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Inside insurance company investigative labs
By Joe Frey
A breed of "new detectives" is working to lower insurance costs by fighting fraud, assuring indoor air quality, and implementing strategies for improving working conditions. These sleuths are chemists, fire experts, physicists, biologists, and indoor air quality (IAQ) managers and they're all insurance company employees.
The Hartford, Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., and The Travelers allowed insure.com inside their loss-control laboratories for a unique look at how each aims to rein in insurance-claims costs. The Hartford, for example, investigates the causes of and solutions to air-quality and chemical-compound quandaries. Liberty Mutual concentrates on job-related stresses and the effects they have on health and disability insurance claims. Travelers focuses on uncovering fraud in auto and home insurance claims.
A behind-the-scenes look is rare. The labs at The Hartford and Travelers aren't open to the public and aren't simply playgrounds for scientific detectives they're there to turn a profit. Each lab accepts work from individuals and companies even other insurance companies. Both labs do work for a half-dozen insurers, but officials at both zipped their lips when asked to name names. The labs also do work for their corporate customers, sometimes on a fee-for-service basis, sometimes as part of the customer's policy.
Liberty Mutual's research lab in Hopkinton, Mass., however, is run like a think tank. Its body of work is largely academic. It costs the insurer about $8 million per year to operate and doesn't take jobs from outside individuals or companies. The research aids Liberty Mutual, the largest workers comp insurer in the United States, in reducing job-related accidents at customer workplaces. The lab is also open for tours. (Call Dianne Morgado at 508-435-9061 ext. 305 for more information.)
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