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.
Edward O. Comitz, the head of the healthcare and disability insurance law practice at the Scottsdale law firm of Comitz | Beethe, has been selected as an Arizona Business Leader in the area of Healthcare Law. According to the editor in chief, Arizona Business Magazine made its final selections from a pool of over 5,000 of “the best and brightest Arizona business leaders in healthcare, real estate, construction, education, banking, financial services and law. Over the course of more than two dozen meetings, that list of 5,000 leaders under consideration was pared down to about 500 names, which the selection panel considered to be the most influential leaders in their industries, broken down into categories.”
Other Arizona leaders named in 2015 include U.S. Senator John McCain, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, and sports executive and former owner of the Phoenix Suns, Jerry Colangelo.
Even though disability insurance companies have a duty under Arizona law to give your interests equal consideration to their own, insurers rarely act for the policyholder’s benefit. Claims benefit managers are frequently taught how to approach disability claimants to get a desired result, usually a denial or termination of disability benefits. From our years of experience with the disability insurance industry, we have learned some of the tactics claims personnel use. The following is a list of strategies to beware of. Though not every disability claim manager engages in these practices, it is always a good idea for claimants to be vigilant in order to protect their rights under their policy.
- Treating claims like a unit of production. Disability insurance companies often don’t care to know how being disabled and filing for benefits affects you personally. Don’t expect that they will understand or be sympathetic to the personal toll the entire process takes on a claimant, especially a doctor or dentist who has spent years in study and practice to achieve professional success. To disability insurers, each claim is a unit of production being channeled towards an end goal.
- Misinterpreting policy provisions. Disability insurance claims managers are not lawyers, and just like most people, often have trouble properly interpreting complicated insurance policies. For example, claims personnel might inform an insured that her claim is an “any occupation” policy when in fact it is an “own occupation” policy.
- Claiming rights that don’t exist under the policy. Claims managers will also frequently indicate that the disability insurance company can make claimants do certain things or provide certain information that is not actually required under the individual policy. For instance, an insurer might tell a claimant he needs to complete a detailed daily activity report, when there is actually no such requirement to do so in his policy. Make sure you know what your policy does and does not actually allow.
- Acting like your friend. Employees of disability insurance companies often try to act like your friend or partner in the process, when they are actually channeling your disability claim towards denial or termination of benefits. Often, claims managers will call an insured for a friendly chat, all the while peppering the insured with seemingly innocuous questions meant to provide evidence for claim denial. Policyholders should understand the questions being asked, and not get distracted by the congeniality of the caller.
- Sending “field investigators” to talk about your claim. Another common practice in the disability insurance industry is to schedule an in-person interview in the claimant’s home with a “field investigator.” These interviewers will spend hours asking about your symptoms and activities in excruciating detail, taking copious notes and even asking to photograph you. What they may not make clear is that the field investigator has no authority over the disposition of your claim. Rather, he or she is a private investigator hired by your insurance company to gather evidence against your claim and provide a starting point for surveillance.
The best way to make sure that these claims management practices aren’t used to take advantage of you when making a claim for disability benefits is to enlist a disability insurance attorney who knows the tactics used and how to guard against them. Nevertheless, every insured should understand their insurance company’s approach to claims management and be cautious in their interactions with claims management personnel.
If you are a doctor, dentist, or other professional considering filing a long-term disability claim, there are some key disability insurance documents to collect and keep in order to properly understand and document your claim, including:
1. Your disability insurance policy
2. The insurance application
3. Notes or letters from meetings with the insurer’s sales agents
4. Notes of telephone conversations with your insurance company employees
5. Letters to and from your insurance company
6. Emails to and from your insurance company
7. Medical records
8. Billing records from your practice
9. A daily pain journal, if necessary
Make sure to keep all of your disability insurance papers and notes in an organized file, and if you have to file a claim, contact an experienced disability insurance attorney who can help you interpret your policy, present your claim, and communicate with your insurer.