From doctor to doctor, as an advocate for physician disability insurance education, I want to share some recurring roadblocks to securing complete policies that I have witnessed.
We can all learn a thing or two from our peers about how to make better choices or change bad behaviors, and the following are serious roadblocks to coverage that are easy to avoid or remedy.
1. WAITING UNTIL AFTER RESIDENCY/FELLOWSHIP TO ACQUIRE DISABILITY INSURANCE
Many physicians wait until they become an attending to purchase disability insurance. I hear two common rationales: “I am waiting until I make more money”, or “I can’t afford it during training”. There are several problems here. Waiting until you make more money will potentially cost you more money in the long run. You may not qualify for the same benefit rates as an attending that you would have qualified for as a resident/fellow. Once you finish with training, carriers take both your income and group benefits into account when determining your qualifying benefit. In fact, that happened to me; I was that attending! I got my first disability insurance policy after completing my residency training. I didn’t know better. Not only did I qualify for less money, but it was more expensive. Because you are now older, the benefit you do qualify for will most likely be more expensive, and you may not have a discount available to you. Additionally, group benefits often have inferior or nebulous language, come as taxable income, and are not portable should you switch jobs. You can afford a quality policy in training. You do not need to secure the maximum benefit to secure your future insurability. We can individually tailor policies to fit any budget. Locking in rates at a younger age will potentially save you thousands over the life of the policy. Please do not wait!
2. ASKING COLLEAGUES TO WRITE SCRIPTS
I know that it may not seem like a big deal to ask a friend or colleague to write you a quick script or to get a hallway consult for a problem. I know- you’re too busy: do not have time to see your own physician: do not have a physician, etc. The problem here arises during underwriting; you have to answer a series of medical questions and list medications. There is a script check, usually going back five years. Depending on answers to the questions and the results of the prescription check, carriers can request medical records. When there are no records to support medications or treatments, it creates a big problem. Some of the red flag drugs are antidepressants, anxiolytics, sleep agents, weight loss drugs, and steroids. If these drugs pop up, there needs to be a paper trail. You do not want to look like you’re hiding anything. Exclusions are very difficult to argue. Please do not do this!
3. WAITING UNTIL PREGNANCY OR POST-PREGNANCY TO ACQUIRE DISABILITY INSURANCE
Many carriers are quick to exclude coverage for “abnormal outcomes of pregnancy.” As an Ob/Gyn, I know just how many things can happen during pregnancy and while trying to get pregnant. I have been shocked at what qualifies as an “abnormal outcome.” Infertility workups, recurrent miscarriages, cesarean sections…these are all reasons that carriers have excluded future pregnancy coverage. Please get coverage before your first attempt!
4. NOT PRIORITIZING YOUR OWN HEALTH
Part of what I do is to help create realistic expectations. Many of us are uncomfortable discussing weight and BMI with our patients, let alone with the mirror. It is important to understand that height/weight ratios play an important role in determining policy cost. We all know that with increasing BMI there is an increase in medical morbidity. Be aware that your premium will go up if you are overweight. Worse, you can “weigh out” of insurance. If you are over a certain weight, you may be uninsurable by the regular carriers. Please stay healthy!
In my time as a physician disability advisor and advocate, I have worked with so many medical professionals. The part I love most is knowing that I am protecting physicians, often former colleagues, by offering them a disability policy that will support them and their families. The hardest part, by far, is telling someone that they can’t get the insurance they deserve because of something easily preventable. Please take care of yourself. Get insurance as soon as possible. And if you have any questions about these topics or any other concerns about disability insurance, give me a call. That’s what I’m here for.