The commercial insurance industry continues to question the validity and performance of the self-insurance pool. NIRMA Risk Report, a four-page supplement, debuts in Countyline magazine to provide monthly updates on the pool and interesting articles to help counties reduce risks and potential claims. A model personnel system is developed by NIRMA and 17 workshops are conducted across the state to provide counties with assistance in complying with the complexities of employment law issues. Additionally, the first of 12 seminars are offered to county road employees to address proper signing procedures. Thirty percent of county contribution dollars are used to purchase excess insurance, leaving the balance to pay claims and expenses, while earning interest. By October, NIRMA has invested in excess of $7 million in financial institutions in 49 member counties. The following month the member fund balance surpasses $5.6 million. NIRMA establishes an annual awards program to recognize an individual who stands out as an exemplary liaison between his or her county and NIRMA.
In a proactive approach not common among self-insurance pools, the NIRMA Board of Directors develops and adopts the pool’s first comprehensive five-year strategic plan to outline goals and a specific mission for future development, enhanced financial stability, and expanded services for members. NIRMA’s third policy year begins August 1 and personal visits are made in advance to the member counties. Despite a softening in the insurance market, NIRMA enjoys a 100 percent recommitment. A $164,787 retrospective premium adjustment is issued to 39 counties. The year ends with a membership total of 51 counties.
NIRMA develops and presents a comprehensive workshop on the Americans with Disabilities Act and its intent. Growth continues with the addition of two more counties, boosting membership to 53. NIRMA expands its awards program to begin recognizing counties for exemplary loss control efforts and for the most improved loss control history, which further reduces claims and contributes to the pool’s success.
NIRMA proactively anticipates the passage of LB 775, the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act, and aggressively works with counties to establish safety committees. Guidelines are developed for the creation of safety committees by January 1 of the following year and the counties are quick to respond. In response to a growing need, NIRMA develops a four-hour defensive driving course approved by the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center and offers it to law enforcement personnel. Completion of an independent appraisal service’s comprehensive examination of all county-owned buildings and facilities eliminates serious inequities among participating counties and the potential for disproportionate contribution rates, giving NIRMA further credibility with national excess insurance carriers. Total assets in excess of $14 million surpass the most optimistic financial projections and provide even greater evidence of NIRMA’s financial stability. Currently, 111 local financial institution across Nebraska are holding NIRMA investments.
A dividend of $392,376 is issued to 46 counties that were pool participants during the 1988 and 1989 contract years. It is the first actual dividend issued by NIRMA from a portion of the remaining member fund balance. The dividend is made possible due to the participating counties’ on-going efforts to reduce their liability and claims. As a result, the taxpayers are the beneficiaries. NIRMA adds its 54th and 55th counties to the pool. A NIRMA staff position of loss control specialist is created to assist counties in strengthening their respective loss control efforts.
An initial $10,000 in savings and a projected additional $5,000 in annual savings thereafter will be realized by counties as a result of a consortium created by NIRMA to help counties comply with federally-mandated drug and alcohol testing of employees who are required to possess a Commercial Drivers’ License. Member counties realize even greater savings as on-going loss control training and inspection services provided by NIRMA result in an additional $100,000 savings during the preceding 12 months. Members counties receive good news when contribution rates for the 1995-1996 policy year are reduced by approximately 11 percent for liability and property coverage and approximately 12.5 percent for workers’ compensation coverage, combined with the addition of crime and blanket bond coverage at no additional cost. The financial rewards continue as a six-month training program for in excess of 1,100 officials and employees in 57 counties on Department of Transportation drug and alcohol testing regulations saves counties $181,000.
