In our previous post, we looked at how important it is for residents to have a plan to protect themselves financially in the unfortunate event they become disabled. In this post we will address some critical terms to look for when comparing potential policies.
Perhaps the most important provision in your policy is the definition of “Total Disability.” For physicians, dentists, and other highly specialized professionals who have invested both years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in their careers, a policy that defines “Total Disability” in terms of your inability to perform the specific duties of your “own occupation” (as opposed to “any occupation”) is critical. If your policy defines “Total Disability” as being unable to work in “any occupation,” it will be much more difficult to establish that you are entitled to benefits, in the event you suffer from a disabling condition.
In addition to knowing and understanding your policy’s definition of “total disability,” it is also crucial to know how working in another profession is treated by your policy. For instance, if you happened to be an oral surgeon with an essential tremor, you may no longer be able to operate safely on patients, but you may still be able (and want) to teach. Alternatively, if you happened to be a physician who did not take steps to increase your disability coverage to match your increases in earnings, working in another capacity may be the only way to maintain your lifestyle in the event of disability. Consequently, it is also important to know if your policy will allow you to work in another capacity and still collect benefits. Along those lines, here are a few other provisions you will want to watch out for:
No Work Provisions
These provisions mandate that you cannot work in another field and still receive benefits. This can be problematic if you do not have sufficient disability coverage to meet all of your financial needs.
These types of provisions require you to work in another occupation. This, of course, can make it impossible to collect on your benefits if your disability prevents you from working.
In our next post we will look at how you can select a plan that grows with you over time, as both your financial obligations and income change.
Disability Insurance Q&A: What is the Difference between “Own Occupation” and “Any Occupation” in Disability Insurance?
Question: What is the difference between “own occupation” and “any occupation” in disability insurance?
Answer: Most doctors purchase an “own-occupation” policy, which provides compensation following a disability that prevents the insured from performing his or her particular duties. If an insured doctor or dentist does not have an “own-occupation” policy, he or she must be disabled from performing the duties of any occupation for which he or she is reasonably qualified in order to receive disability benefits.
Some disability insurance policies are a hybrid, providing own-occupation benefits for a limited period of time, and then converting coverage to the “any occupation” standard.
Anesthesiology News (AN), the best-read publication in anesthesiology (according to Kantar Media, Media Chek®/FOCUST), is mailed monthly to all 43,983 anesthesiologists and anesthesiology residents in the United States, and offers extensive coverage of over a dozen major clinical meetings affecting the specialty. Attorney Ed Comitz recently published his article, Disability Insurance and the Specialized Anesthesiologist, in AN. The article focuses on the ability of subspecialized anesthesiologists to collect on their own-occupation disability insurance policies despite working in a new sub-specialty.