Not only is otolaryngology/ENT one of the oldest medical specialties in American medicine, it is also one of the most demanding as any ENT coming out of residency will tell you. The body of knowledge and clinical skills required to treat ear, nose, and throat disorders, and then to perform complex surgeries is as extensive as there is in modern medicine. To think that an unexpected injury or illness could potentially jeopardize the substantial investment of time, money and sweat equity otolaryngologists/ENTs commit to their career is, well, unthinkable; but it could happen without the kind of specialized disability insurance planning they need to fully protect their specialty.
Consider the case of Dr. Leipzig, a 62 year old ENT doctor in private practice who developed double vision. His disability policy had a two year “own occupation” period which paid him full benefits for the two years. With his vision not fully corrected, he was unable to continue seeing surgical patients, yet he could work with non-surgical patients. Even though this resulted in a steep drop in income, below 66 percent of his pre-disability income, the insurance company denied his claim for ongoing benefits because of the change in the definition of disability after two years. Essentially the definition changed from “own occupation” to “any occupation” for which he is reasonably qualified based on education, training or experience. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the insurer stating that the language in the policy allowed them to make the determination that he was not totally disabled and was, therefore, compliant with the contract.
In this case, hindsight is not only 20/20, it was also very costly for Dr. Leipzig. Had he purchased a disability policy more suited for his specialty he would have been able to continue to work with non-surgical patients and still collect full benefits. But, Dr. Leipzig, along with most physicians, are not equipped with the specialized knowledge to be able to read and understand how a disability policy’s provisions and definitions would operate in these situations. Had he met with a disability specialist experienced in medical specialties, his disability insurance policy would have contained at least the following:
- Own Occupation definition of disability with specialty language covering all of the material and substantial duties of his occupation. A “true” own occupation policy would have protected his specialty for as long as he was working.
- Residual Disability Benefit that would cover any loss of income due to a partial disability even if he could still work in his specialty.
- Future Income Guarantee option that would ensure his monthly benefit kept pace with his earnings growth over the years.
Disability Income Insurance Shouldn’t be a Commodity
While it’s true that a higher-quality, more comprehensive disability insurance plan is more expensive, it does come with the highest degree of assurance that your greatest asset – your ability to earn a high income – is fully protected. If Dr. Leipzig was concerned about saving money on premiums, he could have worked with a knowledgeable disability income specialist to customize a plan that optimized his benefits with his financial needs and circumstances in mind. Of course, a specialized disability income plan is always going to more expensive than a generic disability insurance policy; but then there is no greater asset you have to protect.
Doctor Disability’s team of disability specialists understand the unique needs of the medical community and what it takes to develop a disability income plan tailored to your particular specialty and financial situation. They have the resources, the network, and access to all of the best disability insurance carriers to be able to simplify the process of matching your need with the most appropriate disability insurance policy.
*Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Leipzig v. Principal Life Ins. Co. (5th Cir. Nov. 29, 2010)