What exactly is MFA and why is it important?

Although you’ve heard all the talk about cyber security and data breaches in the past, have you ever really thought about it happening to you? It’s no surprise but cyber crime has grown to the highest cost in the 17 year history of reporting, according to IBM. Currently, data breach costs are upwards of $4 million.

These attacks are happening more frequently and costing individuals and business owners more money. It could be that we have more work-from-home opportunities than ever before, better cyber technology making cyber criminals more efficient, or more vulnerability in the health and finance sector. It’s been predicted that right now, a cyber attack could occur ever 11 seconds, which is nearly four times the frequency recorded just five years ago.

There are several ways you can protect yourself but one of the most simple and important methods is unfortunately overlooked. As if we insurance folks didn’t have enough acronyms to talk about, here’s another one: MFA. Multi-Factor Authorization. MFA is a security method that requires the use of two or more authentication factors to verify a user’s identity. This is most commonly used for users accessing an organization’s network or using a personal or work email remotely. MFA just provides assurance that the user tapping in to private information is who they say they are and that they deserve access. This keeps data safe even if one set of a username and password is compromised. The use of MFA can stop cyber attacks in their tracks, blocking 99.9% of account-compromising attacks.

So we clarified that MFA is just a method of double checking one’s identity. In real-life terms, that just means that before one can access your accounts or email, they have to take an extra step so that at least two of the following three categories is confirmed:

  • Knowledge – something only that user knows like a password, answer to a personalized security question, or PIN
  • Possession – typically the device the user is on like a smartphone, laptop, or software token
  • Biometric – something unique to the user such as a fingerprint or face scan

Why is MFA also important for a business?

  • Strengthen your existing security system – Firewalls & antivirus protection is only as strong as the authentication steps that protect them
  • Protect high-value targets such as Administrative or Executive accounts – these typically have sensitive information, broader access and confidential personal/business information
  • Limit digital credential theft – even if a hacker obtained username and password information, they are unlikely to have the device or access to the backup MFA such as a personal email with verification code sent
  • Stop cyber exploitation – cyber crimes are more than just stealing private information. Hackers can also destroy such data, deploy ransomware, change programs or transmit spam/malicious code

MFA is just one added layer of protection that you can implement in your email or other account specific systems that you use to stay cyber safe.

What exactly is the American Rescue Plan of 2021?

Early in the new year of 2021, the Biden Administration implemented The American Rescue Plan (ARP) with the intent of reducing health care costs and expanding access to health insurance plans.

There are currently over 9 million Americans accessing health care through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, which provides subsidized plans with lower premiums based on household income. Their goal is for there to be at least a few plan options available to every consumer at a monthly premium no more than 8.5% of their household income.

For example:

  • Uninsured couples earning over $70,000 annually could save more than $1,000 per month on their premium
  • A family of four making $90,000 annually will see their premiums decrease by $200 per month
  • A single individual making $19,000 annually will be able to find health insurance coverage with no monthly premium at all, saving roughly $66 per month on average

This plan also introduced an extended Open Enrollment Period that in past years ended on December 15th for the coverage to be effective the following year. For 2021, that new period was from January 15th-May 15th but has now been extended even further to August 15th and coverage can be effective on the 1st of the following month.

The ARP is reevaluating the level of subsidy that Americans qualify for based on their income. Those with new or existing Marketplace plans can visit www.healthcare.gov or call the Marketplace directly to confirm whether or not their tax credit will be increased, resulting in lower out of pocket monthly premium responsibility for the insured. You can also wait until you file your 2021 taxes next year to get the additional premium tax credit amount. However, it is recommended that you update your application and review your plan options during the allotted period up until August 15th.

There is something to keep in mind regarding coverage if you change plans during this time. It is important to consider the new plan’s deductible as it’ll likely start over. If you change plans or add a new household member, any out-of-pocket costs you already paid on your current 2021 Marketplace plan probably won’t count towards your new deductible, even if you stay with the same insurance company.

These are variables that a licensed agent or Marketplace representative can discuss as they pertain to specific situations. The website again for resources regarding the Affordable Care Act is www.healthcare.gov.

Vehicle Telematics: the tattletales of driving habits

The words “Fleet Management” may make some business owners’ skin crawl but it’s one of those things they just can’t ignore. For most companies, this is a key aspect of their overall operations and something that needs constant attention.

Some commercial insurance companies are providing “Fleet Monitoring” premium discounts for the use of telematics, with the hopes that it will reduce the amount of claims and incidents within their commercial auto fleet.

Telematics refers to technology such as front facing cameras, sensors, GPS, and vehicle engine diagnostics. These devices can effectively monitor driving behaviors such as location, hard braking, rapid acceleration, speeding and hard cornering. Identifying these habits is an important element of commercial auto insurance, especially given the increasing rates lately.

