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

Your insurance policy should be as personalized as your care.

Whether you operate as a one- or two-person dental practice or employ a large team, you’ll need to work with your insurance professional to design a custom dental insurance 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 these items and report any upgrades or new purchases to ensure your policy keeps pace with your agreed-to limits. If you rent or lease, do you know what you are required to insure?
  • 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 continue operations at your place of business. It can cover payroll, rent, utilities, and lost profits.
  • 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 business owners policy (BOP), you can typically save money.

Before you offer any services

Basic coverage is just the start. Don’t ask anyone to “open wide” until you have professional liability coverage in place, sometimes called dental malpractice insurance. This 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 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 malpractice policy or a corporate endorsement 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 covered by the corporate policy.

If you sometimes substitute 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 professional when these situations occur to be sure you have appropriate coverage in place.

If you do implants, this may impact which carriers are willing to write your professional liability policy. Be sure to mention this during the application process. In addition, some state association or state risk pool malpractice insurance policies exclude coverage for “peer review defense.” This exclusion might not be highlighted, so be sure to verify and understand that adding it will lead to a higher premium. If you forgo this option, you may 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:

  • 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 and will pay for any work-related health care costs and 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.
  • 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 commercial auto insurance, your practice will be left paying the bills.
  • Data breach insurance. We are all targets these days. 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.
  • Independent contractor. If your practice relies on independent dental hygienists, associate dentists or other office staff, they will not be covered by your BOP, workers’ compensation, professional liability or other practice policies. They will need to maintain their own insurance. Include a stipulation in their employment contract that requires proof of insurance. Because you could be named in a lawsuit based on their involvement with your practice, have your insurance professional 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. If your business is unable to operate, you want to make sure that the loss of income and other operating expenses will be covered. Some policies have narrowly defined business interruption coverage with lower limits than your average daily billing or for shorter periods of time (30 days or less). Others do not cover closures resulting from incidents outside of your building or larger issues, such as a citywide power outage.  You should review the details of your policy to understand any limitations.
  • ERISA bond insurance. If your practice offers a pension or profit-sharing plan, this type of bond is required and must equal 10% of the plan’s funds to cover any losses due to criminal activity.
  • 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.

Your insurance professional 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.

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