British Columbia

B.C. dentists say they're being denied $36M in pandemic insurance due to lack of order to close completely

B.C. dentists say they've been unable to collect pandemic insurance because the province's directives do not clearly require that practices close so they can provide emergency care. According to the British Columbia Dental Association, dentists are being denied at least $36 million in compensation.

Underwriter Aviva says language from province not enough to trigger payout

TripleGuard, which provides insurance to 1,800 B.C. dentists, wrote in a letter to clients that Aviva, the insurance underwriter, has said pandemic insurance can only be activated 'when there is a provincial order in place by the government to shut down dental offices.' (Adam Berry/Getty Images)

B.C. dentists say they've been unable to collect pandemic insurance because the province's current directives do not clearly require that dental offices close so they can provide emergency care.

Since March 23, the province has recommended that all dental offices suspend non-emergency care.

TripleGuard, which provides insurance to 1,800 B.C. dentists, wrote in a letter to clients that Aviva, the insurance underwriter, has said pandemic insurance can only be activated "when there is a provincial order in place by the government to shut down dental offices."

Ed Dermit, the president of TripleGuard, wrote in the letter that Aviva is accepting pandemic insurance claims from dentists in all other provinces.

"Their position is that the B.C. government's current instructions for British Columbia dentists are not sufficient to trigger pandemic coverage under the plan," he wrote.

"The absence of required wording puts B.C. dentists in a completely unfair and aggrieved position."

$36M in insurance denied

A letter from British Columbia Dental Association (BCDA) president James Singer and executive director Jocelyn Johnston said the association became aware of Aviva's position on April 7. They subsequently contacted the provincial health officer, health minister and premier.

The letter says the province replied on April 13 that provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry's direction has been consistent with directives from other Canadian provinces. It said the province supports the BCDA in its position that dentists should be able to collect pandemic insurance.

According to the letter, dentists are being denied at least $36 million in compensation.

"We are making every effort to achieve a positive resolution as soon as possible," the letter reads in part.

"Should our advocacy efforts fail, BCDA will consider other options, including initiating legal action on behalf of, and with, our members."

Aviva 'taking advantage'

The BCDA wrote in a statement on its website that Aviva "has taken advantage of the lack of an 'Order' to deny B.C. dentists their pandemic coverage."

"If the pandemic insurance coverage is not provided, there may be a dramatic contraction of available dental care for patients who have had to defer treatment," the statement reads in part.

"These practices are caught in a dilemma: They cannot provide regular dental care due to the pandemic; and now many cannot access their insurance coverage which they have paid for to help tide them over until they can get back to work."

According to another statement posted on the BCDA website, dentists and other dental staff must also have appropriate personal protective equipment to perform emergency procedures — supplies that have been difficult to come by as the demand for equipment skyrockets across Canada and internationally.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca. 

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