Why Physicians Should Look For Disability Insurance Outside of the American Medical Association

Why Physicians Should Look For Disability Insurance Outside of the American Medical Association

If you are a physician then chances are you have received solicitation from the American Medical Association (AMA) to purchase disability insurance using their name through US Life.

Remember from all our other blogs that the Physicians and Dentists purchase disability insurance more than any other white collar professional. This is because you have been told that you need to purchase own occupation or own specialty disability insurance and you are looking for a disability contract that covers your abilities in your specific specialty, not just your ability to work.

The American Medical Association through US Life does not offer the type of own occupation/own specialty disability insurance that physicians are looking for, but they will never tell you that.

Here is what we have learned about the AMA sponsored plan through US life:

  • Their definition of disability is by far one of the worst available in the industry
  • For 60 months totally disabled or total disability means your complete inability to perform the substantial and material duties of your current occupation beyond the end of the elimination period, and you are not engaged in any occupation.
  • After a period of 60 months you are only considered disabled if you are unable to work in ANY occupation for wage or profit for which you are qualified for based on your education, training or experience.
  • The AMA plans premiums are not guaranteed. They increase currently in 5 year intervals.
  • Your waiting period of 90 or 180 days must be total and consecutive. This means if you go back to work on the 73rd day your waiting period will start over from scratch.
  • You can only purchase a benefit up to 12,500 a month.
  • The rates typically start out low and will increase as you age. The rates are not guaranteed and are always subject to change.

Ok, so for someone who knows disability insurance like we do, that’s bad. You’re a doctor. Why would you purchase a policy with such a limitation? Is it because of the price? You aren’t trying to win the award for cheapest disability insurance premium are you? No, you are trying to buy a policy that protects all that you have worked for.

This plan clearly states that you are only considered disabled by them if you are not able to perform the duties of your specialty and are not working in any other occupation for wage or profit. And to add to the already sub-par definition they limit this to only 60 months. After 5 years of payments, they reserve the right to determine if you are qualified to work in ANY occupation. If they determine you are then benefits will cease. Their premiums are not locked in and are guaranteed to increase ever 5 years, and they reserve the right to change their increase amounts. So if you actually do the math, you will spend more during the life of your AMA contract then you would have had you just purchased the right type of policy to begin with.

So be smart, read the AMA contract, it’s obvious that the AMA plan is the wrong direction to go if you are truly looking for specialty protection.

Good Own Specialty coverage will pay you if you are unable to perform one or more of the duties of your specialty even if you are working in another field. Good Own Specialty coverage will allow you to accumulate your waiting period and pay your benefit to the age of 65, 67, or 70 regardless of your ability to work in another field. And finally, good own specialty coverage will never increase in premium.


North Western Mutual’s Disability Insurance Product for Doctors

North Western Mutual’s Disability Insurance Product for Doctors

We have all heard the hype. Yes, Northwestern Mutual has excellent ratings and their brand name is impressive. But that doesn’t mean you should be confused about what own specialty disability insurance really means.


Own Specialty is defined as:


“Own Specialty or Totally disabled means that, due to sickness or injury, you are not able to perform the material and substantial duties of your medical specialty. You are still considered disabled even if you are working in another specialty or occupation”


What this means: If due to injury or sickness you cannot perform your duties in your specialty, then you will be considered totally disabled, even if you are working in any other occupation. So long as you cannot perform at least one or more of the duties in your specialty, you will receive your total disability insurance benefit regardless of your new income. This is great. This is what doctors want.


Now here is what North Western Mutual delivers to the table:

The “Medical Occupation” definition of total disability offered by North Western Mutual sounds similar to the true definition of “Own Specialty” listed above. But, it’s much different.


North Westerns Medical Occupation of total disability is defined as:

The insured is totally disabled when both unable to perform the principal duties of the regular occupation and not gainfully employed in any occupation. If the insured can perform one or more of the principal duties of the regular occupation, the insured will be considered totally disabled if

1. More than 50% of the insured’s time in the regular occupation at the time the disability began was devoted to providing direct patient care and services;

2. The insured is not gainfully employed in any occupation; and

3. At the time disability began, the insured was primarily engaged:

(I) In a procedure-based medical or dental specialty for which board certification is available and the insured is unable to perform the principal procedures of the medical or dental specialty. The insured will be considered to have been primarily engaged in procedure-based medical or dental specialty if billing codes during the 12 months before the disability began demonstrate that more that 50% of the insured’s charges for patient care and services resulted directly from principal procedure performed by the insured; or

(II) In a non-procedure-based medical or dental specialty for which board certification is available and the insured is unable to perform the principal duties of non-procedure-based patient care and services. The insured will be considered to have been primarily engaged in a non-procedure based medical or dental specialty if billing codes during the 12 months before the disability began demonstrate that more than 50% of the insured’s charges for patient care and services resulted directly from non-procedure based patient care and services performed by the insured.

