When you suddenly find yourself too sick or injured to practice dentistry, you quickly focus on a new set of issues that were not even on your radar screen.  Understand that as a dentist you face a 25% chance of encountering a significant disabling event during your career. This fact is well documented and being prepared for that event is not only smart but considerate. Don’t place your family at risk, and be prepared to defend your income in the event of a severe accident or catastrophic illness.

Unfortunately, 20% of you will fail to purchase disability insurance. For those who choose to roll the dice, many will face dire consequences. Short of inherited wealth or unrealistic investment luck, suddenly being unable to practice clinical dentistry has severe financial consequences.  Of course, fate could wait until the day before you retire.  Good luck.

We guess you get the point now. Get a great disability policy now. Tomorrow may be too late. How do you get a great policy?  Do the research and avoid making mistakes. Make every attempt at purchasing a policy from a highly rated firm that specializes in the field of disability. Maximize the total amount of monthly benefits you are eligible for. This can be accomplished by ensuring that your income remains at high levels prior to your policy purchase. You may consult an insurance broker, and hopefully you will be able to review multiple potential firm’s policies.

For most of us, cost is always an issue. When purchasing a disability policy, cost should be the least of your concerns. You should concentrate on the benefits and the advantages of your policy. Your annual or semi-annual premium check should be the easiest check you write each year.   Look at your policy as a long-term investment. You are unlikely to collect in the long run, but if you need it nothing else will come close to the advantages a good policy will bring you.

Disability Insurance companies are for profit corporations. They will always honor their written agreements/policies within the scope of the law. They will go no further. If it’s not in writing, it never happened and no support will be provided. You have incredible legal rights as a policy holder, but be absolutely sure what you are signing when purchasing a policy.

Your health is never guaranteed. One day you are fine, the next day you are in an ICU in the hospital.  Look at purchasing a policy that will be with you your entire dental career. Each time you switch, you open yourself up for increased medical evaluation requirements. Even subtle changes in your health, may have effects on your premiums and insurability. You may consider purchasing a premium policy and supplementing it with a secondary back up policy from a different firm. By doing this you may be able to maximize your monthly benefit eligibility. Some may be eligible for $30,000 or more a month. It will cost you, but like a spare tire on a car; when you need one you need one. If one company is reluctant to pay, you have a backup and can play them off of each other.

Never let your policy lapse. Keep up your payment of premiums on time and in full. There are no excuses here. Your insurance company doesn’t negotiate. Keep your policy in a safe place and review it briefly on an annual basis with your spouse. Understand that this policy is not life insurance and having that coverage in addition is also very important. Pay all your premiums with post-tax dollars. It is more expensive, but once you start collecting disability payments/benefits they will not be taxable. This has the effect of essentially almost doubling the buying power of your monthly benefit.

Do not rely on policies paid for by your employer. They likely will be of a lower grade and you will have to pay income tax on all benefits. Buy a separate policy for you personally. This is the smart way to go. Don’t ever consider that Social Security will help. You will have to apply and likely will need to prove you cannot work in any capacity. Even if approved you would be luck to get more that $1000 a month. Can you live on that?

Make sure your policy is non-cancellable and guaranteed renewable. Demand that your premiums are fixed and cannot be raised or altered during the life of your policy. Absolutely ensure that your policy is own-occupation designed. You want it to guarantee that if you cannot function as a dentist, you will receive full benefits. Strictly avoid any definition that refers to any occupation. You should not be forced to return to work as a janitor if you cannot practice dentistry. This point is key, and carefully have the language of your policy reviewed. Consider having your personal attorney as a consultant prior to signing.

Every policy will have supplemental riders as an option. Before we discuss them, we strongly recommend you take them all.  Partial disability, increased benefit options, 401K contribution options, and many others are available. Take advantage of them while you have the chance. It will cost a little more, but it is really worth the extra cost. Most policies will be valid to age 65 or 67. Some companies will allow you to continue to purchase care after that age for additional fees. This is an individual decision and only you will be able to determine its cost effectiveness.

In the long run, your disability insurance policy does not belong to you. It belongs to your spouse and family. You will be able to receive benefits as long as you are alive and the policy is in effect. You will need to submit to annual medical exams and will need to be categorized as disabled. There can be disputes in eligibility, and as long as you are legitimately disabled, you legal rights are huge. Never get a policy that excludes specific medical diagnoses; especially mental illness or orthopedic injuries.  They might be cheaper, but many find themselves facing these illnesses over time.

See our posting on how to file a disability claim for additional information.How do I make a Disability Claim? We are ready to help if any problems with your legitimate claim is denied.




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