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Apr 20
Big ‘I’ Praises House Passage of Financial Services Cannabis Bill

​WASHINGTON, DC, April 19, 2021— The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I") thanks the U.S. House of Representatives for passing H.R. 1996, the “Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act" in a strong bipartisan fashion.  The legislation would protect agents and brokers who write insurance coverage for legitimate cannabis-related businesses from criminal prosecution and civil liability.

“The Big 'I' applauds the House for taking the steps necessary to protect agents and brokers who, of their own accord, choose to do business with cannabis-related legitimate businesses," says Charles Symington, Big “I" senior vice president of external, industry and government affairs. “The Big 'I' especially wants to thank Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) and Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) for their leadership on this important legislation."

Under current federal law, the cultivation, possession and distribution of marijuana is illegal, except for some limited research purposes. However, at the state level, all but a handful of states permit medical marijuana use in some capacity. Several states now also allow the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes.

“Now that the SAFE Banking Act has overwhelmingly passed the House in a bipartisan vote, the Big 'I' encourages the U.S. Senate to take action on this legislation as soon as possible to protect agents and brokers from criminal prosecution and civil liability," says Wyatt Stewart, Big “I" assistant vice president of federal government affairs. “Specifically, we encourage the Senate Banking Committee to consider the legislation, which has also been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and Steve Daines (R-Montana)."

Founded in 1896, the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I") is the nation's oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing more than 25,000 agency locations united under the Trusted Choice® brand. Trusted Choice independent agents offer consumers all types of insurance—property, casualty, life, health, employee benefit plans and retirement products—from a variety of insurance companies. ​


Apr 20
Your Trusted Choice Member Plus Profile

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What is a Member Plus profile? 

Trusted Choice works to promote indpendent agents all across the country, and one of the best ways they accomplish that is through their Member Plus program. When a customer goes to TrustedChoice.com and answers what they are looking for, they are pointed to recommended agencies for them. This is where the Member Plus agencies come into play. They will be notified when the customer chooses them.


What does a Member Plus profile include?

  • ​Your agency's logo
  • Yoru agency's address and phone number
  • Your agency's website link
  • Short agency bio and description
  • Google optimization
and much more!


You've caught my attention. Now how do I activate it?

Fill out this form​ to give Trusted Choice some basic information and descriptions of your agency. After submission, your profile will be activated in the next few days.

 




Click here​ to read the full article
Apr 20
ALERT: Website Accessibility Demand Letters

​IIABA has seen more and more agency members receive demand letters from plaintiffs' attorneys alleging that their agency websites are not accessible to sight-impaired consumers, and therefore violate federal law accessibility requirements.  While agencies in three high-population states have been targeted since at least last year, agencies in one western state are now receiving more of these letters, and it's likely to be happening in other states as well.

Several law firms nationally have been sending these letters to businesses in various industries for years, but lately we've seen more independent agencies receive them.  The alleged violations are typically based on accessibility requirements in the ADA or FHA, or both.  

The law firms are interested in reaching quick settlements and, so far, have not been actively filing lawsuits against agents.  These demand letters, typically follow the same format of demanding compliance with the ADA and/or FHA and seeking a settlement in exchange for a conditional release.

IIABA sent a letter to a certain Washington, D.C. legal firm last September demanding that they stop harassing agents with their letters.   The National Association of Realtors also sent a letter to the same firm, demanding that they cease their demands of Realtors in Florida and other states.

If your agency receives this kind of demand letter, please let IIAN know, and we may be able to recommend local attorneys with expertise in this field.  Expert legal counsel for the Florida Big “I" cautions their members against being pressured into settling quickly.

We can help IIAN members ensure that their websites are ADA compliant.  It's just good business to have websites work with online accessibility tools like screen readers, and it also will help agencies avoid being targeted by these plaintiffs' lawyers.

IIABA's Office of General Counsel and Agents Council on Technology worked together on providing the following resource for members:  Technology Solutions for Your Business - Get Your Website ADA-Compliant (independentagent.com).

