Advisen FPN

Advisen Front Page News - Thursday, April 16, 2020

With business halted due to coronavirus, future uncertain for surgery centers


With business halted due to coronavirus, future uncertain for surgery centers

By Chad Hemenway, Advisen

Your previous appointment at the orthopedic surgeon’s office could be the last time you’ll be there.

Though hospitals have rightfully received much of the attention during the coronavirus pandemic, other segments of the healthcare industry, such as centers for elective surgeries, have been struggling to stay afloat while considering new potential liabilities during this unprecedented time of social-distance restrictions and subsequent ban on surgeries.

According to brokers at Risk Strategies, each of these facilities are wondering if there will be any recourse for the business income lost.

“Business interruption is probably the number one subject, for sure,” said Joe Levy, senior vice president. “We’re fielding a lot of questions.”

“Some of our clients haven’t had a case in 45 days,” added Chris Zuccarini, managing director. “We’ve seen busy practices completely shut down. One just laid off 125 employees. Another with 21 offices closed all but 5. No one could have expected this scenario.”

The advice right now, according to Zuccarini and Levy is to document everything – lost revenue and extra expenses.

“We know property policies were not designed for a pandemic,” said Levy. “The exposure was not considered or priced. We have been assuring clients that we will advocate on their behalf to see if there are any pockets of coverage available, but we know the most-prepared claims are the ones that will be reviewed and adjudicated first.”

Orthopedic surgeons, plastic surgeons, oral surgeons, neurosurgeons and others have immediately been dealt a litany of scenarios to consider – from outright staying in business to new liabilities that arise from taking steps to ensure a practice remains when restrictions are lifted. For instance, some physicians transitioned to telemedicine. While this may be covered under a professional liability policy, doctors had additional questions regarding licensing across state lines. But many states have loosened licensing requirements to encourage the continued treatment of patients.

“If there is a silver lining, it’s the way some regulations have been relaxed in order to care for patients,” Zuccarini said. “It’s allowed medical professionals do to what is right to stop this virus, and not have to worry.”

Doctors and other medical professionals, even those who have retired, have been permitted to volunteer at hospitals without fear of liability due to a declaration by the Department of Health and Human Services under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act. A degree of immunity from liability for individuals and entities is provided by the act for “activities related to medical countermeasures against COVID-19.” States have followed with legislation providing temporary immunity to prevent an onslaught of medical malpractice claims.

Also, Zuccarini said insurers of these facilities have been “nothing short of amazing.”

“They have been extremely flexible, delaying payments and renewals, waiving late fees, or coming up with payment plans,” he said. “Carriers are doing whatever it takes, even making adjustments mid-term.”

Long-term care

Getting increased news coverage is the effect of COVID-19 on long-term care facilities. Due to the nature of these facilities and the vulnerabilities of those who live there, the virus has had a devastating effect.

Levy said the liability here is “to be determined” but is “absolutely” going to be a problem. It is not difficult to get a glimpse at the repercussions. In some states, a large portion of COVID-19 deaths are linked to long-term care facilities, and lawsuits have already been filed. A nursing home in Seattle was hit with a wrongful death lawsuit, for instance. Meanwhile in Florida, these types of facilities are urging state leaders to grant immunities from similar lawsuits.

“Emotions play a big part in lawsuits,” Levy said, “and emotions are high.”

Managing Editor Chad Hemenway can be reached at

St. John's University