A crisis is developing. Commercial insurance carriers are passing along dramatic premium increases to government consumers, while offering drastically reduced coverages.
The crisis intensifies. Nebraska counties, like many other entities, experience an average increase of 160 percent in their premiums for liability coverage. As concerns mount, counties begin discussions on finding alternatives.
The Nebraska Association of County Officials Board of Directors and NACO Insurance Committee, in response to growing concerns of county officials and a recommendation from NACO Executive Director Jack Mills, authorize an informational meeting to address possible solutions for the dilemma counties face. County commissioners and supervisors participate in a September 25 meeting to explore their options with a number of insurance industry experts, including Steve Kahn of the California consulting firm of Advanced Risk Management Techniques (ARM Tech), and Association of County Commissioners of Alabama Executive Director Buddy Sharpless, whose organization has successfully managed a self-insurance program for 10 years. The meeting produces overwhelming support for a self-insurance program for Nebraska counties and 46 counties agree to jointly fund and retain ARM Tech to conduct a feasibility study.
Crafted by NACO, with assistance from other public entities, the Intergovernmental Risk Management Act – LB 398 – is introduced in the Nebraska Legislature by Senators David Landis, Dan Lynch, Roger Wehrbein, Rex Haberman, Wiley Remmers and Jim Pappas. The bill is intended to enable counties, cities, school districts, public power districts, technical community colleges, state colleges and the University of Nebraska to form separate legal entities to provide risk management services and insurance coverages for property, general liability, errors and omissions and workers’ compensation losses. Governor Kay Orr signs LB 398 into law in April, and its passage and signing are hailed as a bill having a monumental positive impact for public entities. With the feasibility of a county self-insurance pool already clearly established, Arthur J. Gallagher and Company is selected as the pool’s broker and returns with insurance marketplace quotations 20 percent less than what had been projected. In excess of 60 meetings are conducted statewide for counties interested in potentially joining the pool. Thirty-two counties sign on as charter members and in December elect a nine-member Board of Directors, with Buffalo County Supervisor Jim Anderson serving as chair. Anderson, himself a successful independent insurance agent, is credited with playing a major role in passage of LB 398 earlier in the year.
Upon receiving a Certificate of Authority on January 7 from the Nebraska Department of Insurance, the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Association (NIRMA), with 32 charter members, becomes the first liability self-insurance pool of its kind in Nebraska. Five months later the Nebraska Department of Insurance issues a second Certificate of Authority to NIRMA, this one to allow the pool to offer workers’ compensation coverage. As of July 1, six additional counties have joined NIRMA. The NIRMA Board of Directors votes to invest its excess funs in banks located in member counties. The initial investment amount totals $1.3 million.
An education day is planned to provide member counties with a review of the NIRMA program and to offer information to prospective members. Senator David Landis is presented a special award during the 95th annual Nebraska Association of County Officials convention in recognition of his introduction of LB 398 and his efforts to bring about its passage two years earlier. Seven more counties become NIRMA members during the year, which now stands at 46.