After Hurricane Charley in 2004, Dr. David Rowe said he added additional insurance coverage for his dental practice.
Paradise Dental’s policy through Met-Life includes coverage that covers payroll and other expenses for business interruption. But Rowe was informed by his insurance agent that the loss he sees as a result of the pandemic is not a covered expense.
Due to an executive order banning all routine dental procedures, Rowe said his practice went from seeing about 50 patients a day to about five or six.
“The point of insurance is to be there when you need it, and I can’t imagine a bigger reason for needing help than right now, not being able to work to no fault of your own,” he said.
Met-Life told WINK News in a statement: “It is standard for insurance policies to have exclusions of coverage for risks that are too great to be underwritten by private industry. Commercial and personal property insurance policies typically contain specific exclusions for loss, damage, or mandatory restricted access caused by war, terrorism, and pandemics.”
There is an entire page within Rowe’s policy describing; “exclusion of loss due to virus or bacteria.”
That type of exclusionary language started becoming industry-standard following the 2003 SARS pandemic, according to attorney Robert Goodman.
Goodman said insurance companies fought legal battles following SARS, and in some cases had to pay out millions in claims for business interruption caused by that pandemic.
“Now, policies include that exclusionary language,” he said.
Even if the language is a little more ambiguous, Goodman said it is likely that the policy specifies that business income loss has to be directly related to physical damage to the structure.
Rowe’s policy specifies the lost income has to be a result of damage to the property.
As of publication, the executive order restricting dental practices is set to expire May 8.
Rowe said it could not come soon enough.
“This cost me about $200,000 a month with nothing coming in because of the size of my office and to keep my staff at least partially paid enough to make them full-time,” he said.
There’s been discussion about legislation in some states that would force insurance companies to cover losses due to a pandemic. Still, legal experts do not think it would be able to be applied retroactively to help people like Rowe.
Insurance agents recommend reading your policy to familiarize yourself with what it does and does not cover.
The Florida Department of Financial Services is available to assist with claims disputes. Click here for more information.