Tag Archives: DDS

Comitz | Beethe Attorney Ed Comitz Posts CE Course on Dentaltown

Ed Comitz’s Continuing Education course “Disability Insurance Roulette: Why is it So Hard to Collect on My Policy” is now available through Dentaltown.  This CE is an electronically delivered, self-instructional program and is designated for 2 hours of CE credit.  In this course, Ed discusses why it is so difficult for dentists to collect disability benefits and how to avoid the most common mistakes made by dentists when filing disability claims.  Ed also covers the key provisions to look for in disability insurance policies and provides an overview of the disability claims process.  Finally, the course discusses how disability insurance claims are investigated and administered, and identifies common strategies used by insurance companies to deny claims.

Information on how to register can be found here

 

For more information regarding what to look for in a policy, see this podcast interview where Ed Comitz discusses the importance of disability insurance with Dentaltown’s Howard Farran.

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Out of Contract Demands: When You Can Tell Your Disability Insurer “No”

Every disability insurance policy is a contract. With this contract come certain rights and obligations on the part of the disability insurance company and on the part of the policyholder. The insurer promises to pay you disability benefits and you promise to fulfill certain conditions. One of the most important things to remember about this contractual relationship is that if it’s not in your policy, you don’t have to do it.

Often, disability insurers will ask a person filing for benefits to do certain things or provide certain information in order to qualify for benefits. What every policyholder needs to realize is that the disability insurer cannot force you to do something that is not outlined in your policy. There are many examples of disability insurance companies’ demands that may not be required under the terms of the policy, such as:

• That you see a certain type of doctor

• That you undergo surgery for your disabling condition

• That you get a particular treatment or therapy

• That you provide your Social Security or workers’ compensation claim file

• That you attend a certain type of examination

• That you complete detailed descriptions of your daily activities

• That you allow a private investigator into your home

The bottom line is that a policyholder filing for disability insurance benefits should know what their policy requires and what it doesn’t. The best way to be sure an insurer doesn’t get away with making extra-contractual demands is to have a disability insurance attorney review your policy and advocate with the company for your rights.

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Will New Demands on Healthcare Professionals Lead to More Disabled Doctors?

A recent article by health insurance writer Allison Bell explains, from an insurance industry perspective, why the new administrative demands on health care professionals might lead to an increase in doctors facing disability:

[I]t seems reasonable to ask whether, for example, the new pressure to convert to electronic health records will lead to some physicians at small or understaffed practices to develop carpal tunnel syndrome and blurry vision from trying to enter, or at least, check, many of the records themselves. Will sleep deprivation related to an increase in workload cause or aggravate objective conditions, such as lack of exercise, obesity and high blood pressure, that will, in turn, lead to an increase in the number of doctors with disability insurance who suffer heart attacks. strokes and disabling car accidents?

The full article can be found here: Disability Insurance Observer: Angry Doctors.

Healthcare professionals: Do you think the push for electronic health records and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will lead to an increase in disabled doctors?

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Timing Is Everything: When to Discuss Your Potential Claim with a Physician

When it comes to disability insurance, your treating physician’s support can be critical to getting your legitimate claim approved. If your doctor can’t provide adequate documentation of your condition or is reluctant to get involved, there is a much higher chance that your claim will be denied. However, fully discussing your condition with a professional, compassionate treating physician will help ensure supportive medical records. When you are involved in a disability insurance claim, it is important to understand how to approach your treating doctor so that he or she can help you.

When to discuss your potential claim with a physician is an important timing issue. Instead of trying to enlist your doctor’s help at the very first visit, you should wait to talk to your treating physician until after he or she knows you and your condition well enough to opine accurately as to your ability to work. It is vital that you develop a relationship of trust and confidence with your doctor before inviting him or her to assist you in your claim. hysicians are often reluctant to support claims for benefits if they question the motivations behind the claims. A physician who has treated, without success, the policyholder making a legitimate disability claim will be more willing to cooperate with the extensive process.

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Making It Through the Holiday Season with a Chronic Disability

The holiday whirl of activity, as well as potential strain on the pocketbook and relationships, can be exhausting to even the healthiest amongst us.  For a person with a debilitating, chronic disability, it is important to communicate to those with whom you’ll be sharing the holidays what you realistically will be able to keep up with and participate in.

Social media blogger Toni Berhard has written an excellent article, available in full here, about some of the ways in which you can try to keep expectations realistic.  Ms. Berhard provides her insights into the myriad ways in which the holidays can be a stressful time for persons with disabilities.

…The holidays can be a recipe for double disaster—the increase in activity exacerbates your physical symptoms, while coping with sadness, frustration, and maybe even guilt about your physical limitations give rise to emotional pain.  No wonder many people with health problems dread the approaching holidays.

