Essential Businesses: Insurance Agents Make the Grade

Fran Majidi
March 30, 2020
Essential Businesses: Insurance Agents

Many states are allowing essential businesses to continue operations and have declared that insurance industry professionals are essential.

However, let’s look at what that means in a time of uncertainty about a fast-spreading pandemic. No matter how essential your line of work is, you should be up-to-date on what the coronavirus best practices are when it comes to meeting clients.

By no means does being regarded as an essential employee mean that you should stop practicing social distancing. Everyone should limit human contact as much as possible and work remotely when possible.

However, as it stands now, most states are allowing insurance businesses to remain open. Check with your governor’s office to make sure you live and conduct business in one of these states before reopening your agency. Read more below to stay informed.

What Does it Mean to Be an Essential Employee?

Some people are considered essential to the health and well-being of the population at large and are considered essential employees. For instance, doctors and nurses, grocery store attendants, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, military personnel and others continue serving us, even when the majority of workers are told to stay home in a coronavirus quarantine.

As it stands now, most states have limited business operations and the number of people allowed to congregate in one room at one time. Non-essential employees include the vast majority of Americans, meaning that the government has decided that the country is better off without this group working until the coronavirus has been contained. In short, people will still eat and get the health care they need and the economy will move along without the majority of the workforce working.

On the state level, most senators have decided that insurance sales are essential business, meaning that it's essential to continue selling insurance policies.

States came to this decision after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin issued a memorandum stating that financial services and insurance are a “critical infrastructure sector” and that employees should continue to work amid the coronavirus pandemic.

However, it’s been left to each state to decide whether or not more extreme measures should be taken and quarantines imposed on those deemed essential by the federal government. If the insurance industry went to sleep, people would be driving uninsured and they would not be able to enroll in health plans, which have just opened up enrollment again, due to the coronavirus.

Some states have not specifically named insurance as an essential business, but do mention financial services, an umbrella which usually includes insurance.

It’s safe to say that if you live in one of these states, you may resume working as usual (or unusual, rather). But proceed with caution (keep reading).

What Measures Should I Take When Having Contact with Insurance Shoppers?

In the age of millennials, a more clinical form of contact is usually the way to go, because that’s how those who grew up in the digital age prefer it. If you are selling car insurance, for instance, avoid meeting in person.

These days you don’t have to meet in an office or look over a car for damages. You can simply have your clients send photographs of registration cards, dents and bumps and drivers licenses.

Get connected with new clients using insurtech matching instead of going out and risking everyone’s health and breaking curfew. While the government encourages you to continue selling insurance, they continue to emphasize that social distancing and quarantines are best. Make sure you have a reputable lead source right away so you can keep making calls.

What About Older Shoppers Who Are Uncomfortable with Technology?

This is the hardest call because these people do need insurance, perhaps more than any other demographic right now. Many of them are uncomfortable using technology and perhaps don’t have access to a smartphone or computer at home. They still need insurance. At the same time, this is the demographic that is most prone to getting infected with COVID-19. For a senior’s protection and your own, see if the client can ask someone in their immediate family to help sort out the paperwork and send it to you digitally.

If I Have to Meet Clients in Person, What Should I do?

It’s encouraged to work from home, but as an insurance agent you are considered an essential employee and can meet with clients in the office if there are no alternatives to insuring a client. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued its guidelines for people deemed essential employees.

As mentioned above, older adults and seniors are at risk, especially those with chronic medical conditions. Minimize face-to-face contact with these individuals, or allow that they stay within a six-foot distance from you and other employees.

Again, it’s highly recommended that you make telework possible.

If I Can Technically Keep My Agency Doors Open and Have My Guys Selling Again, How Should I Proceed?

It is still recommended that you work remotely, if possible. If you cannot sustain it, here are tips from the CDC:

  • Maintain social distancing in the office.
  • Send employees with fever, cough or shortness of breath home as soon as possible.
  • Employees should not return to work until at least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and, at least 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
  • If an employee has a sick family member or friend at home, it’s wise to consider exempting this individual from the office. The CDC recommends that this employee take the following precautions:
  1. Stay in another room and/or be separated from the patient as much as possible. Use a separate bathroom and bedroom when possible.
  2. Do not allow the sick person to handle pets while sick.
  3. Make sure that shared spaces in the home have good airflow, either from air conditioning or windows.
  4. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60 to 90% alcohol, covering all surfaces of the hands and rubbing until they feel dry.
  5. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  6. Wear a face mask when you are around the patient if the patient is not able to wear a face mask.
  7. Wear gloves when touching or having contact with the patient’s stool, blood or bodily fluids, including saliva, sputum, nasal mucus, vomit and urine.
  8. Remove and dispose of gloves before removing protective equipment. Then, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60 to 90% alcohol.
  9. Avoid sharing household items with the patient, including utensils, bedding, cups, glasses, dishes and towels unless they have been washed thoroughly, at the highest temperature.
  10. Stay in close contact with the patient’s healthcare provider.