So far IIABA is not seeing much in the way of lawsuits being filed in these cases, but that of course can change In addition, a recent 11th Circuit decision (https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/eleventh-circuit-says-winn-dixie-s-2844362/) is very favorable for agencies that are sued for website accessibility issues in the 11th Circuit.  A circuit split on this issue remains, however, so plaintiffs may simply file in a jurisdiction other than the 11th Circuit.​


Apr 19
From Washington D.C. to Our Own Backyards

Last week, IIABA hosted their annual Big 'I' Legislative Conference, which is a great way for member-agents to stay in-touch with the legislation that can affect the way we do business.

Typically, for this conference Big 'I' state associations converge on Washington D.C.  for the chance to hear from U.S. congressional leaders and the opportunity to meet with their own state representatives. Even though the conference was virtual again this year, IIABA, was able to slate together a great group of leaders and speakers to guide us through this year's conference. Below is a recap:

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Missouri) provided insights into the Paycheck Protection Program and how we worked with both sides of the aisle to get that program up and running.

Even as someone who championed the PPP, Luetkemeyer, mentioned this type of stimulus from the federal governement should be temporary. Click here to read more.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) was awarded the Gerald Solomon Big 'I' Legislator of the Year for 2020. Rep. Maloney has worked delegently with the "Pandemic Risk Insurance Act". Also, she fought for an exemption for insurance agents from new onerous federal reporting requirements. Click here to read more. 

Lastly, Rep. Joe Manchin (D-West Virgina) provided his thoughts on a new era of bipartisanship. 

"With tight margins in the House and the Senate, Democrats and Republicans are faced with a decision: To either work together to put the priorities of our nation before partisan politics or double down on dysfunctional tribalism". Click here​ to read more.​

As we put a cap on the national conference we turn our sights to IIAN's legislative efforts here in Nebraska. 

This week IIAN staff and members of our Legislative Action Committee will meet with state representatives to continue our exisiting relationships and to make sure the Nebraska representatives know where IIAN stands on legislative issues that might impact our members.​

​Stay tune for more follow-up regarding those meetings this week, but as always, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Apr 19
Check out Trusted Choice's New Website
Apr 19
Wiig-Codr & Associates - IIAN's Newest Industry Partner

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Wiig-Codr & Associates helps independent agents sell life insurance. 

By teaming with us, you can offer Life as well as, Annuities, Disability, Long Term Care, Dental, and Medicare Solutions to your clients with one phone call or E-mail.

We offer:
Experienced licensed marketers. We’ve been in your shoes.
All forms, apps, product guides and advice you need to close the business.
Personalized support from start to finish.
Access to strategic partners to assist in complex cases. 

We are locally owned and managed and continue a 37-year tradition of working with agents in Nebraska. 
Your book of business is hiding a gold mine. Let us help you tap into that revenue. 
We only succeed when you succeed! 

Contact us today to start a conversation on how we can help.

Please feel free to download our E-Book: Bring life to your Agency  


Click here to visit Wiig-Codr & Associates​' Partner Directory page.
Apr 19
Unicameral Update - April 19, 2021

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​Along with being able to check day 61 off the calendar, this past week the legislature advanced over 50 bills to their next round of debate and sent over 15 bills to the governor's desk for his signature.  A bill addressing the rights of student journalists failed to advance from Select File to Final Reading.

The legislature adjourned last Thursday at noon for a much needed 4 day weekend. While there was a lot of activity on other legislation, there was nothing new in our Bills of Interest.  Please see below a reminder of their status.​

​Click to see IIAN's Bills of Interest

A package of bills that was advanced to Final Reading addressed various aspects of the budget including the LB 380, the mainline budget bill appropriating nearly $9.7 billion to fund state government for the next two years.  The budget bills will be considered on Final Reading on Tuesday. April 20.  They are expected to pass and head to the governor's office where he will have the opportunity to line item veto specific provisions.  The issue in the budget that has garnered the most debate is the possibility of building a new and/or replacement prison.  While there isn't money in this budget to build a prison, there is $15 million to plan for one.  

