Stay under cover

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X-ray photographyAre you and your practice covered for life’s little accidents? Charmaine Teoh looks at the different kinds of personal and professional insurance dental practitioners should consider

It’s the stuff of nightmares: an elderly patient falls over at a dental surgery and breaks her shoulder. She claims the fall was caused by a dentist bumping into her. The dentist disputes this, saying she fell because she did not use her walking aids. The matter ends up in court, with the surgery ultimately paying $45,000 in compensation, on top of $50,000 in legal costs. In this case, the surgery’s insurance provider covered the $95,000.

This real-life example highlights the importance of insurance. There are many types of insurance available, and what you need depends on whether you own a practice or if you are an employee or contractor.

Business cover

If you own and run your own practice, work with an insurance provider to tailor a business package that suits your specific needs. This helps you avoid under- or over-insuring. “Your insurance adviser can recommend the correct products for your situation and provide advice on how best to arrange the various policies you require,” says Brian Martinovich, account manager at Dental Essentials, a specialist provider of insurance and risk management services for dental professionals.

“It’s important that you provide accurate information to your adviser about the value of your business property and buildings, revenue, personal income and so on,” he says. “You should also review your policies periodically to ensure the level of cover matches your changing circumstances and requirements.”

Here are some types of business insurance a dentist must have or should consider:

Professional indemnity insurance

All dental practitioners must be covered by professional indemnity insurance that meets the minimum terms and conditions outlined in the Dental Board of Australia’s Indemnity Insurance Registration Standard.

“Dentists are operating in a much more litigious environment than they have done in the past,” says Craig Hockley, marketing relationship manager at Guild Insurance, the principal partner of the Australian Dental Association in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania.

“Nine years ago, around one in 30 dentists experienced the stress of a professional indemnity claim. This year, that figure is closer to one in 10. Not only has the incidence of claims increased, so too has the cost. Without professional indemnity insurance, dentists risk losing their business and personal assets.”

When assessing insurance options, Hockley says to read the fine print. “When developing their premium, not only do most insurers dictate the number of hours a week a practitioner can work, but some also limit the number of hours they can spend on specific treatments. Guild takes a ‘full scope of practice’ approach-if you can perform the treatment under your registration, you are automatically covered. It’s important that a practitioner pays close attention to these details, as well as any limits of cover that the policy may extend.”

Workers’ compensation insurance

Workers’ compensation insurance is compulsory in Australia. Practice owners are required to insure direct employees and in many cases, contractors, and the insurance must be in place before you hire any workers.

Management liability insurance

Management liability insurance is highly recommended if you are a practice owner. “This insurance provides a wide range of cover, including protection against employment practices liabilities, statutory liabilities, directors and officers’ liabilities, and theft by staff. It can also indemnify you for legal defence costs and damages, fines and penalties where legally permissible,” says Martinovich.

Public liability insurance

All businesses should hold public liability insurance in the event they have to pay compensation for personal injury and/or property damage, as well as legal expenses.

Asset protection insurance

There are two types of insurance for assets such as business property and buildings. “Defined events policies cover losses to property caused by perils specified in the policy such as fire and storms,” says Martinovich. “Accidental damage policies are broader and insure assets against any and all losses unless the loss is excluded in the policy. And if your practice can’t trade due to property damage, business interruption insurance can protect you from lost revenue.”

Cyber risks insurance

Practices relying on IT and using cloud-based systems are increasingly exposed to cyber-crime and other online liabilities. Martinovich advises that Dental Essentials offers policies that cover the costs associated with restoring data and operating a business while IT systems are being fixed, as well as any loss of trade.

Personal cover

Whether you’re a practice owner, employee or contractor, insurance will give you peace of mind that you can still support yourself and your family if you are unable to work.

Income protection insurance

Income protection insurance provides a monthly income of up to 75 per cent of your current annual income in the event that you can’t work due to illness or injury.

Life insurance and total and permanent disability insurance

Life insurance provides a lump sum to your nominated beneficiary in the event of your death. Similarly, total and permanent dentist disability insurance pays a lump sum to your beneficiary in the event you become totally and permanently disabled. In both cases, your beneficiary can use the funds to pay off debts and/or create an income stream, minimising financial hardship.

Trauma insurance

Trauma insurance pays a lump sum benefit if you suffer a critical condition such as cancer, heart attack or other life-threatening conditions. The money can be used to pay medical costs, reduce debts or supplement your income.

Needlestick insurance

Designed for medical professionals who work with needles and syringes, needlestick insurance pays a lump sum if you acquire a blood-borne disease through these instruments.

Business expenses insurance

With business expenses insurance, you can insure up to 100 per cent of the expenses your business is likely to incur if you are unable to work due to illness and injury. Business expenses may include office rent, business mortgage payments, utilities and equipment leasing costs.

When choosing an insurance provider, look at more than just the price of the policy, explains Hockley.

“Things such as the insurer’s approach to paying claims, experience in the industry and support of the profession can make a big difference to a dentist’s insurance experience,” he says. “The biggest mistake a practitioner can make when considering insurance options is to decide on price alone. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

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