Ms. Berhard suggests the following:

  • Share information with friends and family members about your condition.  This can be particularly important if you have a disability that does not make you “look sick.”   Forward a few links or print out select pages and keep your accompanying note on the light side. She suggests, for example, that you could write that “there won’t be a test” in the note accompanying informational materials about your condition.
  • Write a letter.  Avoid being accusatory or whiny and simply express how difficult it has been for you to adjust to the changes your disability has caused in your life and how you wish you could be as active as you used to be.  Briefly describe your day-to-day life, unpredictability of your condition, and how much can realistically be expected from you during the holidays.
  • Enlist a close friend or family member as an ally.  This person can be supportive if you need to excuse yourself in the middle of a holiday gathering, and can also nudge you when they see that you are overdoing it.
  • Ultimately, you may have to accept that not all friends and family members will recognize your limitations.

As this year and holiday season draws near its end, we hope you have enjoyed a wonderful holiday, and we wish you all a very Happy New Year!

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AzMedicine publishes “Can Your Disability Insurer Dictate the Terms of Your Care?” article by Ed Comitz and Michael Vincent

Disability insurance attorney Edward O. Comitz and Michael Vincent, Summer Associate at Comitz | Beethe, had their article “Can Your Disability Insurer Dictate the Terms of Your Care?” published in the Winter edition of AzMedicine, the publication of the Arizona Medical Association.  The article is excerpted below.

Can Your Disability Insurer Dictate the Terms of Your Care?

By Edward O. Comitz, Esq. and Michael Vincent

           Imagine that you are a surgeon who has submitted a disability insurance claim after failed cataract surgery left you with halos, starbursts, and even temporary blindness under bright lighting. While you are dedicated to your profession, you realize that continuing to operate on patients puts them in danger.  Your disability insurance company, however, will not pay your claim.  It insists that you can keep performing surgeries, alleviating any occupational hazards by wearing sunglasses and using matte-finish instruments in the operating room.  This scenario may sound absurd, but it is an actual example of some of the difficulties faced by many doctors seeking legitimate policy benefits.  Fortunately, the surgeon in question had the common sense to cease performing surgeries rather than follow her insurer’s suggestions.  Her decision did affect her financially, as benefits were denied for almost two years, and only paid after litigation ensued.

Insurance company treatment mandates are commonplace and based on their interpretation of the terms of your policy.  In some cases, the insurance company goes so far as to demand surgery, invading your privacy and leaving you with the choice of either undergoing an operation involuntarily, bearing all of the medical risks and financial costs yourself, or waiving your right to collect disability insurance benefits.  The decision can be difficult, but understanding your rights and obligations beforehand can help alleviate much of the worry.

Whether or not insurers can legally condition payment of your disability insurance benefits upon you following their suggested treatments depends on the specific terms in your policy.  The various policy types fall into three general categories: “regular care” policies, “appropriate care” policies, and “most appropriate care” policies.

The oldest policies typically contain provisions conditioning benefits on being “under the regular care and attendance of a physician.”  These “regular care” policies provide the most protection for insureds, as courts have repeatedly found that these provisions only create a duty for the insured to undergo regular monitoring by a physician to determine if the disability persists.  Even if a proposed surgery is usually successful and very low risk, an insurance company cannot force it upon you.  Under a policy requiring only regular care, courts will not enforce any particular course of treatment, no matter how vehemently an insurance company objects. Continue reading AzMedicine publishes “Can Your Disability Insurer Dictate the Terms of Your Care?” article by Ed Comitz and Michael Vincent

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Guidelines for Reporting and Writing About People with Disabilities

Birth defect or congenital disability Fitconvulsion, or seizure?  Quadriplegicparaplegic, or person with a spinal cord injury?  Midgetdwarflittle person, or person of short stature?

The Research and Training Center on Independent Living at the University of Kansas publishes and updates a pamphlet called Guidelines for Reporting and Writing About Disabilities that is a helpful reference manual for understanding and using preferred and accurate terminology when writing on the subject of disabilities.

While there is not complete agreement on which terms are preferred, the booklet has been adopted into the Associated Press Stylebook, reflects the input of over 100 national disability organizations, and has been endorsed by the AIDS Action Council, National Down Syndrome Congress, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Brain Injury Association of America, Post-Polio Health International, the National Council for Independent Living and many others.

