By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
When the coronavirus pandemic hit this spring, one of the first effects was a dramatic decrease of traffic on the roads – and fewer people driving meant a slowdown for the insurance industry.
Jen Talich, a State Farm agent in Cody, said her office was surprised by the sudden decline.
“My peers that are insurance agents and people around the country start saying, like, ‘Are you closing your office? Are you shutting down? Everyone’s going remote,’” she said. “I mean, I didn’t see that coming.”
In Torrington, Lisa Richardson’s agency offers auto, home, life, and health insurance and she said their office started fielding phone calls shortly after the pandemic hit Wyoming.
“I just had a few phone calls, with people asking, ‘I’m not driving as much, you know, what are they going to do?’” Richardson recalled. “And I said ‘They are right now issuing rebates, you don’t have to do anything.’”
Both Talich and Richardson reported that the insurance companies – and their own offices – stepped up to assist their policy holders.
“People were not driving as much,” Richardson said, “and so those insurance companies all stepped up right away and gave rebates, 15% to 20%, for the months of April and May.”
However, while some relief was offered, Talich pointed out that their insurance policies didn’t cover lost revenue for businesses that had to close their doors.
“On our insurance policies, we do have a ‘loss of use,’” she explained. “So if you had a flood in your business, or you had a fire, and you couldn’t be open for a period of time, the insurance policy will cover that loss of earnings.
“But a pandemic is… it’s in the small print, right?” she said. “It’s excluded.”
But Talich noted that her staff went out of their way to assist in ways they could.
“We did end up running for some prescriptions,” she said. “We stopped at the grocery store to deliver things for some people who really felt like they needed help.”
And according to Wendy Curran with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming, things are starting to return to normal after a decline in elective procedures. Most hospitals stopped handling such procedures for a period to preserve resources in case they were needed to deal with coronavirus.
“We have seen a decrease in claims for things that weren’t really essential,” she said, “and we’re seeing that people are now able to get back in and see their doctor safely and have some of those procedures done.”