(TRENTON) – When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit New Jersey in March, dentists were only permitted to see patients who needed emergency care, and insurance carriers received less claim expenses as a result. To address reduced plan usage, some carriers have voluntarily provided premium credits or refunds to policyholders during the public health crisis.
With the goal to ensure all dental insurers adopt this practice, the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee on Monday advanced legislation that would require dental insurers in New Jersey to provide credits for limited usage during the months of March, April and May.
“In the early days of the pandemic, patients could not visit their dentist for regular cleanings or elective surgeries. Dentists were limited to performing only emergency procedures,” said Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington), prime sponsor of the legislation. “It’s only fair that policyholders be credited for the months they could not use their dental insurance, and this measure will put money back in the pockets of New Jersey families when they need it most.”
Under the bill (A-4538) sponsored by Lampitt and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, dental insurance carriers would issue a refund or credit to policyholders in good standing in an amount equivalent to the value of any reduced claims experienced due to the limitations of dental services from March 27 to May 26, 2020, when New Jersey was under a stay-at-home order. The credit may be provided as a direct refund or a credit towards future premiums and shall apply to both fully paid and monthly billed plans. Policyholders would not need to take any action to receive the refund or credit.
“Many dental insurers have chosen to do the right thing and refund policyholders for their unused expenses this spring,” said Quijano (D-Union). “In the interest of fairness, this legislation will ensure all dental policyholders in New Jersey will receive a refund or credit towards future expenses.”
Additionally, under the bill insurance carriers must provide a report to the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance on how they will implement the bill’s provisions by December 31, 2020.
The measure now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.