Don’t look now, but President Trump and liberal Democratic foe Rep. Maxine Waters could be on the same page about insurance companies covering business losses due to the coronavirus crisis.
Ms. Waters, California Democrat, has been championing “business interruption” legislation that could require insurers to pay policyholders for lost revenue during the pandemic, treating the crisis like an act of terrorism.
At his press briefing on Friday, Mr. Trump said he is at least open to the concept.
“I would like to see the insurance companies pay, if they need to pay, if it’s fair,” the president said. “They know what’s fair and I know what’s fair. Business interruption insurance, that’s getting a lot of money to a lot of people.”
He said it’s not fair for policyholders to pay insurance premiums for years, “and when they finally need it, the insurance company says we’re not going to give it.”
“We can’t let that happen,” Mr. Trump said.
Since the SARS outbreak in 2003, insurers have excluded losses due to disease in most standard property/casualty policies. Some policyholders pay extra for amendments to cover that specific loss.
The president said that in his family business running hotels and casinos, he encountered his share of coverage disputes with insurers.
“When I was in private [enterprise], I had business interruption when my business was interrupted through a hurricane or whatever,” he said. “I didn’t always have it — I have a lot of different companies. But if I had it, I’d expect to be paid.”
He said he has been speaking to restaurant owners in the current crisis.
“They have a restaurant, and they’ve been paying [insurance premiums] for 25, 30, 35 years of business interruption, and they’ve never needed it,” he said. “All of a sudden they need it. And I’m pretty good at reading [contract] language, I did very well in these subjects. And I don’t see the word ‘pandemic’ mentioned. Now in some cases, it’s an exclusion. But in a lot of cases, I don’t see it.”
Insurers oppose the House Democrats’ proposal, saying the insurance industry cannot cover the massive and simultaneous business losses that have occurred in the past two months across a variety of industries.
Some insurers have asked the administration to support a “recovery fund” to handle the issue, in which the federal government would serve as a backstop for an undetermined percentage of insurance companies liabilities from the pandemic.