Purchasing Disability Insurance for Anesthesiologists

Anesthesiologists are among the most difficult medical specialties when it comes to purchasing disability insurance due to the inherent risks of their occupation. Although there are many insurance providers today offering high quality coverage, Anesthesiologists are faced with a unique dilemma. This article provides a summary of important benefits and concerns to consider as an Anesthesiologist interested in purchasing disability insurance.

For Anesthesiologists seeking comprehensive income protection, the definition of total disability should be a top priority. Many insurance carriers market their policies as own-occupation and/or medical specialty specific, while they may not actually be. It is critical that your disability insurance policy deem you disabled when an injury or illness prevents you from performing your own-occupation (Anesthesiology), REGARDLESS of whether you are able and/or decide to work in another capacity. Be cautious to avoid policies that restrict this definition to a limited number of years, or require you to not be working at all, while on claim. There are many companies offering the true own-occupation definition today.

Residual Benefits
Benefits payable for residual disabilities, which are for a partial loss of income due to illness or injury, should be comprehensive and allow for benefits to be paid the entire benefit period of the policy. Reviewing the description of this provision can be very helpful as it directly impacts how well an Anesthesiologist’s income is protected. Similar to the higher quality definition of total disability, there are a few insurance carriers offering quality residual disability benefits. Working with an experienced professional could be helpful in evaluating the different versions and understanding the advantages to each.

Benefits for Mental/Nervous Claims
Unfortunately, this is the category where Anesthesiologists are restricted in comparison to many of their peers. Most of the top insurance carriers offering quality coverage to physicians will limit the benefits payable for claims due to mental/nervous conditions to 24-months for Anesthesiologists. Although this may not seem like a major concern, according to the CDA 2010 long-term disability claims review, nearly 7.5% of claims are caused by mental disorders – a fairly decent number.

The biggest dilemma for Anesthesiologists today is deciding whether to purchase
1) a great policy with all the bells and whistles but a limited benefit for mental/nervous conditions
2) a slightly lower-quality policy with unlimited benefits for mental/nervous conditions, or
3) a combination of both options to help mitigate the risks

Regardless of who you decide to work with on your income protection, these issues will be a major part of your decision-making process and being properly informed will only assist you in that process. If the financial professional you work with does not bring it up, you should ask for his/her opinion. It would also be helpful to ask for his/her opinion of obtaining policies from two different companies, as a means of diversifying your exposure to the various risks.

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