Nearly three years ago, CLM began the process of creating the Universal Claims Certification (UCC) for states that license claims professionals. The goal was simple: Create one educational standard to rule them all. States and the CLM would work together to determine universal educational requirements for claims professionals to be licensed, and that license would be reciprocated in all of the other UCC-participating states. The result would be a licensing process that could be completed much more quickly for all involved. Additionally, the cumbersome task of determining continuing education requirements on a state-by-state basis for those professionals who need multiple licenses would fade away into efficiency.
Fast forward to today, where the seeds of that initial labor are bearing fruit. Fresh off from adding six states to the list of participants, the UCC is launching with its first client. See how far the program has come, how the process works, and what the future holds for the UCC.
Getting to the Launch Pad
When the UCC was first announced in 2016, most involved in the process thought that it would take 10-15 years to implement. Changing state licensing processes often means creating new regulations, working through existing parameters within state insurance departments, or even changing state statutes, a cumbersome project for even the most patient.
“While it might seem to be taking a long time to implement, we knew it would be a long process and we are excited by the advances we have made,” says Anne Blume, CLM’s CEO. “We’re much further along than I think most thought we would be at this point, which is a testament to the fact that this is sorely needed within the industry.”
In particular, Blume points to the fact that California recently joined Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas (pre-licensing and exam) on the list of states that have agreed to implement the UCC process. While states like Texas are known for their reciprocity, California is notable because its adjuster license does not transfer to any other state, and, until the UCC, it required all adjusters to take its own licensing exam before they could handle claims.
“The fact that California is willing to be reciprocal underscores the importance of the consistency of the education and the approach,” says Blume. “As more states come on board, we expect the momentum for UCC to pick up speed.”
Having other states buy into the process also helps overcome some of the common hurdles that the UCC faces when the idea is pitched to a new state.
“When we begin discussions with a new state, typically there is some confusion,” says Adam Potter, founder and former CEO of CLM and driving force behind launching the UCC. “States want to know why it’s needed, and they are concerned about losing control of the licensing process. With the UCC, states are still in control of the licensing and retain all revenues. What they gain is efficiency, since the UCC streamlines the licensing process by standardizing the educational component. Ultimately, we want states to know that our goal is to hold claims professionals to the highest standards possible.”
Inside the Control Room
For the UCC to work, all participating states had to first agree on what the educational requirements should be for licensing claims professionals. With the help of senior claims executives from both the carrier and corporate worlds, CLM developed a 40-hour pre-licensing course that claims professionals must complete before taking an exam to establish comprehension.
The pre-licensing course takes place completely online, and is a multifaceted learning experience according to those involved in its creation.
“It’s not just a course to help claims professionals prepare for an exam; it’s an educational tool to help those new to insurance claims adjusting learn about the industry and how to handle clients because it includes a mix of theoretical and real-world, practical scenarios,” says Blume.
The Institutes acquisition of CLM in June 2018 provided a strong industry foundation to accomplish the UCC mission, too.
“We worked with CLM to further the creation of the UCC’s educational content, leveraging The Institutes’ assessment and content development departments and subject matter experts to make sure all of the topics were covered that needed to be,” says Kate Horowitz, chief administrative officer at The Institutes. “We looked at the most stringent rules across the states that license and used it as a benchmark to help strengthen the program.”
The pre-licensing is broken up into modules, and users can jump in and out of it at their discretion. Upon completion, claims professionals then sit for a proctored 150-question exam at a Prometric testing facility. If they pass, then they are granted the UCC.
“We continue to update the UCC’s test questions so that it’s not the same test each time,” says Horowitz. “We don’t want those seeking the UCC to simply study to the test; we want to ensure that they study the content and understand it completely.”
In order to maintain the certification, 24 hours of continuing education (CE), including five hours of law and ethics, is required every two years. Currently licensed claims professionals are exempt from the pre-licensing course and exam. They simply need to register for their UCC. However, they must still complete the mandatory CE within the two-year timeframe to maintain their UCC.
“The UCC’s importance in the industry is that it equalizes everybody,” says Blume. “Claims professionals can go to UCC states and do their work without having overlapping or inconsistent licensing requirements. The education is streamlined and calibrated, which creates consistency in the claims resolution process and makes the licensing process more efficient. You won’t have to worry about whether you took five hours of law CE specific to Florida or three hours of ethics CE in California. You will just take your 24 hours of CE requirements for the UCC, which will carry over to all participating states.”
First Flight Simulation
With six states lined up and the licensing and educational logistics determined, the UCC’s next step was to find its first willing participant. North American Risk Services’ (NARS) President and CEO Robert Ruryk explains why he decided to be the first company to adopt the UCC process.
“As a third-party administrator, we have 300 professionals who handle claims for various lines across insurance companies, self-insureds, risk retention groups, and captives,” says Ruryk. “We focus on desk adjusting, which means that we are responsible for ensuring that our claims professionals are licensed in the states where we work. Anything that can help us with the licensing process is welcome, so the UCC process makes a great deal of sense for us.”
Ruryk says prior to the UCC, NARS would have its claims professionals licensed in their home states, but problems arose when the company was asked to handle multistate programs for a single insurer.
“Insurers want us to keep a consistent team focused on their business rather than have claims professionals who are specialists in certain states or domiciled in particular states,” says Ruryk. “We handle claims in so many different states, and one claims professional can handle claims in five or six different states. The UCC methodology allows us to have claims professionals licensed in states that are not their home state more easily. It’s very helpful to us to have just one consistent requirement that could one day carry across the country.”
Ruryk says he appreciated the 40-hour pre-licensing training required for the UCC, too.
“It’s essential that claims professionals be well-trained and confident in handling claims, and the pre-licensing component ensures that new claims professionals receive that education,” he says.
In the end, Ruryk is hopeful that the UCC will not only speed up the licensing process for NARS claims professionals, but also simplify it.
“Some states are easier than others when it comes to licensing, and that is the challenge,” he says. “Every state has its own jurisdiction, issues, or various aspects of the law that are applied differently in determining coverage or liability standards, so I think there should still be state-specific training. But the UCC helps address the foundational policy form questions that are similar across the states.”
With licensing, certification, and education all in one place, the days of figuring out regulations to follow, licensing periods, and education requirements will become a distant memory. Having the educational support from The Institutes and partnering with companies like NARS will further strengthen CLM’s commitment to ensuring that the UCC lives up to its universal aspirations.
“We knew that the UCC was an added benefit during the acquisition of CLM, but it wasn’t proven yet,” says Horowitz. “As we went through the due diligence, we realized how important it was. The fact that the UCC can create reciprocity through all of the states not only better serves the insurance community, but also those who are in need in the moment of loss. It streamlines the process not only for adjusters, but also companies. So it saves time for the companies and allows employees to focus their efforts somewhere else.”
With six out of the 34 states that currently require licensing on board, the plan is to aggressively pursue the rest.
“We hope to expand to another 10 states in the next 12 months, continuing the process with The Institutes to work with regulators and legislators until all 34 states who license claims professionals are covered,” says Blume. “It’s going to be the hottest ticket in town.”