In addition to specific terminology, the manual provides some general guidelines, including:

  • Do not focus on disability unless it is crucial to a story.  Avoid tear-jerking human interest stories . . . Focus instead on issues that affect the quality of life for those same individuals . . .People with disabilities actively participate in their communities and can participate even more when portrayed just like anyone else in the community.
  • Put people first, not their disability.  Say woman with arthritis, a child who has a learning disability, or person with a disability.  This puts the focus on the individual, not the particular functioning limitation.  Labeling the person as the disability (for example, a quad) dehumanizes the individual and equates the condition with the person.
  • Do not portray successful people with disabilities as heroic overachievers or long suffering saints.  Even though the public may find these portrayals inspirational, these stereotypes raise false expectations that all people—with and without disabilities—should be such “super humans.”
  • Avoid sensationalizing and negative labeling.  Saying afflicted withcrippled with, victim of, or suffers from devalues individuals with disabilities by portraying them as helpless objects of pity and charity.  It is more neutral to say an individual with AIDS than a person who suffers from AIDS.   Similarly, do not use emotional descriptors such as unfortunate or pitiful.
  • Emphasize abilities, not limitations.  For example, uses leg braces or walks with crutches is more accurate thanconfined to a wheelchair or wheelchair bound.
  • Bypass condescending euphemisms.  Disability groups strongly object to the use of euphemisms to describe disabilities.  Terms such as handicapable, differently abled, special, and challenged reinforce the idea that people cannot deal honestly with their disabilities.
  • Maintain the integrity of each individual.  Do not use words or phrases regarded as offensive.
  • Do not imply disease when discussing disabilities that result from a prior disease episode.  People who had polio and experienced after effects have post-polio syndrome.  They are not currently experiencing the disease.  Do not imply disease with people whose disability has resulted from anatomical or physiological damage…Reference to disease associated with disability is acceptable only with chronic diseases, such as arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis.

Full copies of the brochure and posters are available at the RTCIL website.

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TSA to Launch Disability Hotline in January for Airline Passengers

In the wake of a number of complaints from passengers with disabilities, the Transportation Security Administration is planning to launch a toll-free disability hotline in January so that passengers with disabilities can call in advance if they anticipate needing extra assistance during security screening.  In recent months, there have been numerous complaints, many from elderly women, alleging that TSA agents subjected them to strip searches because they were unfamiliar with the specialized medical devices the women were wearing.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. and New York State Senator Michael Gianaris made a request in a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security and TSA officials for passenger advocates to be trained and familiarized with various medical conditions and medical devices so that they can provide “alternative methods for addressing the needs and concerns of elderly, disabled and other vulnerable passengers.”

Senator Schumer further said:

While the safety and security of our flights must be a top priority, we need to make sure that flying does not become a fear-inducing, degrading and potentially humiliating experience.  Right now, passengers who feel that their rights are about to be violated have nowhere to turn, but by training passenger advocates at each of our airports, the TSA can finally give passengers a voice.

TSA has not commented on the proposal but issued a statement reminding the public that customer service representatives are available at most airports.   The TSA currently offers Tips for the Screening Process on its website as well as other more detailed information, and we will be reviewing some of the other regulations for passengers with disabilities in subsequent blog posts.

UPDATE:  The TSA Cares hotline designed to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions has now been launched.    It is recommended that those traveling with special medical needs contact the hotline at least 72 hours in advance of their arrival at the airport with questions about screening policies, procedures and to coordinate getting through the security checkpoints.   The TSA Cares toll-free hotline number is 1-855-787-2227, and its hours of operation are Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 EST, excluding federal holidays.

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Dealing with a New Disability

A recent article by Pamela Poole in the Huffington Post offers a sensitive look at the challenges faced when a person becomes disabled.  The adjustments to be made, both by the person with the disability and by his or her friends and family, extend beyond the physical.   Ms. Poole summarizes the first ten months of her own sudden disability thusly:

denial denial indignation fear anger anger denial

anger depression depression medication

Poole chronicles not only her own struggle to accept the changes her disability made in her life, but the obstacles she faced in making her friends and family understand the new limitations on her abilities and endurance.  Ms. Poole’s article and references to books and articles she found helpful are available at this link.

The physical and emotional impacts of a disability are difficult enough.  If your disability insurance company is giving you the runaround, it can be helpful to have an experienced disability insurance attorney advocating on your behalf and guiding you through the claim process.


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Oregon Voters with Disabilities Test Out iPad Voting in November Election

Federal law requires election officials to make voting equipment available to ensure that people with disabilities have access to participation in the voting process.  In the State of Oregon, where voting is done only by postal voting and ballots dropped into electoral boxes, voting can present special challenges to residents who have difficulty voting through the traditional mail-in voting method.  Therefore, Apple donated five iPad tablets for use in a special trial, in conjunction with software developed by the State of Oregon, to test a new voting method using a “sip and puff” device attached to an iPad via Bluetooth.  The “sip and puff” device is most commonly used by persons without use of their hands to control electric wheelchairs by inhaling or exhaling through a tube or wand.  In the trial conducted in the Oregon special election, participants were able to navigate the electoral forms, scroll through screens, adjust font size and color, and choose candidates, all hands-free.  The iPad then reads back the choices to them for verification.

Oregon state officials will conduct further trials of the system, and, if successful, the new system may be used nationally in future elections to enhance the accessibility and privacy of all voters, including those with disabilities.

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