April 30, 2020
We’re here to help!
As we are all facing unprecedented change & uncertainty, we wanted to reach out to provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about insurance, employees & best practices. Our offices are open and ready to service your needs.
We appreciate your patience as we are receiving a large number of phone calls, emails. and slower response times from insurance carriers.
Can I suspend my malpractice coverage while I’m not working?
Some malpractice insurance carriers, such as Fortress, OMSNIC and Professionals Advocate & do allow policy suspension for a minimum of 90 days. The requirements and discounts vary by carrier. However, we do not recommend a suspension because the policy completely ceases, and therefore, during medical emergencies, you would have no coverage. However, most carriers are providing an extension for premium payments with extensions ranging from 30 to 60 days.
Will my malpractice policy provide coverage if a patient contracts or alleges that they have contracted Coronavirus from treatment in my office?
We believe that if this type of allegation were made, it would be defended by your professional liability policy. Patient allegations of treatment-related injuries are what the professional liability policies were designed to address. There are coverage exclusions found in every insurance policy, but we see nothing in the exclusions associated with the common dental professional liability policy that would concern us regarding this type of allegation. Proving that the patient was exposed at the dental office due to the negligence of the doctor and staff would appear to be difficult to defend in most cases though. It is important to follow mandated closures and respect recommended closures.
Will my policy provide coverage for teledentistry or virtual office visits?
Do I have business interruption coverage for Coronavirus?
The team at Asset Protection Group is receiving numerous questions from clients about insurance that would cover loss of income were they required to temporarily close their practice or lose patients due to a virus-based pandemic. Unfortunately, the short answer is that there isn't an insurance option currently available to cover the loss of business income due to a virus-based pandemic. For a dental practice owner, a loss to business income (and even property) is not insurable with regard to certain risks like a pandemic, acts of war, or nuclear radiation. Even more common risks such as flood, earth movement, rot, mold or wear and tear to name a few are found in the list of excluded perils (not covered) on the common Business Owners Policy (BOP) policy. However, some of these exclusions you can buy a specific rider for the coverage such as earthquake and flood. Unfortunately, a virus-based pandemic is not a rider that can be purchased at this time. This exclusion holds true even if there is a governmental based required shut down.
Please see quotes from two of the nations leading insurers for dental practices for business income protection:
1. Our Business Income for Civil Authority Actions will NOT respond to closures due to the coronavirus. Our form specifically states:
When a Covered Cause of Loss causes direct physical loss or direct physical damage to property other than at the “scheduled premises”. Sickness is not a covered cause of loss, nor does it cause direct physical damage. As such no response.
2. Business Income
(a) We will pay for the actual loss of Business Income you sustain due to the necessary suspension of your "operations" during the "period of restoration". The suspension must be caused by direct physical loss of or damage to property at the described premises.
The loss or damage must be caused by or result from a Covered Cause of Loss.
In spite of the statements above from the insurance carriers, we recommend submitting the business income claim.
The only other common way to insure practice income/expenses is a form of disability insurance called Business Overhead (BOE). BOE
Should I close my office?
Please look to your state dental association for guidelines and best practices. The American Dental Association and most state-based associations have recommended a closure to protect dentists, staff and patients.
What type of financial assistance may be available for my practice?
Does my workers compensation policy cover payroll for employees who I have to lay off or are afraid to come to work ?
Workers compensation benefits has nothing to do with unemployment insurance. Workers compensation is designed to cover on the job injuries work-related injuries and illnesses suffered by employees. If you had to lay employees off, they would be eligible to collect unemployment. Refer to your state unemployment agency to better understand how layoffs could affect your employees and your business’ unemployment tax rate.
Will my workers compensation policy cover an employee who contracts Coronavirus while at work?
Workers compensation is designed to cover the expenses associated with an on the job work-related injury or illness suffered by an employee. When we think of illness in a dental setting, we generally are considering those contracted through immediate accidents. This criteria for processing a covered claim depends upon state law and the incident must clearly be work-related. Proving the fact that the proximate cause of one catching the Coronavirus solely at their work environment may be tough.
Will my Business Overhead Expense “BOE” Disability policy pay if I have to close my office due to Covid-19?
BOE is a disability policy on you (the owner/operator dentist). It is designed to cover expenses like staff salaries, rent, utilities, replacement dentist, interest on business loans, etc. if you, the owner, are out of work due to injury or illness (disabled). BOE benefits don’t start until after the waiting period which is most commonly 60 days. That means you would have to be out of work due to the disabling health issue for 60 days before you could start collecting benefits.
If I furlough my employees can I keep them on my group health insurance plan?
Most health insurance carriers closely follow FMLA and allows for an employer to keep furloughed employees on their employer-based health insurance plan assuming the employer makes no reduction below underwriting guidelines in their employee contribution. Contact us for your particular health insurance carriers’ position on this topic.
What is the difference between an employee being laid off vs. an employee being furloughed?
In Virginia, the Virginia Unemployment Commission recognizes total loss of employment as a termination or layoff. Whereas a furlough is a reduction in hours due to lack of work with the intention of returning the employee to work when the work returns. A furlough can be a reduction all the way to zero-hours such that it mirrors a layoff or termination. The difference is the intention to start building up hours as soon as they are available. Employees are entitled to unemployment benefits under both situations, but different income replacement schedules apply as well as different rules. It is important to consult a CPA or employment attorney regarding your particular situation.
Please know everyone at Asset Protection Group truly appreciates your business!
The information in the FAQ is intended for general use. Please refer to your actual policy for provisions, exclusions & limitations.