An Important Prescription For Doctors



 Being invited to speak to a doctor’s organization in the New York Metro Area about how confident they should be in the protection they think they get from their disability income insurance policies, got us thinking specifically about doctors’ insurance problems.


And, doctors have plenty of them, although most physicians don’t know it until they are stricken and it is too late.

First off, doctors have to realize that they will get special attention (of the wrong kind) from a disability carrier if forced to make a long term disability claim. Why? Because a doctor’s long term DI claim, especially if the doctor practices in a specialty, usually involves a heavy potential payout for the insurer and heavy payouts are something insurance companies despise.

Most physicians think they have “Own Occupation” coverage and feel secure. Not so fast. Believe it or not, there is no one definition of “own occupation” in insurance policies. For example, a policy may have a perfectly sound “Own Occupation” clause, but with a time limit. Therefore, it may be described by the company as an “Own Occupation” policy, but the protection of the clause ends in say, 2 years, and after that the definition of disability may become much more general.

So, if you are a surgeon and think you are buying a disability income policy that will cover you and your family in the event you can no longer perform surgery, you may be surprised to learn, after 2 years, that you have to go back to work in a lesser medical field and will no longer be paid your disability benefits by your insurer.

Another major issue doctors should resolve before they can feel secure about income if they should become disabled is to determine if their policy is an individual policy or a group policy which involves ERISA, a Federal statute, which adds a completely new set of problems to the doctor’s woes if the unthinkable happens.

It is difficult enough to pursue a disability income claim when the insurance company is determined to find any way it can not to pay, without having the insurer have the advantages that a group ERISA policy gives it.

The way to tackle this problem before a disaster strikes is for the doctor to read and parse every word of his or her disability income policy before the need for claim arises (hopefully it never will), because the policy language (strictly construed) determines the benefits available. No more and no less.

If the doctor wants help to understand the language of the policy a lawyer with disability income insurance experience should be consulted. Don’t rely on what the insurance company ad or the insurance agent or salesman told you. Read it and understand the policy yourself.

And, most important of all – DO IT NOW – while you think of it and BEFORE you have to make a claim.