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Wrap-Up Programs

Wrap-Ups and the Balance Sheet Effect

Richard Resnick | October 1, 2004

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Group of construction workers of different ages

Wrap-ups can be looked at as one big balance sheet. Those that have read previous articles in this column have a sense of what wrap-ups are and their benefits to owners, developers, construction managers, etc. It is time to dig somewhat deeper into the world of wrap-ups and see what components make up the savings potential of these programs, and what control we have on some of these variables.

The ultimate cash savings (and remember, that is not the only reason to do a wrap-up) associated with wrap-up insurance programs are simple to illustrate. If I were to put it in a formula, it would look as such:

Subcontractor Deducts (or Alternate Adds) - Cost of Wrap-up Insurance Program = SAVINGS or (LOSS)

Hopefully, at the end of the day, you will realize a savings. Keep in mind this is not a guarantee. To get the program off to a good start, it takes being involved at an early stage, in particular during the bidding process. It is at this time that you will be able to examine the potential "deducts" or assets as we call them. This is an important task that needs to be understood as respects the particulars that go into the analysis. Therefore, we will focus on the asset side of the balance sheet for this article.

If we are not diligent in obtaining the proper insurance credits from the subcontractors, we will have "under-funded" our program. Let's start there and take some of the mystery out of this process.

Insurance Credits

A subcontractor will normally include their maximum cost of insurance in their bid when estimating the cost of a project. When a contractor enters a wrap-up program, the owner provides and pays for the insurance through the wrap-up. Therefore, there is no need to include the cost of insurance in the contractors bid. Henceforth, a "credit" (sometimes referred to as a deduct or alternate add) is given back to the owner.

This exercise can be accomplished in two ways. Knowing that a wrap-up will most likely be implemented, the owner requires the contractor to bid the job "ex insurance" and then will ask for an alternate bid price from the contractor for the inclusion of their insurance costs. This accomplishes two things. First, in the event the wrap-up is not implemented, the owner knows what to add to the contractor's bid for the cost of the contractor's insurance. Second, we have an insurance cost (an asset) we can verify and use in our balance sheets.

Other times, the owner may require a dual bid—with and without insurance to determine the "credits." This is more commonly known as a deduct. In other words, the contractor must deduct the cost of the insurance from the bid and provide dollars back to the owner as a credit. Following are some pros and cons of both methods.

Alternate Add
Advantages Disadvantages
  • Less threatening to the contractor
  • Levels the playing field as respects impact of experience modifiers
  • Better able to authenticate "credit"
  • Simplifies bidding process
  • In the event wrap-up is not selected, contractors may be noncompetitive based on "gross" bid
  • Takes away negotiating tactic from the "buy"
Advantages Disadvantages
  • Can be used as a negotiating ploy during the bidding process
  • Deducts are real dollars back to the sponsor in the form of a credit
  • Once the insurance number is in, it is difficult to get out
  • A threat to contractor
  • Deducts take additional time to negotiate ("Dialing for Dollars")
  • A high deduct could be due to a high experience modification
  • Low bidder could be the most unsafe bidder

Alternate adds can provide the fairest and best way to substantiate the reduction of contractors' insurance costs during the bidding process. However, with respects to the deduct method, one must confirm that the contract language facilitates a similar insurance form outlining the insurance cost that makes up the actual deduct. This must occur during the bidding process to obtain the truest insurance credit.

The Contractor Insurance Cost Worksheet

No matter what methodology is selected, it is critical to properly verify the bid deducts or alternate adds provided by the contractor. To accomplish this task, we utilize a detailed worksheet titled the "Contractor Insurance Cost Worksheet." A brief overview of the information required will help to explain the detailed nature of this process.

There are usually three elements of cost that make up a contractor's cost of insurance included in a bid. There may be exceptions at times based on the particular insurance requirements of a project such as environmental insurance, marine coverage, and professional liability. The three most common forms of coverage for which an owner needs to obtain credits when implementing a wrap-up are workers compensation, general liability, and umbrella insurance.

Workers Compensation

Following are some of the items required to best verify the true cost of insurance from the worksheet.

  • WC Class Code—This is necessary in order to verify that the trade contractor is using the proper coding for the particular project. A contractor using a code that may not reflect the actual job scope could be (although not intentionally) understating their insurance credit.
  • Estimated Payroll—This is the most critical information asked for. Just as a miscoding can understate the contractor's cost of insurance; an understatement of payroll has the same effect. Because a contractor's insurance cost is usually based on labor, one can see how important it becomes. Even more so, in certain jurisdictions there are questions as to the ability of the owner to obtain additional credits from the subcontractor at the end of the project when the payrolls are audited.
  • Experience Modification—A contractor deserves to lower its estimated insurance cost by the utilization of an experience credit obtained from the Compensation Rating Board. In turn however, the contractor's insurance credit back to the owner will be higher with a debit experience modification. The experience modifications can be verified by the Rating Board with a simple letter of authorization that allows the user a right to the data.
  • State Assessments—Many states have insurance assessments that are applied to premiums. It is only right that the owner have an opportunity to recapture these amounts in the insurance credits. To the owner, this really becomes a trade off because the owner will also be assessed by the insurance company underwriting the wrap-up.

General Liability

As respects general liability insurance, the key elements are the rates and payroll information. Without actually seeing the contractor's insurance policy, it is somewhat difficult to verify the general liability information. Workers compensation is simpler to verify with the given data because it is statutory as prescribed by the state. For example, all steel workers in a given state start out with the same rate. General liability rating is more subjective and judgment rated by the underwriter. The same goes for the umbrella. This again is a judgment rate and is usually based off the general liability premium. It is not uncommon for the owner to request a copy of the rating page from the contractors' general liability policy in order to verify the worksheet.

This process goes on throughout the term of the construction period. Contractors come and go throughout the project. There is much more to this process then most people realize. It takes time to review, verify, and sign off on these insurance costs. However, by being so diligent, the owner will benefit by having a more profitable program.

The insurance credits we have discussed accumulate and are eventually finalized and compared to the cost of the wrap-up program. These liabilities will be the subject of my next article.

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