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5 Things New Physicians Must Know About Individual Disability Insurance

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What You Need to Know

  • New doctors may have huge student loan bills to pay.
  • Some may need help coping with stress.
  • They may be acutely aware of the need for caregiver benefits.

In the next few months, a new class of medical students will graduate and enter into their residency or fellowship programs.

As they prepare for the beginning of their careers, many establish relationships with a financial advisor to protect the investment of time and money they have made in their education that should eventually reward them with long and lucrative careers.

One way you can help your medical resident clients solidify their financial plan is by offering income protection through individual disability insurance.

IDI can help residents and fellows protect their financial futures, even if they can’t work due to an unexpected disability.

IDI pays monthly benefits if a policyowner is unable to work for an extended amount of time due to injury or sickness.

IDI is essential for physicians. They have larger incomes and more expenses to protect.

Most are paying back large amounts of student loan debt.

In fact, the Education Data Initiative reported in July of 2021 that today’s medical school graduates average $215,900 in student loan debt. And specialists, such as surgeons, could be even more at risk of losing income if they can’t perform their specialty.

It’s important that physicians’ incomes are protected from the start, while they’re in residency or completing fellowships.

Even though many residents and fellows are on strict budgets during their training, there are policies available that provide strong coverage at a benefit amount and cost that match their financial situation.

Often, these policies can also grow with them as they advance in their careers.

If you have clients in medical residencies or fellowships, look for five key policy features.

1. An Own Occupation Definition of Disability

The definition of total disability is the cornerstone of any IDI policy.

Most policies are offered with a regular occupation definition.

This means insured individuals could receive full monthly benefits if, due to injury or illness, they are unable to perform the key duties of their regular occupation.

Some policies, however, allow for an upgrade to an own occupation definition.

With own occupation, highly specialized physicians may be able to collect total disability benefits if they’re unable to perform the duties of their regular occupation but choose to work in another job.

Without the own occupation option, they might have to choose between collecting disability benefits or working.

2. Student Loan Payment Coverage

Most medical residents carry a large amount of student loan debt.

If an unexpected injury or illness occurs, your clients may be concerned about how they’ll continue to make their student loan payments if they have a break in income.

With a student loan rider, they can add protection to ensure they can make their payments even if they can’t work due to their disability.

3. Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coverage

Many policies won’t pay the monthly benefit for the entire benefit period if the cause of disability is related to a mental health disorder or substance abuse.

In addition, these benefits are often limited to one or two years.

Make sure your medical resident clients have benefit options that pay up to the maximum benefit period if they become unable to work due to a mental health disorder or substance abuse.

4. The Ability to Increase Coverage Later

It’s important to select a policy that comes with built-in no-cost features to increase coverage later to keep pace with income growth.

Some policies require policyowners to pay more for a rider that will allow them to increase coverage at a later date that adjusts to their higher income as they advance in their careers.

In addition, some carriers offer special opportunities to increase coverage after completing medical training.

5. Income Protection for Taking Care of Loved Ones

Medical professionals often see first-hand how a serious illness or injury can impact a family.

Some policies include family caregiving benefits that may pay benefits to insured individuals that need to take care of a family member with a serious health condition.

Family caregiving benefits can help provide the financial freedom to be present for loved ones when it matters most.

Physicians are a large part of the IDI market.

It’s no wonder that many carriers have designed special programs to win over physicians while they’re still in training.

On top of key provisions, be on the lookout for special discounts and special underwriting options for medical residents and fellows.

For example, some carriers waive medical or financial documentation for applicants in medical residency or soon after completing training, within certain parameters.

Some might waive financial documentation for medical residents applying for up to $7,500 in monthly benefits.

Other carriers might waive medical exams if applicants are within a certain time period of completing training.

Plus, many carriers offer easy online services.

You can often get a quote, submit an application, and deliver a policy online for a quick, seamless experience.

Medical residents and fellows have enough on their minds.

They don’t need to add concerns about what will happen to their income if they become ill or injured and can’t work for a long period of time.

Help them get a financially secure start to their career by recommending an IDI policy that will give them income protection, strong coverage and needed flexibility.


Chis CoyChris Coy, CLU, ChFC, is a regional director at The Standard.

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(Image: Shutterstock)