Massachusetts Retail Merchants Workers’ Compensation Group

Board Member Highlight:


Jerry Murphy

M. Steinert & Sons, Boston
member since 1993, board member MA Retail and RAM

Jerry Murphy exudes the same confident quality as the iconic Steinway pianos in his Boston showroom. He’s third generation in this family-owned business. He’s equally confident walking the halls of the statehouse, speaking to legislators about everything from wine to music education on behalf of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. He’s been chair of the RAM board for nearly 10 years.

“I looked at joining RAM when a good friend in the music business told me not only is it a great organization, doing good things in the legislative arena, but ‘you won’t believe the workers’ comp deal’ the group offers,” remembers Jerry. “We were paying way too much money already. The rates were going higher. We were really getting clobbered (in the early 90’s).”

He joined and switched his workers’ comp and the benefits were clear. But that wasn’t the clincher.

“What really sealed the deal and got me involved was when we had a guy get injured. We have very few injuries, and this was minor, but medical attention was needed,” he explains. “They were all over it. Making sure the person was taken care of, asking questions about his care. And we were so pleased to have him happy, knowing we really cared – and back at work quickly. What a contrast to an injury with a prior insurer.”

Originally an accountant, for the past 38 years he’s a retailer who found himself so impressed with the extraordinary service from his workers’ comp administrator, Cove Risk Services, and the group’s financial success that he joined the board of directors five years ago.

“As a board member, I am seeing how cases are managed. Case managers are handling the injured parties with that same philosophy from the very beginning of what I experienced when I became a member. They care about the worker, they care about getting them healthy and back to work.

“I also review the numbers. It’s well run so when there is a question it is well discussed, and I think everyone in the room has an appreciation for the discussion. We’re looking out for all the other retailers in this group.”

And much like his confidence in Steinways, he’ll tell you what he wants other businesses to know about this workers’ comp program. “Not only are we going to insure you but we are going to insure you well. We are going to make sure that your operation has the tools to operate your business safely.”


History of the Group

It was 1990 and the workers’ compensation landscape was anything but attractive, particularly for Massachusetts retailers. The problem wasn’t just that the options were limited or too expensive, it was that the carriers were actually leaving the state. They had had enough of a system of statutory coverage mandates with equal policy costs for “good” companies and those in high risk pools. And they had enough of the associated losses.

When a window opened on a new concept – a self-insured workers’ comp program – a peek through the proverbial looking glass led to the creation of the Massachusetts Retail Merchants Workers’ Compensation Group, Inc. (MA Retail group).

The members had to be homogeneous for the state to allow its formation, MA’s first self-insured workers’ comp model for a business group, one of only a handful in the country. It was organized and sponsored by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts (RAM) and the Massachusetts Package Stores Association (MassPack).

What started as a group of a few hundred retailers and restaurants in 1991 is now over 4,000 businesses strong.

To write the best of the best was our goal from day one – to make sure our losses and expenses are consistently less than the premiums. For 25 years, every year, we’ve had extra money to pay back to our members in dividends. That’s the part of our story we’re most proud to tell.

What else are we proud to flaunt after 25 years?
• Retention is close to 97 percent.
• Dividends go back to business owners and the business community.
• We keep member dollars in their home state – supporting local and sustainable business.
• $50 million generated has been returned to our members.
• Member discounts and dividends together total over $100 million.
• Only safety conscious businesses are welcome.

The group’s success stems from a simple concept: make sure our members care sincerely about their employees – that among their highest priorities is keeping them safe. If they are safe they won’t have claims. If they don’t have claims then everyone wins. And this isn’t difficult since many small and mid-size businesses are family owned and pride themselves on long-term employees who feel as much like family.

Our members understand that if they were with a large national insurance company, paid $10,000 and had no claims, the insurance company wins. The insurance company gets that extra money. In this group, it all goes back to the member.

It’s a win for the employee who is safe, and it’s a win for the employer who gets a dividend check.

The longevity of our members is also no coincidence. We maintain a strong commitment to being selective. Only companies with good safety records are accepted. So what happens when a member has an increase in claims? They are put on a watch list and a comprehensive safety program is customized, based on detailed evaluations of their physical space, employee practices, management attention to safety training, etc. As a result, they nearly always improve and can continue appreciating the savings, dividends and safety services.

We also take a different approach to claims. Claims are never adversarial.

Every new member is introduced to a claims process; they go over the claims packet before there is ever a claim. Then they can file it away. They have the information and know who to call if they have a claim, or even just a question. Many never have the need to open the drawer and pull it out.

We have a reputation we’re proud to keep up. We take incredibly good care of people who are legitimately injured. And we stick up for the employer when that’s not the case.

Most of our members don’t ever experience what this group does best – extraordinary caring for people, approaching service as you would for family. They just know they get a dividend check every year. For us, that’s the ultimate scorecard.

This article has been excerpted from the group’s 25th anniversary brochure found here.