Getting Disability Insurance In Residency

Finding Disability Insurance

There are two main types of disability insurance (DI) for resident physicians: individual and group policies. I had heard that obtaining DI would be cheaper as a resident than as an attending (due to the younger age and lower salary), with a lower premium, and then could upgrade my coverage when I became an attending. Many of my coresidents obtained DI coverage by about PGY2 or PGY3 year, but I personally put it off until the end of PGY4. 

Individual policies are purchased directly by the resident and offer more customization in terms of coverage and cost. They may be more expensive than group policies, but they also provide more comprehensive coverage and may be more suitable for residents with pre-existing medical conditions. From my own experience as well as that of co-residents at the time, we each had about $5000 / month coverage from our individual plans if we were unable to work.

Where To Start With Disability Insurance In Residency

Because I didn’t know where to start with DI, I asked around and senior residents gave me advice on various DI carrier options. I went with an independent insurance broker who explained the process to me, collected my information, and then provided 5 different carrier’s quotes based on my profile. Two clearly stood out as being the best balance between a good deal and good coverage, and so we focused on discussing the pros and cons of those two before making a final selection.

I personally benefited greatly from using an insurance broker and would do it with them all over again, rather than going directly to multiple carriers for quotes. 

My Personal Guide To Obtaining Disability Insurance

Step-by-step guide for a resident physician to obtain disability insurance, with comments from my own experience (for reference, this policy was designed for me as a female 30 year old resident, nonsmoker):

  1. Research insurance options: Start by researching different insurance providers and the types of disability insurance policies they offer. Consider factors such as cost, coverage, and exclusions. Alternatively, you can research different insurance brokers. There was a trusted insurance broker that a co-resident had used and found very resident-friendly. I had calls with two brokers and went with the one that I fit better with. 
  2. Get quotes: Once you’ve chosen a few providers, request quotes from each of them. You may need to provide basic information about yourself, including your age, specialty, and location. You can expedite this process by using an insurance brokerage, as I did. I was provided quotes from the top 5 insurance carriers. 
  3. Read the policy: Once you’ve received your quotes, take the time to carefully read each policy, including the fine print. Make sure you understand what is covered, what is excluded, and the terms of the policy. 
  4. Consider coverage options: Disability insurance policies can vary widely in terms of coverage, so consider your options carefully. Some policies may cover a percentage of your salary, while others may have a specific benefit amount. You may also want to consider factors such as the length of the waiting period, and whether the policy is renewable. I had a 90 day benefit waiting period in my policy, ultimately. The policy went up to 65 years of age, and I don’t plan on working past then, so it’s not a problem. There is also clearly a stipulation that if you reach financial independence earlier than 65 years, that you can call them and cancel the policy sooner. 
  5. Gather information: To apply for disability insurance, you’ll typically need to provide the insurance company with a variety of information. This may include your medical history, information about your current income, and proof of your education and training. I was asked about all medication prescriptions that I took in the past 5 years. I was also asked in detail about an emergency department visit that I had had within the past 5 years, for a migraine. I had had a skin lesion excised for essentially aesthetic concerns. In the final result, I did not have any exclusions in my policy, but the thoroughness of the medical history collection was certainly intimidating.
  6. Apply: Submit your completed application to the insurance company, along with any required documentation.
  7. Review and sign the policy: Once your application has been approved, you’ll receive a policy document to review and sign. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the policy before signing. My insurance broker, as a third party, made me feel like I truly understood what I was signing up for, and that I had found the best option tailored to my individual needs. 
  8. Pay premiums: Finally, you’ll need to pay the premiums for your disability insurance policy, typically on a monthly or annual basis. For me, this was an annual premium of $1774.50 for a basic monthly benefit of $5000.


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