Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Kara Koirtyohann and Kevin Fuller

Over the past year, Hagerty has helped more than 25 state and local governments, as well as over 100 hospitals and healthcare systems respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the month, we will highlight several Hagerty team members who are helping our clients navigate the complexities of the continuing public health crisis by sharing how they have addressed unique response challenges, maximized federal reimbursement opportunities, and tackled recovery challenges your community may be facing.

How did your career path lead you to Hagerty?

Kara: I came to Hagerty after working many years as a licensed architect, designing and managing public and private construction projects in New York City and the surrounding region. Hagerty offered me an opportunity to use my background and expertise to serve an even larger community, with a multitude of municipalities and non-profits in their times of greatest need.

Kevin: It was a random chance in a lot of ways. My first post college job in public sector consulting started on August 29, 2005, which was the same day Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana. I worked with a lot of Hagerty staff during my year in Baton Rouge. After finishing my MBA in the United Kingdom in 2013, my wife and I settled outside of New York City. I learned that Hagerty was assisting with Hurricane Sandy recovery, and I got the itch to return to disaster recovery work. Seven years later, and I still really enjoy what I do every day.

How have you been supporting clients in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Kara: As the Portfolio Manager for our COVID-19 healthcare and university clients, I work with our clients across the country in a multitude of COVID-19 response and cost recovery efforts. My work is largely focused on assisting clients in navigating various COVID-19 relief funding programs, including new federal funding streams such as the United States (US) Department Health and Human Services (HHS) Provider Relief Fund and the Department of Education (DOE) Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (created through the Coronaviruses Aid, Relief, and Economic Security [CARES] Act), as well as funding opportunities through Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) state, local, and private funding programs. We work with clients to maximize cost recovery for ongoing and finished work by navigating the complex regulations surrounding each program and creating a unified recovery approach.

Kevin: I have been assisting both state/local governments and healthcare providers as they navigate the various recovery programs created or strengthened to deal with COVID-19. This has involved reviewing various legislation as it gets signed into law, but more importantly how it is being interpreted and implemented by the federal agencies. As this is an ongoing pandemic, we’re in continual discussion about future plans and strategies and how actions might impact eligibility for certain programs.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced and/ or addressed while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Kara: Disaster response for the COVID-19 pandemic is like no other. In addition to our work supporting clients with the logistical complexities of setting up mass alternate care, testing, and vaccination sites, the unique situation in which ongoing disaster declarations are occurring simultaneously in all states, as well as the ongoing evolving knowledge of the virus and resulting response strategy, have contributed to funding programs and policies continuously changing. The complexity of navigating these changing policies while simultaneously supporting rapidly moving response and recovery efforts has required significant patience, detail, and an attitude of adaptability to guide clients through these sometimes daily changes.

Kevin: The biggest challenge is essentially the unknowns involved with the pandemic and the federal response. New funding streams are of course going to have growing pains, but even established stakeholders like FEMA have had to adjust dramatically, as FEMA policy is built for localized/regional natural disaster events, not nationwide pandemic events. Using the HHS Provider Relief Fund as an example for healthcare providers, the definition of “Lost Revenue due to Coronavirus” has changed three times since the CARES Act was signed into law. As a consultant, you need to prepare yourself and the hospitals you are assisting to manage sudden and massive changes to policy and have contingencies in place if it changes again. 

What lesson(s) have you learned – professionally and personally – supporting our clients’ response to the pandemic?

Kara: The COVID-19 pandemic has been a trying time for everyone, but Hagerty has excelled in leaning into our strength as a unified team. Our regular internal COVID-19 meetings allow us to share knowledge, insights, and results with our teams across the country. It’s been great to see Hagerty’s collaborative work style “sing” as we readily support a diversity of clients nationwide. Personally, the pandemic has been a reminder to find joy in the little things. From a good cup of coffee to a good joke, these things keep us going.

Kevin: I was honestly pretty accustomed to working remotely pre-pandemic due to previous projects both during and before my time with Hagerty. At the same time though, when bigger meetings or issues arose, I valued the ability to be able to work through them in person. Obviously, with COVID-19, that’s not as possible, so I’ve learned a lot about being adaptable in working with clients so to still allow the same level of alliance building as you could pre-COVID. Also, on a completely different note – eyestrain is real. If you’re going to be in front of a computer for 50-60+ hours a week, switch to a larger monitor instead of your laptop screen.

What long-term impacts do you believe the COVID-19 pandemic will have on hospitals and universities?

Kara: I expect our healthcare entities and universities will be continuing to recover from the pandemic for many years to come. Universities are implementing mass student testing and contact tracing programs –to match many municipalities– and I anticipate that aspects of the significant changes brought about in telelearning and telemedicine will continue to shape our clients well after the majority of vaccines are distributed. Additionally, every disaster response always generates lessons to be gathered and built into future response efforts. This includes revising action plans and formalizing relationships and processes that were critical in responding to this pandemic to better prepare for the future. Particular to COVID-19, I anticipate significant change at a national level. The federal government has uncovered considerable opportunity to better organize national pandemic response infrastructure, particularly the relationship and responsibilities between federal agencies and identification of the lead agencies for pandemic response.

Kevin: I think it’s going to take years to get through analysis of what went right and wrong in terms of the government and private sector’s (nonprofit and for-profit) response to COVID-19, but I think a pivotal piece will be the roles played by state and local health departments around the nation. There’s a wide gamut nationwide for health departments in terms of their scope of activities, structure, level of local control, operations, proactive/reactive mindset, and funding levels. I think the lessons learned in the next few years will determine the role of the Public Health apparatus for the next few decades.

Kara Koirtyohann is a Senior Recovery Manager and Portfolio Manager for Hagerty’s hospital and university clients. This year, Kara has worked with multiple hospitals and universities to plan for and maximize their COVID-19 cost recovery. Prior to the pandemic, she worked with Hagerty as the Lead of the of New York City Hurricane Sandy Recovery Project Program Conformance Team and as Project Manager for wildfire and flooding recoveries in California. Kara is a licensed architect. Prior to working with Hagerty, she managed the design and construction of public and private buildings and spaces.

Kevin Fuller is a Deputy Director of Recovery for Hagerty Consulting. At Hagerty, Mr. Fuller is currently serving as Project Manager for a number of hospitals with their COVID-19 Cost Recovery needs. His work includes providing financial analysis, policy expertise, and grant management advice. He supports the tracking, spending, drawdowns, and funding from all grant sources.