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American Family examining if feather, prime and block should be line item; software could slow adoption

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Business Practices | Insurance

Following AudaExplore’s announcement that it would make feather, prime and block a separate line item on its estimating software, American Family Insurance is determining if they’ll make that distinction on insurance estimates.

letter sent out Thursday but dated April 16 from American Family physical damage policies and procedures manager Mark Follmann acknowledges the AudaExplore change, which the estimating service has said was a first for that industry.

The switch  “to increase transparency of estimates for collision repair facilities and insurance companies” comes with Audatex 7.0.5, Follman wrote.

“CRP shops have reached out to American Family Mutual Insurance Company to determine when this functionality might be made available for use through our Certified Repair Program,” Follman wrote. “We want to let you know American Family is currently evaluating this process change and will provide our shop partners with more information in the near future.

“Thank you for your patience as we work through this new repair estimate functionality.”

Reached by phone Friday morning, Follman said that American Family hadn’t fully upgraded to Audatex 7.0.5 companywide, which would be necessary to use the new feather, prime and block distinction. (Repairers on Audatex should probably make sure to upgrade as well.)

“That’s probably mid-summer,” he said.

But just because an upgrade was planned doesn’t mean that American Family will adopt the new line item.

“We have to evaluate it,” Follman said, and “figure out what’s best for everybody.”

So while that’s not the definite, immediate answer repairers probably wanted, at least there’s acknowledgement from another insurer that the procedure could be considered a separate item.

On the other hand, it’s frustrating to wait further — and possibly still get a “no.” The Collision Industry Conference has recognized feather, prime and block as a separate procedure since 2006, and all the estimating services included the caveat that the work wasn’t included in their labor time projections.

The issue was raised in the flagship case A&E v. 21st Century, which doesn’t include American Family among the insurers plaintiff shops accused of price-fixing and steering.

“While this procedure is not required on every repair, when it is performed, all three databases clearly state it is not an included operation and it is a refinish operation,” the shops’ attorneys wrote in their lawsuit.

“Defendants State Farm, Progressive and USAA, among others, have historically consistently refused to pay for this procedure in its entirety to most of the Plaintiffs on the ground that it was an included body labor operation. Defendants GEICO and Nationwide began paying for this procedure either shortly before or shortly after this lawsuit was originally filed.”

In an April open board meeting, Society of Collision Repair Specialists Executive Director Aaron Schulenburg said State Farm in some areas appears to be acknowledging the procedures in estimates and cutting body time in response. He called it an “interesting step forward.”

Featured image: Following AudaExplore’s announcement that it would make feather, prime and block a separate line item on its estimating software, American Family Insurance is determining if they’ll make that distinction on insurance estimates. (loraks/iStock/Thinkstock)