As a Dentist, Are You Due for an Insurance Checkup?

Whether you operate as a one- or two-person dental practice or employ a large team, you’ll need to work with your insurance broker to design a custom dentists policy. Your policy should address risk in four major categories of business ownership:

  • Property insurance — This covers your office space or building, as well as any property within it, including equipment, furniture and fixtures. You should be ready with the estimated value for all of these items and report any upgrades or new purchases to make sure your policy keeps pace with your agreed-to limits. If you paid for a “build out” of your office space, that should be accounted for as well.
  • General liability — If someone is injured while at your practice or their personal possessions are damaged, this type of insurance will pay restitution. These would be claims unrelated to dental care.
  • Business interruption — This type of insurance reimburses you for lost earnings if you have a covered property loss that temporarily halts your ability to work out of your practice space.
  • Employment practices liability — If one of your employees sues you for wrongful termination, sexual harassment, discrimination or another employment complaint, this type of insurance repays any related legal fees or awarded judgments.

You can purchase any of these coverages independently. However, if you group them under a single policy, you can typically get savings.

Before you offer any services

Basic coverage is just the start. Don’t ask anyone to open wide until you have professional liability coverage, sometimes called dental malpractice insurance. This coverage may be required in your province or territory, but even if it isn’t, it is worth every penny.

It protects you if a patient accuses you of harming them due to negligence, misrepresentation or inaccurate advice. If you are sued, this type of policy covers any expenses or legal fees required for your defense, as well as any resulting judgments against you.

If your practice is incorporated, it is vital to secure a corporate entity malpractice policy, also known as entity coverage, on your own malpractice policy, as patients can sue both the individual dentist and the corporation. In addition, any associate dentists at your practice should carry their own separate professional liability insurance, as they are not typically covered by the entity policy.

If you sometimes sub for dentists at other offices or provide services somewhere other than your main office, you should also confirm that your policy is not location specific. If your policy does have this limitation, notify your insurance broker when these situations occur so you can have adequate coverage applied.

If you do implants, this may impact which carriers are willing to write your professional liability policy. Be sure to mention this during policy selection. In addition, some group professional liability insurance policies exclude coverage for “peer review defense.” This exclusion might not be highlighted, so check and know that adding it will lead to a higher premium. If you forgo this option, you will be personally responsible for any legal fees if you do face a peer review claim.

Additional factors

Every dental practice is unique, so consider your own operations before finalizing your insurance plan. Here are some additional factors to consider:

  • Auto — If you or your employees use personal cars to run business errands like picking up supplies, making deliveries to patients, visiting shipping or print stores, or depositing checks at the bank, add automobile protection as an upgrade to your general liability coverage. Personal auto policies do not cover accidents that occur during business use, and if you don’t have the right endorsements on your commercial auto insurance, your practice will be left paying the bills.
  • Workers’ compensation — Even if this coverage is not required in your state, workers’ compensation is a wise investment. It protects your practice if an employee is injured on the job. It pays for any work-related health care costs and a percentage of your lost income. If you buy your workers’ compensation through your state government, make sure “stopgap insurance” is included. It’s frequently left off government-issued policies. If an injured employee files a lawsuit, this is what covers the resulting legal fees or awarded damages.
  • Liquor legal liability rider — Many dental offices host holiday or staff parties where alcohol is served. Some purchase drinks for others after seminar sessions. If this is true for your practice, you’ll need this inexpensive but important addition to your general liability policy.
  • Independent contractors — If your practice relies on independent dental hygienists, associate dentists or other office staff, they will not be covered by your professional liability policy. They will need to maintain their own insurance. Include this stipulation in their working agreement and require proof of insurance. Because you could be named in a lawsuit based on their involvement with your practice, have your insurance broker provide the list of recommended policies you should require as a minimum.
  • Business overhead expense disability policy — If you experience an extended sickness or injury that prevents you from paying the office’s operating expenses, this type of policy will protect the practice. (Your individual disability insurance will protect your personal income.)
  • Business interruption coverage — Some policies have narrowly defined business interruption coverage with lower limits than your average daily billing. Others cover closures of only a month or less or do not cover closures due to incidents outside of your immediate building or due to wider problems, such as a citywide loss of electricity. Review the details of your policy to understand and have your insurance representative explain any limitations.
  • Cyber insurance — You likely store private employee and patient data on computers. If you suffer a data breach, this type of policy covers the resulting costs. These may be related to public relations and good faith advertising, notification services, ongoing credit monitoring, legal fees or damage payments.
  • ERISA bond insurance — If your practice offers a pension or profit-sharing plan, this type of bond is required by law and must equal 10% of the plan’s funds to cover any losses and denial of service (“ransomware”), due to criminal activity.
  • Data breach insurance — You likely store private employee and patient data on computers. If you suffer a data breach, this type of policy covers the resulting costs. These may be related to public relations and good faith advertising, notification services, ongoing credit monitoring, legal fees or damage payments. Denial of service is also a big exposure today, think of what you would do if your computer system was locked up by a hacker. This is also referred to as a ransomware and is when you are faced with paying a “ransom” to get access to your system. Make sure your insurance professional gives you options for this exposure as well, as it is becoming a threat to every size business.

Your insurance broker can identify other potential pitfalls based on your individual practice model, but this general overview of dental practice insurance can help start the conversation. After you’ve finalized a plan, follow up with regular insurance checkups to make sure your coverage stays current with your growth.

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This content is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing professional, financial, medical or legal advice. You should contact your licensed professional to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Please refer to your policy contract for any specific information or questions on applicability of coverage.

Please note coverage can not be bound or a claim reported without written acknowledgment from a OneGroup Representative.

Written content in blog post: Copyright © 2021 Applied Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.