With just a few weeks left to the session, the days can seem long, and senators are short on patience with each other.  Much time this week was devoted to Sen. Michaela Cavanaugh talking at length and filing motions on consent calendar bills and the budget.  This was her way of protesting not being placed on a special investigative committee that was formed as a result of a legislative resolution she introduced and was passed.  The body also spent a significant amount of time protesting comments made by on the mic by Sen. Groene.   

View Agenda for the Week of the 19th

Rumors abound that the legislature will adjourn early on May 20 rather than June 10.  There will be few complaints if that happens.​

​Click here to access all the bills​

Apr 16
COVID and the Cost of Building Materials

​Several months ago, I had a new roof put on my house (by the way, I paid for the new roof and did not make an insurance claim) and was shocked by the cost estimates.  The roofer explained that the cost of shingles had increased substantially over the last year due to production interruptions caused by the COVID response. 


Just this week I was informed that the price of lumber has also tripled over the past year.  Hopefully, this is a short-term situation, but it does raise a concern regarding the cost of construction compared to the property limits provided by a given insurance policy.  Granted, not all property losses are total losses, however significant increases in construction material could affect a large property loss, possibly exhausting the available amounts of coverage. 

What coverage options are available to mitigate a situation of rapidly increasing construction costs?


Homeowners’
Within the homeowners’ program, two options are available:
  • Attach the Inflation Guard Endorsement; and/or
  • Attach one of the two “Additional Limits” endorsements.

Inflation Guard (HO 04 46)
The inflation guard endorsement increases the initial policy limit on a pro rata basis throughout the policy period.  Unfortunately, choosing an inflation percentage is a lagging indicator and is a guesstimate that may not predict the increases from an event like a pandemic interrupting the material supply chain. 

Depending on the inflation guard percentage chosen, the additional premium for inflation guard protection can range from a 2 percent increase to about 6 percent.


“Additional Limits” Endorsements
Two “additional limits” endorsements are available; both allow the insured to purchase an additional amount of coverage AFTER a loss occurs. The two available endorsement are:
  • Additional Limits of Liability for Coverages A, B, C and D (HO 32 11). (HO 32 11). This endorsement allows the policyholder to purchase the necessary amount of additional limit for Coverage A to equal the property’s replacement costs after the loss. Increasing Coverage A automatically increases Coverages B, C and D when this endorsement is attached; or
  • Specified Additional Amount of Insurance for Coverage A (HO 32 20). This endorsement allows the policyholder to buy up to a specified percentage of the Coverage A limit only.  If the specified limit is 25% and the policy Limit of Insurance for Coverage A is $300,000 then in the event of inadequate insurance after a loss the policyholder would have the option to buy the necessary additional coverage limit for replacement cost up to $75,000. Two percentage options are available, 25% and 50%, but some carriers may not allow the use of the 50% option.
Of the two, the Additional Limits of Liability for Coverages A, B, C and D is the preferred option because it allows the insured to purchase whatever additional amount is necessary and all other coverage limits increase in relation to the new Coverage A limit. However, some homeowners’ insurance carriers will not use the HO 32 11, limiting the insured to only the HO 32 20.

One major advantage of both additional limits endorsements is the removal of the insurance-to-value (often referred to as the coinsurance) provision in the homeowners’ policy. When either of these endorsements is attached, the insured is not subject to the provision.

As expected, attaching either of these endorsements increases the premium. Use of the HO 32 11 increases the premium approximately 15%; attachment of the HO 32 20 increases the premium between three and six percent depending on which percentage option is chosen (25% or 50%).


Commercial Property
For commercial property exposures, there is no option to purchase an “additional limits” type of endorsement.  However, blanket coverage for multiple buildings and business personal property does allow coverage to expand beyond the building limit scheduled on the Statement of Values.  In theory, the entire blanket limit could be expended on one component of covered property. 

