Know Your Limits: How Issue and Participation Limits Affect Your Coverage

Recently, several disability insurers have decided to raise their Issue and Participation (I&P) limits. In this post we will discuss some of the potential ramifications of increased I&P limits.

What are Issue and Participation Limits?

The Issue Limit is the maximum amount of liability a single insurer will cover for a particular individual. The Participation Limit is the maximum amount of total coverage an insurer is willing to provide after factoring in the coverage that the individual is already receiving from other insurance companies. Usually your maximum monthly benefit is determined by your income, but some insurers allow professionals, such as physicians and dentists, to apply for default rates based on other factors such as occupation, years of experience, etc.  Usually, an insurer’s I&P limits permit coverage in an amount that is approximately 40-65% of your actual monthly income.

Essentially, insurers use I&P limits to make it possible to collectively provide higher total benefits to high income earners, while at the same time ensuring that they are not over-insuring an individual.

What are the Ramifications of Higher Issue and Participation Limits?

In previous posts, we have talked about how in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, disability insurers aggressively marketed policies to doctors, dentists, and other high income earners. We’ve also discussed how, due to the emergence of managed care, doctors and dentists saw a significant decrease in income. The end result was that disabled doctors and dentists had policies that promised disability benefits that were equal to, or greater than, their modified salaries. When the insurance companies had to start paying the benefits they had promised, they lost hundreds of millions of dollars. This in turn led to insurance companies taking an aggressive stance toward claims involving high paying policies. Most disability insurers also stopped offering policies with high benefit limits.

Now, it appears that at least some insurance companies have come full circle and are once again marketing policies with high benefit limits. What does this mean? Now that insurers are beginning to raise I&P limits, it may be possible for you to obtain benefit amounts that are closer to your actual monthly income. Remember, as with any insurance, generally speaking, a higher benefit also means higher premiums. However, if you can afford it, it is usually better to have as much coverage as possible.

If insurers end up providing higher benefits again, it will be interesting to see if there is another corresponding spike in claim denials. If you do end up purchasing a high benefit policy, be sure to look it over carefully and make sure that there is not anything in it that would allow the insurance company to limit or deny your disability claim later on down the road. If you are unsure about whether you are being offered a good policy, an experienced disability insurance attorney can review the disability policy and explain any complex provisions.


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