The year begins with 47 counties receiving $366,950 in dividends from the member fund balance for policy years 1988, 1989 and 1990, bringing the amount returned to counties since 1991 to $924,113. Counties are credited with making the dividends possible by controlling losses and claims. Nebraska Department of Insurance Director Robert Lange praises NIRMA as establishing itself in just eight short years as a viable alternative to the standard insurance industry market. NIRMA distributes revised Model Personnel System and Law Enforcement Policies and Procedures Manuals at no cost to counties. HeartlandCOMP becomes NIRMA’s third party administrator for workers’ compensation claims. As part of its services, HeartlandCOMP offers a managed care program to aid counties in controlling and reducing medical costs, which is a relatively new concept. The NIRMA Board of Directors announces plans to issue its third dividend, based on 5 percent of participating members’ 1995 contributions, for counties that recommit for three years. Group Travel Accidental Death and Dismemberment benefits of up to $100,000 are offered at not cost to member counties for their employees. By year’s end the pool’s membership stands at 58 counties.
In a tremendous show of confidence, all 57 counties participating in NIRMA extend their recommitment for an additional three years. The NIRMA Board of Directors announces plans to establish a member fund balance of $10 million, which will permit the distribution of dividends from unencumbered funds in excess of that amount. The pool now holds in excess of $20 million in cash assets. Forty-seven counties receive a total dividend of $311,493 for 1988 and 1990, marking fifth monetary return over a 6-year span and increasing the collective total to nearly $1.5 million. An independent consultant reports NIRMA is one of the most financially sound pools he has ever examined. Contribution rates are reduced by 19.37 percent for liability coverage and 6.07 percent for workers’ compensation coverage for the policy year beginning August 1. NIRMA loss control begins offering a series of back injury workshops, surveying all counties to identify potential danger situations, and developing a Railroad Grade Crossing Safety Program. With the addition of four more counties, increasing its membership to 62, NIRMA reaches a significant milestone as two-thirds of Nebraska counties now participate in the self-insurance pool. Members are informed NIRMA has earned in excess of $5.2 million in interest income since 1988.
NIRMA marks the start of its 10th anniversary by recognizing its 32 charter member counties and issuing its fifth dividend to 47 counties in the amount of $420,000 for the 1989 policy year. It is the largest single return since NIRMA began issuing dividends in 1994 and increases the total amount counties have received to nearly $1.9 million. Adding to its ever-expanding services, NIRMA publishes a Model Loss Control Manual to assist counties in addressing a variety of workplace safety issues. The NIRMA Board of Directors announces there will be no rate increase for policy year 1998-1999 and yet another dividend, estimated at $528,000, is planned from the 1989 policy year. An additional announcement is that the coverage offered through the blanket bond, part of the NIRMA package, will be expanded on August 1 by 50 percent to $300,000, with the deductible unchanged and no additional cost to counties. NIRMA’s Group Travel Accidental Death and Dismemberment coverage, implemented two years earlier, pays its first benefits totaling $159,500 to the survivors of two county employees killed in a work-related traffic accident. While the insurance market is now consumer-friendly and competitive, NIRMA’s stability in its rating structure and its comprehensive coverage lines continue to make it an attractive option for counties. As NIRMA concludes its 10th anniversary, its financial status has never been stronger, with a combined member fund balance exceeding $14 million and generated interest of more than $6.5 million.
NIRMA begins assisting counties in preparing for Y2K. The sixth and largest dividend to date issued by NIRMA amounts to $528,000 for 47 counties that were members in 1989. With this dividend, the 47 have now received a total return averaging 53.6 percent of their premium contributions for the 1989 policy year. More than 200 county officials and employees attend the annual membership meeting, the largest attendance since the meeting began. NIRMA grows to 63 counties. The combined member fund balance increases by nearly $1.5 from the preceding year, and now totals $15,560,531. Interest earned by the liability and workers’ compensation pools, officially referred to since 1988 as NIRMA and NIRMA II, respectively, increases to $7.6 million, which includes just over $1 million in the past 12 months. Plans are announced to issue a $1 million recommitment dividend to those counties that approve a resolution to continue their participation for the next three years. The NIRMA Board of Directors approves the issuance of an additional $500,000 in dividends in 2000 to 57 counties that became members prior to August 1, 1996.