By Leigh Ann Hubbard

Insurance premiums are skyrocketing in senior living—up by as much as 300% for some communities, Reuters reported in July.

“Our phones are ringing off the hook,” says Jason Zuccari, vice president of business development and external relations at Hamilton Insurance Agency (a Senior Living Foresight partner).

COVID has exacerbated an already tough market. Claims are up, litigation is up, and insurance premiums and deductibles are through the roof.

People who have never worried about insurance rates before—like CEOs—are suddenly deciding they need an expert, stat. So they’re ringing up Hamilton, one of only a handful of agencies to focus on senior living.

“Our firm has been specializing in seniors for 40 years,” Jason says. “Our clients range from multiple-hundred-building chains to stand-alone mom-and-pop operators.” The agency is seeing premiums increase across the country—especially for assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing care.

Liability insurance in particular is going up by about 25% to 30% on average, says Keith Parnell, vice president of Hamilton Insurance Agency. “But we’ve seen 3,000% rate increases on some accounts,” he says. Deductibles are going up too.

We asked Jason and Keith for their insider tips to get the best rate possible in a seemingly impossible market. Here’s what they recommend. 

Tip 1: Start Shopping Around Early

If you have multiple buildings, start as far as six months out. For a single building, three or four months should do it. This will give you time to find the right broker—and figure out what strategies will get you the lowest quotes.  

Tip 2: Work with a Specialist

When the market was more forgiving, brokers who were generalists could get you a good rate just fine. But nowadays, you need a specialist. “Not all brokers are equipped the same, and not all brokers understand the industry,” Keith says.

Specialists know the ins and outs of senior living. They know what the underwriters look for—good signs and red flags. They can present your company in the best way possible. Before you shop around, Hamilton brokers can even help you put best practices in place that make your company stand out. 

Tip 3: Choose an Agency with Longevity—and a Great Reputation

Look for a broker who has longstanding relationships with underwriters. “You need to be with a broker whose submissions go to the top of the pile,” Keith says. “For example, I’ve had one underwriter for the whole 30 years I’ve been here. If she calls me up and asks about an account, and I tell her it’s a good one, she says, ‘OK, I’ll get it quoted.’”

Just be sure the agency has good long-standing relationships. If an agency’s clients have lost insurance companies tons of money, that trust is broken. 

Tip 4: Get Help with Risk Management

Insurance companies like to see good risk mitigation programs. Preventing incidents prevents claims. 

Hamilton Insurance Agency offers its clients ERMA, which stands for electronic risk management assistant. The ERMA software tracks every incident that happens in your building to help you determine and eliminate the cause.

For example, if someone falls three times in a week, the system will send out a high alert, notifying staff to look into the issue. “We’re able to track it down to the person, where they’re falling, what’s happening, the time of day, the nurses who were on shift—every little bit of information,” says Keith. “You’re able to predict what’s going to happen in the future and eliminate it.”  

Tip 5: Don’t Forget the Coverage

Getting the lowest rate is only part of the equation. You also need good coverage. An experienced senior living insurance broker can fight back against inappropriate exclusions in the policy.

Today’s senior living insurance market is one of the most challenging in history. But it’s not unprecedented. About 20 years ago, “the insurance market pretty much collapsed,” Jason recalls. Hamilton Insurance Agency—and its brokers—were in the business then. “Knowing those pitfalls, learning from our past—it’s very beneficial.”

To learn more about ERMA and schedule a risk assessment, or to get an estimate for 2021 premiums, please fill out the form below or email [email protected].

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