Dr. Bergeron Shares Her Experience Working with R.K. Tongue and The Professional Protector Plan

As Immediate Past President of the American Association of Women Dentists (AAWD), Dr. Brittany Bergeron has a wealth of experience leading and working with innovative and collaborative organizations. R.K. Tongue Co., Inc. is honored and humbled to support the AAWD and Dr. Bergeron.

Hear what Dr. Bergeron has to say about working with R.K. Tongue and the Professional Protector Plan (PPP) dental professional liability and office insurance program:

Brittany Bergeron, DDS

Immediate Past President, American Association of Women Dentists (AAWD)

COVID-19 Insurance FAQ

Plain-English Answers to Your COVID-19 Insurance and Benefits Questions

Will business interruption insurance pay for my lost collections due to office/business closure?

Most likely, no. In the absence of an Act of Congress, Commercial business interruption insurance generally requires direct physical damage to a covered property as a trigger. When in doubt, file a claim since only your insurance carrier can make a final determination.

Does the declaration of a national or state emergency, mandatory business closure, or stay-at-home order change my business interruption insurance claim eligibility?

In the case of COVID-19, no. Business interruption insurance typically includes a “civil authority” provision that extends business interruption coverage when access to an insured office is specifically prohibited by the government or similar authority, but this provision still requires direct physical damage to property in the immediate vicinity of an insured office. Only an unprecedented and potentially unconstitutional Act of Congress can cause an insurer to provide coverage that is not otherwise present within the policy contract.

Will malpractice insurance provide for defense and indemnity expenses if a patient alleges exposure and infection due to dental services?

Yes, assuming the exposure and infection relates to a “dental incident”. However, specific claim circumstances must be examined in order to determine coverage, and exceptions will exist. For example, exposure that occurs in a reception area or dental office building when no dental services are rendered would likely be disclaimed by malpractice insurance but very likely be covered by General Liability insurance.

Does the declaration of a national or state emergency, mandatory business closure, or stay-at-home order change how my malpractice insurance responds?

It may. For dentists, professional associations like the ADA and most state dental associations initially recommended that dental offices cease all non-emergency operations. Most healthcare organizations were similarly guided to cease performing elective procedures. More recently, governments and civil authorities legally mandated the total closure of dental offices except in cases of emergency. Failure to comply with laws or mandates can trigger exclusions within the malpractice insurance policy.

As a further result of mandatory closures and stay-at-home orders, some insurers or programs that use “warranty statements” within their applications and policies are proactively imposing coverage restrictions associated with COVID-19.  Meanwhile, insurance programs like the Professional Protector Plan and Physician’s Protector Plan utilize policy language that defers to dental licensing and regulatory authorities to govern coverage.  When in doubt, contact the company or your agent/broker for guidance.

Are malpractice insurers providing COVID-19 risk management and standard of care guidance?

Generally, malpractice insurers and program administrators are providing resources and risk management guidance.  This guidance often includes heightened infection control protocol and specific discussion and informed consent concerning COVID-19.  Nevertheless, standard of care remains defined by the average level of care exercised by a prudent provider in the community. 

Will my insurance company provide me with premium payment relief during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Most insurance companies are voluntarily offering extended grace periods for premium payment and some are working on ways to provide discount credits or deferred payment opportunities to policyholders whose businesses are shut-down or in cases where normal business operations are significantly limited. Additionally, insurance regulatory authorities in some states mandate policy cancellation forbearance and extended premium payment grace periods. Policyholders should consult with their insurers directly to determine what premium concessions are available.

Does health insurance cover business-owners or employees who become sick or need testing?

Medical needs associated with contracting the coronavirus are generally a covered health insurance claim.

If an employer furloughs or reduces hours for some or all employees in response to the COVID-19 National Emergency, can the company continue to cover those employees on their fully insured group health insurance plan?

For most carriers, YES. Most carriers are temporarily relaxing their requirement that employees be actively working to be eligible for coverage and will allow you to cover your reduced hour employees, as long as you pay the monthly premium. Please note that you must offer this coverage on a uniform, non-discriminatory basis.

What continuation of coverage applies if my health plan is fully insured and one or more employees are terminated as a result of COVID-19?

If at least one active member remains on the group plan, standard COBRA and state continuation protocols apply. State Continuation applies to groups of under 20 employees and groups of 20+ employees must adhere to Federal COBRA guidelines. It is the employer’s responsibility to notify employees of their continuation rights.

