Insurance Law

So Insurance is Essential: Now what?

April 2020

By Donald J. Pfundstein*

Concord, March 27, 2020 - Late Thursday, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu issued a "Stay at Home" order which shuttered non-essential businesses and established the federal Homeland Security's list of Essential Services as the law until May 4th . His order and list make it clear that insurance is an essential service. (See "Financial Services" and health insurers should also note the Section on "Health Care/Public Health"). The same day, Commissioner Nicolopoulos issued the New Hampshire Insurance Department's first guidance on the "Stay at Home" order. As the Commissioner noted, the order makes it clear that insurance is essential and you need to remain open during the emergency. EvenTreasury Secretary Mnuchin has made it clear...you are special!

Now what? All that being said, working remotely is still encouraged. If the New Hampshire Insurance Department can adequately support 80% of its staff so they can work remotely, we ought to be able to do something along those lines as well. And, you might as well get ready for it because this is one of the life-changing ways things will be different after the COVID 19 pandemic subsides. It will be no different than when we all made changes after the 9-11 attacks, changes which have now been permanently adopted as ordinary. We are not going to need all that commercial office space. I hope your company didn’t finance too many of those projects. Or, there may be some other statutory accounting issues bubbling under that uncollected rent.

While working remotely presents both challenges and great opportunities, the in-office staff needs management attention as well. Some of you may have instituted temperature checks prior to entry and other screening protocols. Here are some recommended procedures from the Governor and Public Health: facilitate the practice of social distancing by keeping personnel 6 feet apart; no gatherings of 10 or more; encourage employees to stay home if ill and send any staff showing signs of illness home (I suggest you also loosen whatever benefit structures are necessary to remove any financial disincentive to compliance); encourage personal best practices such as regular hand washing, covering a cough or sneeze, and cleaning surfaces/work stations. Equip your employees as necessary. Make sure to watch for and review continuingly updated guidance from the CDC and New Hampshire's Department of Health.

*Donald Pfundstein is admitted in New Hampshire.

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