Introducing the Driver Verification System

Presented by: Christopher F. Hawthorne, CPCU, CIC

A new tool has arrived to help business owners in reducing their Commercial Auto exposure risk.  A basic for any driver is to have a valid license. Privacy laws and a very cumbersome Registry of Motor Vehicles inquiry system have been hurdles for business owners trying to carefully monitor their employees that drive as part of their job.

To help achieve the goal of having a safe driving workforce, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles has introduced the Driver Verification System (DVS). The DVS allows a business to track changes to the license statuses of the business’s employees/drivers. Once a business has signed up for this no-cost program, the DVS will email the business owner a notification from the Mass DOT’s Registry of Motor Vehicles when there is a change in an employee’s license status such as the license being expired, suspended or revoked.

When an employee drives as part of their job, they may not inform the employer of a loss of license. The employer may learn of the lack of a valid license after a significant loss. The DVS puts the employer in the position of catching this situation immediately.

When notified, the business owner logs into their DVS account to view the driver/s that have a status change. The employer immediately is able to address the situation with the employee and take corrective action to protect the financial and reputational well-being of the business or organization.

Additionally, the DVS allows the business owner to then order driving records for any driver enrolled in the DVS program for the cost of $8 per Public record and $20 for a Personal record. (A public driving record excludes any not responsible, disqualified, and expired infractions or violations and also will exclude drug convictions (except for drug trafficking). A personal driving record is a complete history of the driver’s record including the excluded items above.)

The process for signing up for the DVS begins with:

  • Writing a letter on your business letterhead stating your business need for using the DVS Program. This need can be stated as the business’s desire to have another risk management tool to make sure the business is operating in the safest manner for the public’s benefit.
  •  Submitting an “Agreement for Access to Records and Data Maintained by the Registry of Motor Vehicles”
  •  Submitting an “RMV Business Partner Contact Form”
  •  Submitting an “eServices Administrator Form”

Commercial Auto is a significant risk to all organizations that use either the organization’s autos or the employees’ personal vehicles. In either case, the employer will be named in a suit if there is bodily injury and/or property damage to others if the loss occurred in the scope of the employer’s business activity, be it a delivery or a sales call. With the advent of this tool, it would be understandable that the courts and juries will expect all employers to know their driving employees have a valid driver’s license. Therefore, implementing the DVS is recommended.

Other risk management tools available to an employer to reduce the chance of loss or limit the size of a loss are:

  • Ordering a personal driving record for each driver annually.
  • Implementing GPS tracking on company vehicles. Utilizing a GPS has been shown to reduce auto loss significantly as well as moon lighting and fuel savings.
  • Distributing a company Driver Policy / Letter to all new employees and all employees annually. The policy will spell out the organization’s expectations for driving activity.
  • Creating a file for each driver that contains an annual driving policy letter, a copy of the driver personal record, a copy of the employee’s personal auto coverage selection page, any Incident Reports, and any disciplinary actions taken to improve the driver’s attention to safe driving.
  • Implementing an Accident Investigation Program to learn from each loss and to avoid repeating the loss in the future.
  • Implementing Driver Training for all new employees as well as an annual update for all employees.
  • Implementing a Vehicle Inspection Program where employees take the responsibility for periodically checking Tires, Wipers, Lights, etc. and documenting that they did so.

The auto loss exposure is prone both to frequency and severity. Time spent on the above risk management techniques can help reduce the odds of a loss or even the size of a loss. These efforts will pay dividends in low insurance premiums due to lower losses. For assistance with any of the above please contact us.

To begin the process of implementing a DVS, please go to: http://atlas.massrmv.com/DriverVerificationSystem.aspx.

Completed documentation and questions can be directed to Kristen.hagan@state.ma.us.

Employer Sponsored Wellness Programs

Wellness Programs

Introduction

Employers may sponsor wellness programs as a means to promote better health and higher morale among employees, with the hope that helping employees to embrace a culture of health will lead to higher productivity with lower health-related costs.
Wellness plans may be included in health insurance programs, or they may stand alone. These plans may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Tobacco cessation, exercise, weight management, or other behavior modification programs.
  • Health risk assessments.
  • High blood pressure or cholesterol screenings.
  • Health education.
  • Subsidized health club memberships.

While participation in wellness programs is voluntary, employers may offer incentives for participation or even disincentives for nonparticipation.

