Body Shops, Insurers Still at Odds Over Feather, Prime and Block - BodyShop Business

Body Shops, Insurers Still at Odds Over Feather, Prime and Block

Collision repairers should be charging for feather, prime
and block as a paint procedure, not a body procedure. Yet that is not happening
in Jon Griesenbeck’s area, and he is not happy about it.

Griesenbeck of Euro Specialty, Inc., in Roanoke, Va.,
recently had trouble getting reimbursed properly for feather, prime and block
from State Farm and says he’s fed up.

“Federal law has mandated what it is, end of
story,” Griesenbeck said. “No insurer has the right to go against
federal law.”

Griesenbeck is referring to the EPA’s new 6H Rule, which
he believes has settled the debate on whether feather, prime and block is a
body procedure or a paint procedure.

Body or Paint?

Most insurance companies claim that feather, prime and
block is a function of body labor and should be paid as a body procedure, or is
already “included” in the repair time, thereby not requiring payment
for paint materials. But most shops claim that feather, prime and block is a function
of the paint department because it requires the use of a surface coating,
namely primer, and the use of an HVLP spray gun. Therefore, they believe it
should be billed as a paint procedure, which would include payment for paint
materials.

According to attorney Andrew Rodenhouse, while the 6H
Rule doesn’t address how much time feather, prime and block requires or whether
it should even be paid at all, it does say that if feather, prime and block is
going to be performed, it must be performed under the guidelines of the rule,
regardless of whether the repairer charges for it. This means that any
application of a primer that’s sprayed through an HVLP spray gun or its
equivalent with the capacity of greater than 3 ounces must be performed in
either a spraybooth or an approved prep area by a certified painter.

“So if the shop charges for feather, prime and
block, it must be charged as a paint procedure and not as a body
procedure,” said Rodenhouse. “This is because any final bill showing
that feather, prime and block was charged as a body procedure or ‘included’ in
the body procedure may be used as evidence against the shop by the
government that it violated the 6H Rule. If a shop owner, manager, painter or
body technician violates this rule, it will leave him or her open to civil
liability, criminal liability or even jail time.”

At the Collision Industry Conference held March 17 in New Jersey, an EPA
representative said that those penalties could be up to $37,500 per day per
violation
.

State Farm’s Position

In a statement released to BodyShop Business by State
Farm, the insurer explained its take on the 6H Rule and said it lets the market
determine what it will or won’t pay for.

“It is our understanding that the new federal (EPA)
regulation addresses specifically where/how the operation should be performed
within the repair facility and does not specifically address how this activity
should be estimated or billed. State Farm relies on repair facilities to
provide the vehicle owner with a final repair bill documenting the repair
process and cost of repair.

“Labor and material costs associated with the
feather, prime and block operation on repair panels is included in repair
estimates prepared by State Farm. In areas where the majority of repair
facilities request the feather, prime and block allowance be documented in
another manner, State Farm follows the market area.

“State Farm continues to monitor industry activity
at the market level and responds accordingly. As a result, feather, prime and
block is documented on our repair estimates in a variety of ways. State Farm
would be receptive to a single method to avoid confusion and better serve our
shared customer.” 

Griesenbeck thinks following what the market does is
meaningless if what the majority of the market is doing is, in his opinion, illegal.

“If repairers are stupid and don’t follow the law,
why should I be penalized? The shame of it is that if every shop jumps off the
Brooklyn Bridge, I guess I have to do it, too,” he said. “All the
body shops have had to make changes because of the 6H Rule, but the insurers
can’t even abide by a single thing because they’ll have to pay for paint and
materials.”

It’s Included

Tammy Horvat, office manager at Nagy’s Collision
Specialists in Wadsworth, Ohio, says she is typically told by insurers that
feather, prime and block is an included operation.

“I’ve contacted insurance companies when I feel we
should get paid for it, but I would say that unfortunately, it’s a case-by-case
basis,” said Horvat. “But I always write it up under refinish time,
and when I do get the time, it has always been under refinish labor.”

“It’s one of those operations that not enough repair
facilities are putting on their estimates on a regular basis, so insurance
companies will say, ‘The market isn’t putting it on their estimates, so we
can’t/won’t pay for it,'” Horvat added. “It’s no different than when we
first started writing tint color. Until shops got on board and started writing
it regularly, they wouldn’t pay for it.”

Tom O’Mara of O’Mara Auto Body in Martensdale, Iowa,
hasn’t been charging for it at all, and he said he doesn’t know anyone else in
his area who has either.

Wade Ebert of American Auto Body in Springfield, Ill.,
says he gets much resistance from insurers to pay for feather, prime and block, so
he asks the vehicle owner to instead. He also writes it as a refinish
operation.

Southern California sounds the same way. “What they
tell shops in our area is that no one else is charging us for this, or you may
charge us but we will lower your body repair time if you ask for it,” says
Lee Amaradio, owner of Faith Quality Auto Body in Murrieta, Calif.

However, Amaradio questioned whether listing feather,
prime and block on an estimate as a body procedure and not billing for
paint materials necessarily gives the EPA evidence that a shop didn’t follow
the 6H Rule.

“I think that’s a stretch,” said Amaradio.
“I don’t see any problems with the EPA because it’s easy to prove feather,
prime and block was done by the paint department since everything we prime and
mix is listed on our VOC sheets by our mixing bank computer.”

Attorney Rodenhouse disagrees, calling an estimate that
does not bill feather, prime and block as a paint procedure “relevant
evidence.”

“The EPA would still bring that evidence,” said
Rodenhouse. “I wouldn’t give the EPA a piece of evidence to use against
you. If the shop says, ‘I do that procedure in a paint booth, but I just bill
it differently,’ it shifts the burden to the shop to show evidence that the
procedure indeed was done within the parameters of the 6H Rule.”

The EPA has responded by saying it “does not have a role in how shops describe their operations to automotive insurers for reimbursement.” It did not respond as to whether or not it could use an estimate that lists feather, prime and block as a body procedure as evidence that a shop violated the 6H Rule.

Feather, Prime and Block Defined

The Collision Industry Conference (CIC) Estimating
Committee published a definition of feather, prime and block back in 2006,
stating that “feather, prime and block are non-included refinish
operations that complete the process from 150 grit to the condition of a new,
undamaged panel… The body/paint labor and materials necessary to prepare the
repaired area from 150 grit to the condition of a new undamaged part is a valid
and required step in the process. The labor and material allowances for these
operations requires an on-the-spot evaluation of the specific vehicle and
damage.”

Still, it seems as though repairers have undone the work by this committee by not asking for feather, prime and block and billing for it appropriately.

“I thought we had this figured out years ago,” said Rodenhouse, a former body shop and towing business owner. “I can’t believe we’re still arguing about this.”


More information:

Featheredge, Prime and Block is Not a Body Procedure

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