The Kanawha County Board of Education voted 4-0 Monday to pay BrickStreet Insurance about $819,000 for workers compensation insurance coverage for the upcoming school year.
That insurance quote from BrickStreet, representing the total annual premium, was around $100,000 less than the annual premium amount the company charged the county in the past school year.
Liberty Mutual Insurance, the only other company that provided a quote to win the upcoming school year’s contract, lost by a hair, according to a document the school system provided. It gave a quote that was only $1,221 higher than BrickStreet’s.
In an emailed statement, T.J. Obrokta Jr., president and chief operating officer of Motorists Insurance Group, which is joined with BrickStreet, said “the roughly 12% rate reduction in West Virginia, improved losses, and the competitive environment led to the year-over-year price reduction. Also, the KCBOE’s payroll dropped significantly which drove the cost lower.”
School board President Ryan White, as he did for the vote on this past school year’s insurance coverage contract, recused himself from Monday’s vote because his father, attorney and former state Democratic Party co-chairman Steve White, is on Motorists’ board.
Ryan White said Tuesday that he didn’t provide any information to BrickStreet regarding what Liberty Mutual was planning to charge. He said he saw only a summary showing the quote amounts a few days ago.
“That’s the first time I knew when we were bidding it out,” he said.
AssuredPartners of West Virginia is the school system’s broker of record. Assured- Partners’ Erik Engle said his company submitted, on the school system’s behalf, applications to bid to three insurance companies.
“Those are the ones who we formally submitted applications to,” Engle said. “We have general conversations with carriers before submitting an application to find out whether or not there’s an interest. There are very few insurance companies who will write workers compensation in the public education system.”
He said a couple of other companies said they weren’t interested in providing a quote. He said most companies are interested in much smaller school systems.
Engle said the companies that were sent applications to provide quotes were BrickStreet, Liberty Mutual and Travelers. He said Travelers declined to bid because it felt the school system’s history of workers compensation payouts, compared to what its past insurers received in premiums, was too high.
“It really just depends on each carrier and what their appetite is at the snapshot moment that we submit an application,” Engle said. “It’s not a situation where the Kanawha County Board of Education has a bad loss history. It has a loss history that Travelers doesn’t want.”
Engle said he spoke with those at his company who were personally involved in obtaining insurance for Kanawha, and they said they followed policy by not sharing any company’s quote with another company. He said no one asked him to favor BrickStreet.
He said school system officials said they wanted AssuredPartners “to ask for the best quote you could get from a carrier, as opposed to starting going back to carriers and saying, ‘Here’s what we got, do you want to try and and beat that?’”
“Where does it ultimately stop?” Engle said. “That’s why we tell our carriers up front, before they ever give us a quote, that we expect it to be their best quote.”
Of the close quotes, he said, “Carriers analyze accounts very similarly” and it’s “actually more unusual if they’re really far apart.”