If the insured can perform one or more of the principal duties of the regular occupation and the insured is not considered totally disabled, the insured may qualify as partially disabled.


Wow, that’s a lot of language. Confused? Here’s what North Western Mutual is thinking:


They believe that the industry’s True definition of “own Specialty” (Own-Occupation) requires a surgeon (for example) to be unable to perform ALL of their surgical and nonsurgical duties in order to be considered totally disabled. So, they are saying that since most doctors will not satisfy this, that their definition of “Medical Occupation” provides greater clarity and flexibility.


This is incorrect. If a surgeon performs surgery and his practice of seeing patients comes from his ability to perform surgery then his specialty is being a surgeon. Therefore, if he becomes sick or injured in a way that causes him to no longer be able to perform the surgery side of his occupation then he is considered to be totally disabled even if he can still see patients in the office. Under the true “Own Specialty” (Own Occupation) definition of total disability offered from Guardian, Ameritas, Principal, and The Standard, the insured would receive their full monthly benefit regardless of the income they were receiving doing something different in the medical field.


Northwestern Mutual agents like to ignore or play down that 2nd statement in their definition of Medical Occupation. “The Insured is not gainfully employed.”


Plain and simple, regardless of all language they use to describe what medical own occupation actually means there is still a black cloud flying above. And it’s the number 2 statement where they say “the insured is not gainfully employed.” This 6 word phrase means a heck of a lot more than the 7 paragraphs Northwestern Mutual Uses to explain their “medical occupation” of total disability. This 6 word phrase that says not gainfully employed means exactly what it says, not gainfully employed.


If a surgeon can no longer perform surgery because of a sickness or injury, North Western mutual will only pay his full benefit so long as he/she is not working.  If he/she is working, they will only recieve their full disability benefit if he/she is earning less than 20% of his/her prior earned income as a surgeon working in another field. This is usually not what doctors are lookign for when they are shopping for “own specialty/Own Occupation” coverage.


Northwestern mutual agents will sometimes defend their position by trying to point out to physicians that it will be difficult for them to earn the same amount of income if they can no longer do their specialty. For lesser risk specialties they will tell you that if you can be a doctor (pediatrician) that would mean you probably couldn’t do another occupation anyway, so buy our product.


The simple fact is that these things are wrong. How do insurance agents know what your future disability is going to be?  He/She sold you the policy, they aren’t the ones who are bound by a written contract to cover your disability. Your contract is everything.  Why even bother with playing the odds. Just purchase a true own occupation definition of disability from the carriers that actually still offer this benefit. Because you are covered, and you can earn unlimited income in any other field of your choosing if you become disabled in your specialty.


It’s not like Northwestern Mutual is offering any super pricing discount. They are just as expensive and in a lot of cases more expensive then the carriers offering “own occupation/own specialty” benefits.


Often times once you have convinced the the agent that “own occupation” (Own Specialty) language is too important to ignore, they will tell you about the strength that their company possess. Yes it’s true that Northwestern mutual is an excellent carrier with high ratings. But, so are the other five carriers I mentioned in this blog.

In fact, Northwestern Mutual used to offerexcellent own specialty benefits. But since the late 90’s they switched out of that market and started offering this modified definition of “Medical own specialty.”  This is likely why you’ve heard that it’s hard to get true ownspecailty coverage these days.  Well it’s not hard, it’s always been there.  You just have to work with a carrier that offers it.


So don’t be convinced that a true “own Specialty” (own occupation) definition of disability isn’t as important as it is. Read the language and determine with your financial advisor what is really important to you, your family, and your practice.

Multi-Life Discount Letter from Doctor Disability Shop

Multi-Life Discount Letter from Doctor Disability Shop

Many physicians receive letters from Doctor Disability Shop outlining the multi-life discount available on individual disability insurance for doctors. In order to receive the discount, the doctor must be on staff or have privileges at one or more designated hospitals or medical centers that we have set up. This is a terrific benefit, as it allows doctors to save tens of thousands of dollars, maybe even hundreds of thousands over the course of their careers.

This is not a discount from the hospital itself, but one we were able to establish with insurance carriers by meeting the requirement of having a set number of clients at that facility. In some cases, hospital HR departments have objected to our letter because they believe it refers to a benefit the hospital provides, and this is something we wish to clarify.