But use of the blanket option does not automatically avoid a coinsurance problem.  However, coinsurance can be suspended by using Agreed Value.  Blanket Agreed Value is a favored approach to the limits problem and the coinsurance problem. 

Beginning in approximately 2007, insurers began attaching an endorsement that diminishes the value of blanket coverage, the Limitation on Loss Settlement-Blanket Insurance (Margin Clause).  This endorsement limits the amount available for any one building to a percentage of the amount scheduled in the Statement of Values.  For example, a building scheduled in the Statement of Values at $500,000 is damage by a covered cause of loss and the actual replacement cost at the time of the loss is $650,000.  If the damaged building is included on a policy providing a blanket limit of $1,000,000 then, in theory, the full $650,000 replacement cost would be recoverable.  However, if the blanket policy is subject to the Margin Clause applying a 120% maximum limit, the recovery would be limited to $500,000 plus 20% – or $600,000. There are some proprietary versions of this type of endorsement that apply a limit per location.  Be vigilant when reviewing commercial property policies written on a blanket basis, look for endorsements that can cap the recovery for a given item in the Statement of Values. 

One other issue that is not strictly related to the rising cost of building material but was central to a lawsuit against an agent in New Hampshire recently is Ordinance or Law coverage.  What the insurance industry understands about the term replacement cost is not what the typical policyholder understands by the term. 

Technically, replacement cost, as used in most property insurance policies, replaces the damage structure with new materials.  “You get your old building back constructed with new materials.”  But most policyholders do not want their old building back rather they want a new building constructed with new materials.  This sounds semantic, but the difference in the old building and the new building are the changes in building codes. 

The property insurance policy is designed to pay for things that are damaged by a covered cause of loss.  If replacing the damaged building requires building features mandated by building codes but not part of the “old” building, then the property insurance policy does not respond to these new building code mandated features.  Additionally, if the undamaged part of the building must be demolished, the demolition of the undamaged part is cause by the mandate of the building inspector, not by the covered cause of loss. 

What most policyholders want after a loss is, in fact, reconstruction costs not just replacement cost.  If the insurance policy does not pay the full reconstruction cost of the damaged building, the policyholder may be unhappy with the settlement and think that replacement costs as defined by the insurance policy is not what they thought they were getting. The policy did not meet their reasonable expectation.  

Where do you think the jury’s sympathy will lie?  This dichotomy between “replacement costs” and “reconstruction costs” is becoming an issue of growing concern.  To protect themselves, agents should make sure that policyholders are advised as to what “replacement cost” means and what its limitation are.  Additionally, there should be a discussion and offer of Ordinance or Law coverage.  Some property policies are beginning to include limited amount and coverage for Ordinance or Law as Additional Coverages.  But these Additional Coverage may not be adequate.  “Fore warned is fore armed.”


Watch Out for the Rising Cost of Building Materials
COVID has created issues across the country. One that agents must be aware of is how this pandemic has affected the cost of building material. Supply chain interruptions and increased demand have caused the price of “common” building materials to increase dramatically.

Agents must be prepared to address these issues with the available insurance options beyond updated replacement cost estimators. Offer and use the endorsements available.


Article written by Stuart Powell of Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina. Click here​ to view the original article.

Apr 14
What Can the Big “I” VU Do For You?

The Big “I” Virtual University offers so many wonderful resources it can be hard to describe them all in one breath! Click here to access a new VU flyer that offers a quick outline of the resources and education found in the Virtual University.

From webinars and CE offerings to the Insurance Illustrated newsletter to the ever-popular “Ask an Expert” service, the Big “I” Virtual University offers a host of member benefits you don’t want to leave on the table.

Questions on any VU offerings? Contact Jennifer Becker or visit www.independentagent.com/VU.

Apr 13
Flood Insurance Manual: Upcoming Changes Virtual Training
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