Understanding Disability Insurance for Physicians

Mar 20, 2023

7:00pm ET

Stephanie Pearson, MD

"I used to say the old adage, I would give my left arm to be home with my boys more. Turns out, I gave my left arm to be home with my boys more, and after six weeks, I was ready to kill everybody..." - Dr. Stephanie Pearson

On March 20th, Dr. Stephanie Pearson, MD, FACOG, an Obstetrics and Gynecology physician and CEO of PearsonRavitz, hosted a webinar on "Understanding Disability Insurance for Physicians" The event provided valuable insight into the importance of disability insurance for medical professionals, how to choose the right coverage, and the constantly changing landscape of disability insurance.

Here are some of the challenges that were discussed:

  • The potential financial impact of not having disability insurance can be devastating, especially considering the high rates of disability among physicians and the significant investment in their education and training.

  • Many physicians are not adequately prepared for the possibility of becoming disabled and may not fully understand the importance of disability insurance until it's too late.

  • The complexity of the disability insurance industry and the various factors to consider when choosing a policy can be overwhelming for many physicians, making it crucial to seek expert advice and stay informed about industry changes.

  • The cost of disability insurance may seem daunting at first, but it's essential to weigh the long-term benefits and savings against the initial expense.

Expert Insights from Dr. Stephanie Pearson

Weighing the Costs and Benefits

Disability insurance may seem expensive, but it's important to consider the long-term benefits and savings it can provide. Discounts are often available for residents and fellows, which can result in significant savings over the life of the policy. Many physicians are unaware of the risks they face and the importance of having disability insurance. Dr. Pearson emphasizes that disability insurance is essential to protect your income and livelihood in the event of an unexpected illness or injury that prevents you from practicing medicine. She emphasizes the importance of purchasing disability insurance as early as possible, ideally right after matching, to secure the best rates and coverage.

Health Factors and Coverage Limitations

When applying for disability insurance, carriers will take into account factors such as weight loss surgery, weight gain or loss in the past 12 months, and other health issues. It's important to work with a knowledgeable broker who understands the intricacies of the application process and can help set realistic expectations.

"BMI is kind of my current 'big fight.' It's one of the few things that changes the cost of a policy." - Dr. Stephanie Pearson

The Ideal Time to Apply for Disability Insurance

Dr. Pearson advises that the best time to apply for disability insurance is right after matching and before starting your internship. The younger and healthier you are, the better off you are in securing coverage. However, if you don't apply during this time, it's still crucial to do so before finishing your training.

"The magic time is actually right after match day and before you start your internship." - Dr. Stephanie Pearson

Key Points to Consider When Choosing Disability Insurance

  • Look for policies that are tailored to your specific medical specialty, as they will provide the most comprehensive coverage.

  • Be aware of any pre-existing conditions, as they can affect your eligibility and coverage options.

  • Understand the difference between "own occupation" and "any occupation" policies. "Own occupation" policies provide coverage if you're unable to perform the specific duties of your medical specialty, while "any occupation" policies only provide coverage if you're unable to work in any profession.

  • Review the policy's elimination period, which is the waiting period before benefits begin. A shorter elimination period may have higher premiums, but it can be beneficial in the long run.

  • Ensure that the policy has a non-cancelable and guaranteed renewable clause. This ensures that your premiums cannot be increased, and the policy cannot be canceled as long as you continue to pay the premiums.

Staying Informed and Adapting to Industry Changes

Dr. Pearson acknowledges that the disability insurance industry is constantly changing and evolving. As a result, it's essential for physicians to stay informed about these changes and adapt their coverage accordingly.

"This industry changes all the time. And what is on the slides right now may not be the same a year from now. So I'll keep in touch with you guys. And as we see things change, I'll make sure that you guys know." - Dr. Stephanie Pearson

Conclusion: Protecting Your Future as a Physician

Disability insurance is a critical investment for physicians, as it safeguards their income and livelihood in case of unexpected illness or injury. By understanding the key factors to consider when choosing a policy, staying informed about industry changes, and seeking expert advice, physicians can ensure they are well-protected and prepared for any unforeseen circumstances.

Actionable Advice from Dr. Stephanie Pearson

  • Start the process of applying for disability insurance as early as possible, ideally right after matching and before starting your internship.

  • Work with a knowledgeable broker who understands the intricacies of the application process and can help set realistic expectations.

  • Stay informed about industry changes and adapt your coverage accordingly.

  • Consider the long-term benefits and savings of disability insurance, rather than focusing solely on the upfront costs.

  • Always review and understand the specific terms of your policy, including the elimination period, "own occupation" vs. "any occupation" policies, and non-cancelable and guaranteed renewable clauses.

Please note that Andwise does not have any business relationship with Pearson Ravitz; we are providing educational content solely for the benefit of our physician membership.