Advantages

While employers are searching for definitive methods to establish return on investment (ROI) for dollars spent on wellness programs, development of financial measurement tools for wellness ROI is not yet mature. Still, it is logical for employers in the United States to seek financial advantages from promoting a culture of health in an environment where the onset of chronic disease is shifting to people of younger age who, prior to becoming eligible for Medicare, are most frequently covered under health plans paid for by employers. Advantages for both employers and employees arise when employers seize the opportunity to use their access to employees as an opportunity to provide education and facilitate changes leading to an increase in emotional well-being and reduced risk of illness.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. Among the most common, manageable or preventable chronic diseases are diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and cancer. Obesity is also an urgent health concern, affecting as many as one in three adults and one in five children. Rising rates of obesity are leading to more diabetes and heart disease. Reducing the prevalence or severity of these diseases and conditions can reduce the emotional stress experienced by individuals, empowering them to focus more on productive work-related activities. Additionally, preventing or delaying the onset of diseases will likely correlate to less demand for employers to pay for expensive hospitalization and fewer treatments with costly specialty pharmaceutical medications.

Financial Savings

To appreciate the potential financial savings possible through the prevention or delay in onset of disease, it is important for employers to understand how small percentages of high-utilization participants in health plans may drive much of the cost. In general, 20 percent of a health plan’s population drives 80 percent of cost for all medical and prescription claims paid in a plan year. Often, just 5 percent of a health plan’s population in a given year will be high-cost claimants accounting for approximately half of all paid claims. Such individual high-cost claimants increasingly include inpatient hospital treatment and pharmaceutical claims costing in excess of $500,000 for a single claimant’s course of care. For example, a claimant could cost more than $600,000 annually for treatment of diabetes that has advanced to end stage renal disease requiring kidney dialysis. Similar costs are associated with other diseases moving from chronic to acute stages. On the other hand, $600,000 could be more than it would cost in a year for an employer-sponsored plan with 1,000 enrolled employees to pay for all employees plus dependents to have annual preventative physical examinations performed by their primary care physicians. When average coverage for an employee plus family enrolled in a plan costs over $16,800 per year, it can be frustrating for the employer to realize that there will not be significant, immediate discounts in return for providing wellness benefits. However, it takes premium payments from a pool of many members to offset the claims paid for just one high-cost claimant.

The financial rewards associated with the successful movement of a pool of insured members into a culture of health are likely to be more prevalent over the long term. Efforts directly promoting healthy behaviors can change the trajectory of employees’ long term health. Employers with low turnover and high average tenure of employees may be in the best position to reap the financial benefits of effective wellness programs targeting reduction in illness risks. However, all employers have the potential to benefit from the coordination of wellness initiatives with existing workplace safety initiatives and performance improvement plans. Workers’ compensation, disability benefits, and paid sick leave expenses all have the potential to be reduced as employee performance increases in an improving culture of health.

If you would like more information please contact Cleary Insurance, Inc. at 617-723-0700.

Working for Yourself? Don’t Sacrifice Your Retirement

Self-employment can be rewarding personally and financially, but it comes with some tough challenges including long hours, an uncertain income, and a lack of structured benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans.

But this is not the only reason it may be worthwhile to divert a sizable chunk of your earnings into tax-deferred retirement accounts. Doing so generally reduces your taxable income.

Anyone can set up an IRA, but contribution limits are relatively low — $5,500 in 2018, or $6,500 if you are 50 or older.

Here are two additional options that may allow larger contributions.

Solo 401(k). A solo 401(k) is a one-participant plan for business owners who have no other employees. Tax-deductible (or pre-tax) contributions to an individual 401(k) can be made in two ways.

As the employee, you can contribute as much as 100% of your annual compensation, up to the $18,500 annual maximum in 2018 ($24,500 if you are age 50 or older).

As the employer, you can also contribute an additional 20% of your earnings (25% if the business is incorporated) and deduct it as a business expense. Total contributions are capped at $55,000 in 2018 ($61,000 for those age 50 and older). A solo 401(k) plan may also allow plan loans and/or hardship withdrawals.

The deadline to establish an individual 401(k) and formally elect salary deferrals is December 31 of the year in which you want to receive the tax deduction (or before fiscal year-end for corporations). For businesses taxed as sole proprietors and partnerships, salary deferrals and profit-sharing contributions for 2018 must be deposited into the account by the April 2019 personal tax filing deadline.

SEP-IRA. You can make tax-deductible employer contributions of as much as 25% of net earnings, up to $55,000 in 2018. If you have eligible employees, you must contribute the same percentage to SEP-IRAs in their names; of course, the dollar amounts would be different for different salary levels. You are not required to contribute to a SEP-IRA every year.

In addition to any employer SEP-IRA contributions, you and your eligible workers can generally make pre-tax employee contributions up to the normal IRA contribution limits. You have until the April 2019 tax filing deadline to set up a SEP-IRA and make 2018 contributions.

Distributions from 401(k) plans and SEP-IRAs are taxed as ordinary income. Early withdrawals (prior to age 59) may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty.