What if employees are terminated and they do not elect COBRA or it is not available? What other health insurance options do they have?

If employees are terminated and either they do not elect COBRA or it is not available, then the involuntary termination of the group health plan is a qualifying event for them to enroll in an individual health plan. Individuals must elect health coverage within 60 days of the termination, or they will have to wait until the next annual open enrollment period. In addition, some state Exchanges are opening a special enrollment period for Individuals to enroll in health plans as a result of coronavirus. Details and deadlines vary by state.

What if I have to terminate all of my employees and I am the only one left on the health plan?

The impact on the plan varies by carrier. Some carriers allow for “owner-only” groups while others require at least one full-time W-2 non-related employee to be enrolled. Either way, in most cases, your group plan will not be in jeopardy until the renewal date. Keep in mind that involuntarily losing group health coverage is a qualifying event to enroll in an individual health plan.

Will carriers waive any rehire waiting period for re-hired employees who were terminated due to COVID-19?

Most carriers will waive waiting periods for those employees who are rehired after the pandemic.

Are medical carriers considering off-renewal changes for small businesses that may be financially impacted? What if I want to elect a different plan?

Responses vary by carrier. Some carriers permit off-renewal plan changes and others do not.

Can employers use credit cards to pay premiums for fully insured group health plans?

No, most carriers are unable to accept credit card payments for group premium.

Does workers compensation provide benefits if an employee contracts the coronavirus?

Employees who contract the novel coronavirus virus due to a work-related exposure can experience a covered workers comp/employer’s liability claim. Your insurer will evaluate each claim on its own specific circumstances.

Will individual or group long-term disability income insurance provide benefits if I become ill?

Yes, if you remain ill long enough. The effects of the novel coronavirus and related COVID-19 disease can be a covered long-term disability income claim provided the sickness duration meets your waiting period. The most common waiting period for individual disability income benefits is 90-days.

Will overhead expense disability insurance provide benefits if I become ill?

Yes, if you meet the waiting/elimination period. The most common business overhead expense disability waiting period is 30-days.

Will group short-term disability insurance provide benefits if I become ill?

Most likely, yes. Most short-term disability plans have relatively short waiting periods for benefits eligibility, e.g. 7-days for sickness and 0-days for injuries.

I heard that “pandemic insurance is available” can I get it?

Probably not. Specific “pandemic insurance” for business interruption is generally rare. RKT is aware of a London-based specialty market that may offer insurance protection for future pandemics, but this insurance cannot be purchased during an ongoing viral outbreak/pandemic. RKT is also aware of a Canadian insurer that offers an optional business interruption insurance rider for pandemics as part of its business insurance policy. Although we do not know many specifics about this product or its limitations and exclusions, we know that it is not available in the U.S.

Where can I find additional R.K. Tongue insurance and risk management discussion about COVID-19?

Virginia Dental Association / R.K. Tongue webinar – April 3rd, 2020

Walk Carefully! How to Navigate a COVID-19 Liability Minefield by Dental Bites with Dental Zorro and The Smiling Lawyer • A podcast on Anchor – April 8th, 2020

DC Dental Society / R.K. Tongue webinar – April 9th, 2020

Virginia Academy of General Dentistry / R.K. Tongue webinar – May 1st, 2020

When in doubt, file a claim. The foregoing Q&A is for general informational purposes. Only your insurance company can make a coverage determination based on your specific claim circumstances.

*Guidelines vary by jurisdiction and carrier and are subject to change at any time.

VDA Services/VDSC Announces Endorsement of RK Tongue, Co., Inc. for Insurance Services

The R. K. Tongue Co., Inc. team is excited to welcome more Virginia Dental Association member-dentists to the R. K. Tongue family! Here’s the full endorsement announcement from VDA Services / Virginia Dental Services Corporation (VDSC).

Mar 6, 2019

Effective April 15, 2019

The Virginia Dental Services Corporation (VDSC) Board of Directors is pleased to announce that effective April 15, 2019, RK Tongue, Co. Inc., a family-owned, multi-generation insurance agency based in Baltimore, Maryland will become the endorsed insurance agency for VDA members.

