Organized dentistry asks Congress to enhance commercial business interruption insurance policies

Washington — The Organized Dentistry Coalition is asking Congress to enhance commercial business interruption insurance policies in the next COVID-19 legislative relief package, in support of an effort led by the Academy of General Dentistry.

The coalition’s May 19 letter to leaders in the House and Senate said state shelter-in-place orders, business closures and staggered re-openings have imposed “tremendous financial losses on dental practices.” The groups recommended that Congress support HR 6494, the Business Interruption Insurance Coverage Act, which “could offer businesses the option to address damaging gaps in coverage and also bolster the country’s economic resilience during future crises.”

“Most dental practices have been compelled to forgo providing nonemergency services or close entirely, and states are just beginning the process of reopening and allowing nonemergency care,” they wrote.

Citing ADA Health Policy Institute survey results from April 20, the groups shared that 86% of dentists reported that their total patient volumes were less than 5% of what is typical. They also noted that dental offices have suffered the highest amount of job losses within the health care industry, with a 47.5% decline in employment between March and April, amounting to 503,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Many dental practices that currently hold business interruption insurance have recently learned that their policies do not cover government-ordered business shutdowns caused by a national emergency or viral pandemics,” the coalition wrote. “This lack of coverage has had a substantial negative impact on owner-dentists under the assumption that the insurance policies they have been paying premiums on for years would provide support during this crisis.”

To help businesses recover, the groups are asking Congress to consider:

• Providing an immediate support mechanism to help businesses currently left behind by shutdown or viral-related exclusions in business interruption insurance policies.

• Building on successful models, such as the recently reauthorized Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, to require insurers to offer market-oriented solutions for shutdown or viral-related business interruption insurance coverage that are guaranteed with some kind of federal partnership, trust fund or backstop. They noted the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act has been successful in encouraging the insurance industry to alter its stance on terrorism insurance offerings, “which have gone from being scarce and expensive to now being optional pieces of coverage that are widely purchased.”

“The COVID-19 crisis has brought to light deficiencies in preparedness and response at numerous levels. We hope that Congress will seize this opportunity to act on these oversights, such as in the case of detrimental business interruption insurance exclusions, as it continues to develop smart policies to sustain our economy going forward,” the coalition concluded. “Dental offices are eager to reopen to treat their patients and rehire their employees, but many owner-dentists will not be able to do so unless they receive direct financial support.”

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