COVID-19 – what does it mean for dental indemnity insurance cover?
Adam O’Keeffe investigates the potentially worrying issue of dental indemnity.
The current pandemic has impacted many business across the UK. COVID has particularly impacted those working within the dental sector. This is due to restrictions on services that dental practices provide to their patients.
In March, the chief dental officer released guidance advising dentists to stop undertaking aerosol generating procedures (AGPs). This is a frequent, daily occurrence within routine dentistry. As well as reducing close, personal contact for people in vulnerable groups. The priority for the dental sector shifted to that of providing patients with urgent care.
What are the knock-on effects for dentists in respect of dental indemnity insurance?
Indemnity insurance cover – am I covered for routine dentistry during the pandemic?
Most dental indemnity insurance providers will support dentists in respect of legal costs & compensation awards in respect of clinical negligence matters and the legal representation costs incurred with regulatory investigations. However, they provide such cover on the basis that the dentist works within the official guidance of the competent dental authorities. We would typically consider these bodies to include the CQC, NHS, GDC and HSE.
Guidance has varied slightly between each of the four British nations and authorities. They have all agreed on the guidance around AGP’s and routine dentistry. That in March these services should stop. As such, unless such procedures get undertaken as part of ‘urgent care’ it is likely the dentist would not be indemnified.
If I am not working, can I cancel my indemnity policy?
For dentists who were not able to practise during the restrictions around AGPs and routine dentistry they may have enquired into cancelling their indemnity cover until they resume their clinical activities. For some, continuing to pay for indemnity membership subscriptions will have been a challenge. Some receive little or no income from dentistry.
Whether you have been able to cancel your indemnity cover will depend on which indemnity provider you are with. Both in terms of their cancellation terms and what cover would be afforded to you for your dental activities undertaken prior to your temporary cessation of clinical practise.
For example, some insurance providers offer their clients claims made policies, which from experience, may indeed be cancellable. However, the types of policies only respond to claims that are first notified during the period of insurance. They do not allow for claims to be made retrospective after cancellation. Unless the policyholder has died or is permanently retiring.
This could mean that if you opt to cancel your policy, you no longer get covered for new claims that arise from your pre-COVID-19 activities. If however, you are covered by an insurance provider that offers their clients claims occurrence cover and were able to cancel your policy, you would remain indemnified for your clinical activities undertaken before your cessation of clinical practice.
What additional support can indemnity providers offer dentists?
The support that indemnity insurance providers offer their members varies. With some giving clients rebates or reductions in monthly premiums to reflect the change in sessions being worked or the temporary cessation of work. It has been a complex balancing act for indemnity providers with supporting their members.
They are the number one priority through this difficult time. Coupled with the risk the providers continue to carry for the dentists pre-COVID-19 activities. The challenge is that providing rebates ultimately reduces the funds available to providers from which to pay claims that will likely to continue being made against the dentist, even during the pandemic.
That creates the distinct possibility that future premiums will increase to higher levels than they were pre pandemic. This is required to recover the additional losses indemnity providers have encountered.
At All Med Pro we assessed the individual dentist’s needs. We provided the solution that best meets those. For dentists who continued to provide clinical services on a reduced basis, we provided reductions in premium and on monthly direct debit payments.
For other dentists who reduced themselves to doing triage only or had fully stopped practising, we provided them with policy term extensions at no additional cost to them to reflect the length of time they had stopped clinical activities.
This enabled us to protect our policyholders against increasing indemnity premiums required to recover increased costs following rebates. Our clients seem very happy with this balanced approach.
This has had a massive impact on the sector. With private practices particularly affected through the inability to provide routine procedures as they would usually do.
However, with these procedures now resuming, subject to the correct risk mitigation measures being implemented, we are all hopeful that the most challenging times are behind us and we can now look forward with renewed optimism.
For more information, visit www.allmedpro.co.uk/dental-magazine/