For the past 19 years, the VDSC has recommended B&B Insurance Associates, Inc. of Burke, Virginia. Over that time, the B&B team has served and guided VDA members with their insurance needs. Recently, the agency leadership made the difficult decision to close B&B this spring. Upon learning about the impending closure, the VDSC Board began a thorough review of respected insurance agencies to succeed B&B Insurance as the VDSC endorsed insurance agency.

Importantly, VDA members that are current clients of B&B do not have to worry about any impact on their current insurance policies with the eventual closing of the agency. Dr. Stephen Radcliffe, President of the VDSC Board of Directors, commented on the transition by saying “Ensuring a smooth experience for VDA members throughout this process is the VDSC’s highest priority at this time.” The teams at RK Tongue and B&B are already working together to make the eventual transition nearly seamless for clients.

“In RK Tongue, Co., Inc., the VDSC has found a partner with a very strong presence in Virginia, and notably within the dental profession. The Board was impressed with RK Tongue’s breadth of experience and their commitment to serving VDA members throughout this transition and in the long-term. I have complete confidence in their ability to provide excellent customer service and insurance expertise to all members,” noted Dr. Radcliffe. With over 1,000 dental clients already in Virginia, RK Tongue and their team of dedicated professionals are looking forward to working with even more members of the Virginia Dental Association and providing the excellent customer service that their clients have enjoyed since the agency’s founding in 1911.

With endorsements from both the DC Dental Society and Maryland State Dental Association, RK Tongue has demonstrated a strong commitment to supporting organized dentistry and they have developed expertise in the unique insurance needs of dental professionals. Ed Gerner, President at RK Tongue commented, “We are honored that the VDSC chose to recommend our agency, we appreciate and respect the great responsibility that comes with this endorsement. We have a long history of serving dentists in Virginia and we look forward to building on that experience to serve the members of the VDA.”

VDA members are welcome to contact either B&B (877-832-9113) or RK Tongue (800-638-6353) at any time during the transition to discuss current policies, review coverage or receive a quote for a new policy. Please note RK Tongue will not have direct access to B&B/VDA Services client policy data until after April 15, 2019.

Together, VDA Services/VDSC and RK Tongue are looking forward to providing an excellent long-term benefit for our VDA Members.

VDA Services is a service mark of the Virginia Dental Association. VDA Services is a program brought to you by the Virginia Dental Services Corporation, a for-profit subsidiary of the Virginia Dental Association.

Dental Malpractice Insurance News

The R. K. Tongue Co., Inc. team is thrilled to announce that the Professional Protector Plan® for Dentists (PPP) is transitioning to a new financial underwriter/insurer, Aspen American Insurance Company (AAIC). The change comes with benefits including bigger discounts for PPP risk management seminar or online course attendance and a pipeline of other innovative policy enhancements that we can hardly wait to share.

If you are one of R. K. Tongue’s 3,000+ PPP-insured dentists, you will notice at renewal that your PPP coverage has been automatically rewritten to AAIC with no additional action on your part. You will seamlessly continue to enjoy PPP program coverage and R.K. Tongue Co., Inc. expertise and service that you deserve and have come to expect.

About AAIC:

Aspen Insurance Holdings Limited is a leading company in the industry, with assets of $12 billion at the year ended 31 December 2016 and over 1,600 employees across 11 countries.

Founded in 2002, Aspen has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 2003 (NYSE:AHL). Aspen American Insurance Company, the new writing company for the PPP program, is A.M. Best “A (Excellent)” rated.

About The Professional Protector Plan® for Dentists: 

Through our network of specialized agents, the Professional Protector Plan®  for Dentists (PPP®) has continuously served dentists nationwide since 1969. This comprehensive insurance program was developed holistically for the dental practice by providing insurance protection through professional liability insurance, general liability insurance, employment practices liability insurance, and property insurance products. The PPP is available in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is offered locally by exclusive insurance agents, or State Administrators, chosen for their expertise and their commitment to your practice needs. The underwriting companies who partner with the PPP are chosen for their experience and expertise in this field. Combining unparalleled claims handling with unique, innovative risk management programs, your practice and your reputation are given top priority. The PPP is continuously re-examined and enhanced to address the unique concerns of the dental profession. Our National Advisory Board, consisting of  prominent practicing dentists, plays an integral role in our continued development of the program.  The PPP is endorsed by more state dental associations than any other dental professional liability insurance program.