 

Why This New Year’s Resolution Should Be the First One You Complete

Each year, as many as 60 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. One of the most popular is saving money, yet it’s also one of most common resolutions to fail.1 As you look ahead to the rest of the year, we’ll show you what could be the difference-maker to keep your finances in check.

Must-Do Resolution: Evaluate your Homeowner’s Insurance

Your home is one of your largest assets, and not protecting it properly could be financially devastating. So if you’re looking to safeguard your finances over the long-term, here are a few things to look for in your homeowner’s insurance policy:

  1. Does it pay actual cash value or replacement value?
    If your policy pays actual cash value for a loss, you’ll receive enough money to pay what the home or item was worth when you bought it, with depreciation factored in. If you want to replace your home with items of the same quality, you’ll need a policy that pays replacement value.
  2. Are your home improvements reflected?
    If you’ve made recent improvements to your home, such as updating the kitchen or adding a bonus room, make sure those are reflected in your policy. That way, if your home is damaged or destroyed, you’ll be able to replace that new addition too.
  3. Does it cover temporary housing?
    If you experience a loss and are unable to live in your home while it’s being repaired or rebuilt, you’ll need a place to stay. Make sure your policy covers a temporary residence in your neighborhood or school district, and other out-of-pocket living expenses.
  4. Does it cover special losses, like floods or hurricane damage?
    Did you know that water damage makes up 45% of all interior property damage, happening more often than fire or burglary2? In the wake of wildfires, hurricanes, and floods, you may look back and wish you’d been more prepared. Now is the time to make sure you’re covered for whatever Mother Nature sends your way. Take an inventory of your home, assemble a disaster preparedness kit, and talk to your agent about the types of coverage you need.

Want additional tips for in sticking with your financial wellness resolutions? Check out this article.

 

1 https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/10-top-new-years-resolutions-for-success-happiness-in-2019.html

2 https://www.chubb.com/us-en/individuals-families/water/

Meet the Cleary Insurance Boston Business Risk Awards Finalists

We launched the Cleary Insurance Boston Business Risk Awards to honor the entrepreneurs and small business leaders in our community who take bold business risks and reap the rewards. We received many inspiring stories of risk-taking and success, but our six finalists stood out from the pack.

 

Cleary Insurance Boston Business Risk Awards 2019 Finalists

 

Get inspired by our finalists’ stories and stay tuned for the announcement of the 2019 Risk Award winner.

 

Julia Cruz, Principal/Executive Producer of Good Life Productions

When media company Good Life Productions saw an increased demand for their video production services, Julia Cruz and husband Neal Robert took the risk of hiring additional employees and transforming their rental apartment into a new business office and studio. The risk paid off, as the company increased revenues by 20%.

 

Rory Francis, Founder of Danio Lab

While working as a repair technician and fish feeder, Rory Francis discovered that the challenge of accurately and efficiently feeding thousands of laboratory fish tanks daily was the perfect business opportunity. Rory developed a device to feed zebrafish in the lab setting and founded Danio Lab, a growing and profitable business that sells feeders to biomedical and cancer researchers worldwide.

 

Kevin Grant, Owner of The Castle

In 2015, Kevin Grant realized that the North Shore lacked a community space for people of all ages to hang out, so he took it upon himself to fill that void by opening The Castle, a board game café. Kevin and his wife, Ryn, quit their jobs to run The Castle fulltime, and they have been successfully growing the business ever since. They’ve won 7 awards so far and plan to expand with a new larger, location in the upcoming year.

 

Magbè Savané, President of Makomas

Magbè Savané put medical school on hold to follow her dream of bringing her mother’s traditional African recipes to America. She founded Makomas, an organic tea and juice company that makes products from African superfoods like baobab, moringa, and hibiscus. The success of Magbè’s startup has been recognized by MassChallenge as a 2018 Finalist and won her the PepsiCo Food and Beverages Prize.

 

Tish Scolnik, CEO of GRIT

While studying mechanical engineering at MIT, Tish Scolnik knew there had to be a better way to design wheelchairs. With her classmates, she designed an all-terrain wheelchair that effectively harnesses the power of the upper body and enables people with disabilities to move freely outdoors. After graduation, Tish founded GRIT, a startup that brought the Freedom Chair design to market.

 

Kristin Van Busum, Founder & CEO of Project Alianza

As a Fulbright Scholar in Nicaragua, Kristin Van Busum saw firsthand that children in coffee-growing communities lacked access to schooling, often receiving no more than a 3rd grade education. Kristin quit her corporate job and founded Project Alianza, a non-profit dedicated to providing education for children in the rural coffee communities of Latin America. To date, Project Alianza has educated over 2,000 children.