And despite the cold temperatures, avoid putting your hands in your pockets. This will help you better maintain your balance and allow you to break a fall should you slip.
• Use handrails, walls or anything stationary to assist in steadying your feet.
• Look ahead to the path in front of you to avoid hazards.
• Test a potentially slippery area before stepping on it by tapping your foot on the surface first.
• Regularly remove debris, water and ice from all working walkways.
• Steer clear of roof edges, floor openings and other drop-offs to avoid slipping hazards.
• Sand or salt surfaces covered by ice or snow to provide traction.
• Dry your shoes or boots on floor mats when entering a building.
• Report trip and fall hazards immediately to your supervisor.
• Seek shelter immediately in the event of severe weather conditions.
If You Begin to Slip…
• Twist your body and roll backward to avoid falling forward and injuring your face.
• Try to relax your body when you start to feel your legs give way.
• If you are carrying a load, throw it off to the side so it does not land on you when you fall. This will also free your arms to help break your fall.
ACA Update: IRS Issues Pay or Play Enforcement Guidance
On Nov. 2, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) updated its Questions and Answers (Q&As) on the employer shared responsibility rules under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to include information on enforcement. Specifically, these Q&As include guidance on:
• How an employer will know that it owes an employer shared responsibility penalty;
• Appealing a penalty assessment; and
• Procedures for paying any penalties owed.
The IRS also maintains a website on understanding Letter 226-J, as well as a sample letter, which will be used to inform employers of their potential penalty liability.
No penalties have been assessed under the employer shared responsibility rules at this time. However, employers subject to these rules are still responsible for compliance. These Q&As indicate that, for the 2015 calendar year, the IRS plans to issue letters informing employers of their potential liability for an employer shared responsibility penalty, if any, in late 2017.
The ACA’s employer shared responsibility rules, which took effect for most ALEs beginning on January 1, 2015, require applicable large employers (ALEs) to offer affordable, minimum value health coverage to their full-time employees or pay a penalty. These rules, also known as the “employer mandate” or “pay or play” rules, only apply to ALEs, which are employers with, on average, at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, during the preceding calendar year.
An ALE may be subject to a penalty only if one or more full-time employees obtain an Exchange subsidy (either because the ALE does not offer health coverage, or offers coverage that is unaffordable or does not provide minimum value).
Prior to 2017, the IRS has been unable to identify the employers potentially subject to penalty or to assess any penalties. The IRS previously indicated that it expected to begin sending letters in early 2017 informing ALEs of their potential liability for penalty for the 2015 calendar year (with reporting in 2016). However, at this time, no letters have been sent to any ALEs.
The general procedures the IRS will use to propose and assess these penalties are described in Letter 226-J. The IRS plans to issue Letter 226-J to an ALE if it determines that, for at least one month in the year, one or more of the ALE’s full-time employees was enrolled in a qualified health plan for which a premium tax credit was allowed (and the ALE did not qualify for an affordability safe harbor or other relief for the employee).
Letter 226-J will include a summary and explanation of proposed penalties, response form necessary, and a description of the actions an ALE should take as well as a description of the actions the IRS will take if the ALE does not respond to Letter 226-J on time.
The response to Letter 226-J will be due by the response date shown on Letter 226-J, which generally will be 30 days from the date of Letter 226-J. Letter 226-J will contain the name and contact information of a specific IRS employee that the ALE should contact if the ALE has questions about the letter.
ALEs will have an opportunity to respond to Letter 226-J before any employer shared responsibility liability is assessed and notice and demand for payment is made. Letter 226-J will provide instructions for how the ALE should respond in writing, either agreeing with the proposed employer shared responsibility penalty or disagreeing with part or all or the proposed amount.
Winter Season: Combatting Ice Dams
This winter in Oregon an ice dam may just be your roof’s worst enemy. What is an ice dam? As snow melts and refreezes along the edge of your roof, the accumulation of ice essentially forms a dam, preventing water from running off as it normally would. In many cases, the water backs up under your shingles, eventually making its way inside your home.
• Routinely clean out your gutters, downspouts and drains. Be sure, going into winter, that you don’t still have fall leaves clogging your gutters. You may even want to think about gutter screens while you’re at it. They help keep your water drainage system clear and save you time.
• Use a roof rake to remove snow accumulation. Check with your local hardware store about purchasing a roof rake, which has a long handle and a specialized head that shouldn’t damage your roof. As snow accumulates on your roof, simply rake it off while standing safely on the ground, out of the way of falling snow.
• Let your attic be cold. The warmer your attic, the warmer your roof, and the faster the snow on it melts. So, be sure warm air can leave your attic and a little cool air can come in. Adequate insulation on the attic floor can help keep the heat in your living areas, where you want it, and out of your attic, where you don’t.
• Watch for icicles. Yes, they’re a charming addition to your roofline in the winter. But, icicles can also signal trouble. If you’re concerned, hire a contractor with experience removing ice dams to take a look.
• Take preventative measures on your roof. If it’s time for a roof update anyway, you may want to consider some added protection, such as having your contractor place a waterproof membrane under the shingles to help prevent leaks or install a heating cable along the eaves to help melt ice. Your contractor can help you decide what may be best for you.
Remember, winter and roof damage often go hand in hand, and the aftermath is anything but pleasant. We here at Brown & Brown Northwest hope these tips will help you have a safe and worry-free season!
Brown & Brown Northwest Insurance was honored as one of Portland Business Journal’s most philanthropic medium-sized companies for the fourth consecutive year. In addition to our financial contributions, teammates from our office spent 200 hours volunteering in Portland and Southwest Washington. We appreciate Portland Business Journal for recognizing and celebrating philanthropy in our community; their Most Philanthropic Awards Luncheon is always an inspiration.
This year Central City Concern was one of the organizations to receive Portland Business Journal’s award for Innovation in Corporate Philanthropy. The “Housing is Health” project joined rival health care providers to create and invest in solutions for Portland’s homeless crisis. We applaud Central City Concern, and all the organizations recognized by Portland Business journal, for investing in our community.