Moreover, hospital employees who work in HR or related departments know that they are not able to offer benefits to doctors with privileges who do not work directly for the hospital. The best solution in the case of this confusion is to request more details on our program, verify its reputation and value, and share this information with their constituents. If human resources and legal personnel do not get the chance to review our full letter, they could take away the wrong message. Many physicians do not have the opportunity to receive this discount on their personal disability coverage. Now, more than ever, the average doctor takes a hard look at his or her bottom line and asks what expenses are unnecessary. Many of them would benefit greatly from our services and would be pleased to do their own research if the information were readily available to them.

If you have received one of our letters and have questions about own specialty insurance or what Doctor Disability Shop has to offer, give us a call at 888-400-0262 and we’ll be happy discuss your needs.

3 Methods of Income Protection for Doctors

3 Methods of Income Protection for Doctors

Income protection is crucial for individuals working in the medical field. Highly-skilled, highly-specialized individuals like doctors and dentists, who make a substantial living wage, need to ensure that their income is protected and preserved. There are a variety of ways to do this, but the following are recommended.

Disability Insurance

If you are considering purchasing or you do not currently have own specialty disability insurance, your income may not be fully preserved in the event of an accident, sickness or other disability.

When you are making a decision regarding which disability insurance policy to choose, recognize that not all plans are created equally. Some insurance providers have policies that will ensure you get paid your full salary in the event that you become disabled or are otherwise unable to work for an extended period of time. Other policies have less coverage. Having a company behind you to explain your policy options, especially for someone as busy as a practicing physician, can mean the difference between a mediocre policy and one you can truly rely on.

Life Insurance

The second type of income protection doctors and dentists should consider is a quality life insurance policy. Doctors work in high-stakes environments. At times, they subject themselves to dangerous conditions with the possibility for harm. Your life insurance policy will protect your family if something should happen to you.

Similar to disability insurance, all life insurance policies are not created equally. The right life insurance policy can protect you from estate tax, keep your family and business covered in the event of an accident and give you peace of mind. Comparing policies with an expert is an important part of ensuring that you end up with the right policy for you and your family.

Retirement Planning

The final type of income protection to consider is a solid retirement plan. When most people think of retirement planning for doctors, they imagine high-income individuals retiring early and taking it easy, although any doctor could tell you this isn’t accurate. Retirement planning is just as important for high-earners as it is for the lower middle class. Having enough money put away, investing it wisely and ensuring that you will be covered when it comes time to retire are serious issues.

The average lifespan for a middle-class US citizen has dramatically increased in the last 20 years. Discuss your retirement plan right away with a professional to ensure you’ll be covered for as long as you’ll be retired.

All of these services are important for individuals in the medical field, regardless of their specialty. Disability insurance for dermatologists is just as important as it is for surgeons, dentists and nurses. The right life insurance policy and retirement plan are solid investments in your future. As a doctor, you spend your entire career investing in others. This is an opportunity to repay yourself.

Ensure that you’re investing your money wisely in each of these policies so your family, your business and your future are protected in the event of an accident.

Leading Causes of Disability

Leading Causes of Disability

1) Muscular skeletal Injuries

2) Cancer

3) Injuries from Accidents

4) Maternity-Related

5) Cardiovascular and Circulatory problems

6) Nervous System – Related disorders

7) Mental & Psychiatric Disorders

Where to Find Insurance for Physicians

Where to Find Insurance for Physicians

As a doctor, you need disability insurance that offers true “own specialty” protection. But after all, medicine is your specialty – you’re not an insurance expert! You’re probably thinking, where can I get “own specialty” disability insurance? What’s the right kind of insurance for a doctor’s practice?

Finding the right disability insurance carrier is key, because not all carriers offer policies that protect your most important asset, which is, of course, your ability to work in your own chosen medical specialty. Not all of them provide the financial protection you’ll need if you ever have to file a claim. Insurance for physicians should meet several important requirements, and you should easily be able to find your questions online.

Free Quotes

Quotes should be easy to get without excessive paperwork or forms that will have you wasting your time. Physicians often already have a crazy schedule, finding an insurance plan shouldn’t add to it.

Easy Info

Nobody wants to sort through a bunch of irrelevant information. Look for sites that are well-organized, easy to understand and navigate. That way you know you’ll always be able to find the answers you need.

Full Monthly Benefits

You should look for policies that provide full monthly disability benefits, even if you’re working in a field other than your specialty, and regardless of your income.

Non-Cancellable & Guaranteed

Furthermore, you should look for disability policies that are non-cancellable and guaranteed renewable to the age of 65. This way you can rest assured that your income will always be protected.


Your policy should give you residual disability benefits and provide base monthly benefits for its duration.

Of course, you may be concerned that policies which offer this desirable protection will be expensive, and in some cases this may be true. This is why it’s important to comparison shop and find the strongest benefit package for your money. You want to sign on the dotted line with a company that really understands and fulfills your needs. Don’t be afraid to demand the best—your work deserves it.