Sunday, February 12, 2012

Internalizing the Claims Function - Release Your Inner Control Freak

“Control freak.”

This is a term, often pejorative, applied to a person who is detail oriented and who seems to want to call the shots on everything.

Being a control freak may not necessarily be bad, though. One reason why companies bring the claim function in-house is due to their desire to exercise more control over the claims process. It often boils down to a “make or buy” decision. Do you pay retail or wholesale?

Beyond that, companies find that they have more control over how their claims are handled by internalizing the function. Tighter control over the process can often lead to better outcomes as a result. These controls might include service standards relating to claimant contacts, completion of investigations or subrogation pursuit. Better outcomes represent “the bottom line,” both figuratively and literally.

As a client of an independent adjusting service, the risk manager is still one fish – often a small fish -- in a big pond. He or she still competes for the time and attention of an outside adjusting staff. Sometimes clients may have “dedicated” adjusters. Typically, this means that the adjuster is handling only the cases generated by Client ABC. Realistically, the client needs to have a certain brisk volume of claims to make this cost-feasible for an outside claim service provider.,

Another way to define “dedicated” adjuster, though, is to say that only Adjuster X will be handling my claims. The caseload of adjuster X may be comprised of file assignments from other clients, but the distribution of caseload assignments from Client ABC will not be sprinkled amongst seven different adjusters.

With a wide range of adjusters handling claims for a particular client, adherence to a client's claim procedures may be spotty. Inconsistency looms. From one case to another, the risk manager may not know which adjuster is going to handle a loss. Constant turnover of personnel is often epidemic among insurer or TPA claim staffs, frustrating clients.

Internalizing the claims process can often address these problems. Having the adjuster as an employee instead of an outside service provider can enable the client to exert a more powerful influence in getting the right things done, and getting them done right. Claims could be handled the way they should be procedurally, with greater accountability for results. The on-staff claim adjuster has no competing constituencies. He or she has but one client: the employer. The field adjuster working for an independent claim service is juggling dozens of demands from many clients. None of them sign the adjuster’s paycheck. Some take priority and others may go to the bottom of the priority pile.

When the claims staff is in-house, though, the client’s name IS on the paycheck. Through the power to hire and fire, through performance reviews, coaching, physical proximity and compensation systems, the client can better “mold” the claim-handling activities of internal adjusting staff.

While cost savings often drive the decision to bring the claim function – wholly or partially – in-house, control issues also often factor in.


Jon Broome said...

I get the benefits of control, but in assessing whether to bring a function in house, doesn't a client need to assess if this is a core competency? If it is not, how distracting will it be? We have seen plenty of companies underestimate the difficulties of managing claims.....

Kevin Quinley said...

Jon, Great point .. and perhaps the subject of a future blog. Wanting to have more claims control and having the subject matter savvy to pull it off are two different things. Clients can over-estimate how easy it is to administer claims and later find that they have bitten off more than they can chew!