TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The private insurance market is preparing for a tide of claims ranging from workers compensation to business interruption, even though a pandemic is excluded from most insurance policies.
The state and some local governments are now ordering some coverage anyway, raising questions about fairness.
Most business interruption policies do not cover pandemics and require proof of physical damage to a business to qualify. But at least one county’s emergency order states the virus is causing physical damage to the business.
Chip Merlin, a policy holder’s attorney, said now’s the time to file a claim if you have insurance coverage.
“The first duty that the owner of an insurance policy has is to report a loss,” Merlin said. “And they have to do that promptly, immediately, within a reasonable time after they are shut down.”
Insurance consultant Lisa Miller offered the same advice, even if pandemics aren’t covered by someone’s policy. She believes the federal government will set up a fund of up to $500 billion to cover some business losses.
“There’s a 30-some page proposed bill sitting in Congress right now that would set up a federal fund to pay these claims,” Miller said.
Floridians diagnosed with coronavirus who believe they were infected at work might be able to get help through workers compensation. A state memo urges insurers to cover infected employees, including first responders.
“Basically telling all carriers that they should advocate and consider doing this with their policies,” said Jimmy Patronis, the state’s chief financial officer.
Patronis, Miller and Merlin all agree that protecting people’s rights is important.
“When you start talking about probabilities and odds, who knows what’s going to happen with various state legislatures,” Merlin said.
In the end, everyone is going to pick up the cost of this pandemic — either through higher taxes because of a government bailout or because of a guarantee fund that bails out bankrupt insurance companies.