“One of the things to consider is what is known as ‘own specialty’ definition of disability,” said Bodnar. “This says if a person cannot work in their own specialty, the payments will start. If you are an otolaryngologist and you can no longer perform surgery, you are disabled under the policy.”
Bodnar says this is a “Cadillac” policy with the lowest bar for collecting, and usually the highest premium. Another possibility is “own occupation” where you will be paid if you can no longer function as a physician in any capacity or any specialty.
Additional elements a physician should take into consideration when looking at insurance policies include:
- Amount of time the payments will last;
- Elimination period (how long you have to be disabled before the benefits start);
- Availability of extra money to pay off student loans in addition to the regular benefits; and
- Residual or partial benefits, which base the payment on the amount of time you can still work.
“I think physicians don’t realize that good plans pay even if you aren’t completely disabled,” said Dr. Bryant. “While I was able to still work half-time, I got 50% of my benefit. For the six weeks I was completely out, it went to 100%.”