Insurers Face Delicate COVID-19 Coverage Decisions

 Wednesday, April 29, 2020

 Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer, S.C.

Insurance companies are no dummies. The world’s largest insurance companies learned important lessons following previous worldwide health crises. Since the 2003 SARS pandemic, they have tightened up their policies and carefully crafted policy language excluding communicable diseases.

They have anticipated the avalanche of business interruption claims which flow from worldwide catastrophes such as the Coronavirus outbreak and have tailored their policies accordingly. But these are no ordinary times, and this is no ordinary crisis.

In something that you might expect in an Orwellian dystopia, state and local governments are making totalitarian decisions by literally shutting down businesses large and small. The free market abhors uncertainty, but we are living in very uncertain times. One thing is certain, however.

Small business owners in fear of their financial lives will be filing insurance claims for lost income, business interruptions, and lost profits. The economy is hemorrhaging, and the unemployment numbers are staggering.

Despite having girded their loins since the last worldwide crisis, insurance companies are in a bad spot. They are the institutions of last resort and public sentiment will not be kind. Navigating the insurance coverage shoals while not becoming social pariahs will be an art in and of itself.
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