While most carriers say their overall underwriting guidelines did not change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and they do not anticipate making any new changes, several carriers plan to keep their COVID-19 related adjustments or are considering new processes, according to Eastbridge’s 2021 Underwriting Practices of Voluntary Carriers Spotlight™ Report. Some of these changes include adding health questions specific to COVID-19 for certain products or incorporating additional considerations for pricing, accessing employee medical records without bloodwork or exams, or reviewing the percent of vaccinated eligible lives within a particular group or industry as part of the evolving group underwriting process.
Broadly, carriers are grappling with changes to the group underwriting process, enrollment strategies and participation because of the evolving definition of the workplace and increasing numbers of employees continuing to work from home, and unknown claims impacts of increased hospitalization and treatment, “long COVID” symptoms and rising mortality rates.
Carriers also note challenges relating to accommodating an increased number of self-service online enrollments, accelerated by the pandemic, and the need to develop more robust enrollment capabilities and partnerships/connectivity with technology and enrollment vendors to manage increasing costs and expectations. Technology platform subsidy/fee requests have also become a general concern and carriers have incorporated these fees in different ways in their underwriting process.
These pandemic challenges are layered on top of long growing pressure for higher and/or perpetual guaranteed issue amounts, industry-wide loosening of underwriting restrictions, and increased automation requirements to make turnaround and response times faster.
In addition to the challenges noted, the 2021 Underwriting Practices of Voluntary Carriers Spotlight™ Report includes data from 34 carrier participants and covers a comprehensive range of topics including group-level underwriting practices; minimum requirements (case size, eligibility, participation); account set-up; employee eligibility; technology funding; claims data requirements; quoting/RFP process; renewal underwriting guidelines; rate increases; and underwriting time frames and standards. [Note: Product-specific underwriting guidelines are not the focus of this study.]
Underwriting Practices of Voluntary Carriers, a Spotlight™ Report
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Eastbridge Consulting Group, Inc. is a marketing advisory firm serving companies focused on the voluntary/worksite benefits market in the United States and Canada.