The results of these telematics can help determine the risk, along with appropriate pricing and proactive loss control. Some of the technology can even alert the driver itself in real-time of any unacceptable driving behaviors to prevent an accident or injury. Vehicle engine diagnostics also helps tremendously with monitoring things like the health of the vehicle, for example: oil life, fuel efficiency, tire pressure, engine or fluid needs, etc. This is yet another part of fleet management that can be very time consuming and stressful on a business owner/manager.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the amount of fatal crashes involving large trucks and/or buses has increased by 42% since 2009. Ironically, technology such as cell phones could have contributed to that and here we are, talking about technology of other forms to help prevent it. But isn’t that our reality now… All things technology? But shouldn’t we be open to anything that can get that number back down? While telematics are optional for now, it could be very soon that they are actually required and that may not be a bad thing.

Additional auto insurance carriers are issuing premium refunds

Some people may think insurance companies are only there for them when they need to file a claim. Well, we are pleased to share some good news that shows how much auto insurance carriers across the board really do care.

These are challenging times and your insurance company wants to help! Many drivers are using their vehicles less as they abide by our current stay-at-home orders. Therefore, the following companies will all be issuing a one-time premium refund for personal auto policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each company is handling it slightly different so we’ve included the details below. This only applies to motor vehicle policies (not including golf cart, motorcycle, ATV or boat). This is still awaiting final regulatory approval but is headed in the right direction.

The best part about this is that policyholders don’t need to do anything! Refunds will automatically be either credited to their policy account or refunded.

*Nationwide: $50 per policy active as of March 31, 2020

*Safeco: 15% of premium as of April 7, 2020 for 2 months

*Auto Owners: 15% of premium for April and May, 2020

*Mercury: 15% of premium for April and May, 2020

*Progressive: 20% of April premium (refunded in May) and 20% of May premium (refunded in June)

*Chubb: 35% of premium for April and May, 2020 upon annual renewal

*Travelers: 15% of premium for April and May, 2020

*MetLife: 15% of premium for April and May, 2020

*AAA: 20% of auto premium for April and May, 2020

Geico: 15% of premium as the policy comes up for renewal between April 8-October 7, 2020. The credit will also apply to any new policies purchased during this period.

Allstate: 15% of premium for April and May, 2020

USAA: 20% of premium as of March 31, 2020 for 2 months

State Farm: 25% of premium for policies in-force between March 20-May 31, 2020

Hartford: 15% of premium for April and May, 2020

Liberty Mutual: 15% of premium as of April 7, 2020 for 2 months

Florida Fam Bureau: 15% of premium for April and May, 2020

*The companies with an * are the carriers in which we, at McGriff-Williams, represent and received this data directly from. Information regarding the other companies listed here was collected from their individual websites.

Business Interruption Insurance

In a time like the current pandemic of COVID-19, we are all experiencing some serious interruption. As individuals, it’s come in the form our personal relationships, children’s schools, sports, social events, networking, and even the everyday errand of running to the grocery store. Those restrictions are inconvenient and may be aggravating but in the end, not totally life changing. After all, some may even be enjoying the forced slow down and more time at home with their families.

But for businesses, it’s a different story. Think about your favorite restaurant, retailer, hardware store, caterer or event venue… your dentist, your hair stylist, your daycare and your gym. Think about how difficult it would be to tell employees of 20 years that you can’t afford to pay them or that you have to close the doors. Think about the students that work hourly to pay their way through school and support themselves, already living paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet.

This is a tough time, no doubt about it. It’s terrible. And it’s forcing business owners to look anywhere and everywhere for options. One avenue business owners are exploring is Business Interruption coverage on their commercial insurance policy, which is what we’d like to clarify.

Unfortunately, in most cases, this type of coverage does not apply to any type of disease or outbreak. In the event of a natural disaster or man-made crisis, this coverage would help protect businesses against financial losses if they had to suspend operations or operate at a reduced rate/capacity.

Some of the things Business Interruption typically covers are:
• lost revenue
• rent and lease payments
• mortgage payments
• other loan payments and taxes
• employee payroll or relocation costs

This coverage may not extend for the situation we’re in right now but it’s comforting to know it’s there when applicable. If there’s property damage, closure, or lack of operations that does qualify for coverage, this could get a company back up and running rather quickly. Suffering from economic shock and financial losses is stressful enough, so the silver lining in those situations would be that this is there to help.

There really isn’t a great solution or magic answer to how we’ll recover from this Coronavirus situation but if we can stay positive, band together, and help where we’re able… surely, we’ll come out of it okay and as best prepared as we can be to get to work on recovering.