In a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate, organized dentistry asks Congress to consider HR 6494, which could address gaps in coverage and help with economic recovery.

The American Association of Orthodontists, along with the American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Academy of General Dentistry, and 11 other dental organizations, have joined together to call on Congress to enhance commercial business interruption insurance policies in the next COVID-19 legislative relief package. 

In a letter dated May 19 to the leaders of the House and Senate, the dentistry groups pointed out that proposals such as HR 6494, the Business Interruption Insurance Coverage Act, “could offer businesses the option to address damaging gaps in coverage and bolster our country’s economic resilience during future crises.”

They point out that state shelter-in-place orders, business closures, and staggered re-openings have imposed “tremendous financial losses on dental practices,” adding that “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.” 

The letter cited data from the ADA’s Health Policy Institute survey of dentists. As of the week of April 20, 86% of dentists surveyed reported that their total patient volumes were less than 5% of what is typical. The letter also includes recent employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On May 8, the Bureau reported 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. 

As the dental groups point out, many dental practices that currently hold business interruption insurance have learned their policies do not cover government-ordered business shutdowns caused by a national emergency or viral pandemics. 

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; and building on successful models, such as TRIA, 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.

The letter closes:

“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. 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.”