Designing the best disability insurance policy for doctors


Bob Bhayani, managing partner of, A 2022 Platinum WCI Medical School Scholarship Sponsor

It takes years of education, training and commitment to practice medicine. If you became too ill or injured to work, what would happen? Should your patients go elsewhere? How would you earn an income? Would your lifestyle change?

Long-term disability insurance will pay a monthly benefit if you suffer an illness or injury that prevents you from working. Like most insurance products, you hope never to use it, but, as you see with your own patients, unexpected illnesses or injuries occur.

Currently, the major players offering the highest quality disability insurance products for doctors are Guardian, Principal, Ameritas, Standard, and MassMutual. An independent broker, such as, will send you quotes from each of these carriers and explain the differences.

However, what is the best disability insurance policy for doctors? The best place to start is to understand how to differentiate disability insurance endorsements and definitions. Quotes can be customized to meet your needs. Disability insurance companies offer a wide variety of endorsements. Feel free to use the items below as a checklist of the most important policy endorsements.

Important disability insurance endorsements

Definition of Total Disability—Genuine Occupation

Each company will use different terminology for the definition of total disability. You will be considered totally disabled if you are unable to perform the substantial and material duties of your specialty. True Own Occupation will also continue to pay claims in full even if you work in another occupation or specialty while disabled.

Keep in mind: a title such as “Personal Medical Profession” or “Personal Profession” does not always mean that it is specialty coverage, true own profession. It is important to review the wording of the policy, as most definitions will reduce your claims if you can or work in another profession or specialty.

Residual Disability Rider

What if I’m still working in my specialty but suffer a loss of income due to the inability to work full time or perform specific tasks? This rider will pay partial compensation if you lose part of your income but are still working in your specialty. This endorsement is available on all quality disability insurance plans and should always be considered.

Future Increase Rider

This rider allows you to increase your monthly payment in the future without additional medical evaluation. When your income increases, you change employers or you leave training, you may need to increase your monthly benefit to cover more of your income. The increase you are entitled to will depend on your annual gross income and whether you have other long-term disability benefits. This is an extremely important endorsement to include for medical students, residents, fellows, or any attending physician who expects their income to increase.

Cost of Living Adjustment Rider (COLA)

This would increase the monthly benefit while you are disabled and collecting claims to help you adjust your benefits for inflation. The most common COLA rider will increase the benefit by 3% per year on disability.

Guaranteed renewable and non-cancellable

Guaranteed renewal prevents the insurer from canceling the plan or changing definitions as long as you continue to pay premiums. Non-cancelable locks in your rates and won’t allow the insurance company to raise your premiums in the future.

It is important to have both renewable and non-cancellable guarantees in your policy.

After reviewing your options with an independent broker, the next step is to request your personalized policy.

Application Subscription Process

Underwriting is the process an insurance company uses to determine the final terms and conditions of your policy. After you have selected which disability insurance policy to purchase, you will need to go through a two to six week underwriting process for approval. However, the approval period varies depending on the time it takes to receive and subscribe (review) the required medical, financial and professional information.

How to Consider Your Medical History When Shopping

When you first hire an independent broker, they will have the experience and connections within these companies to shop around for your medical history. A policy’s endorsements and features are extremely important, but only if you can qualify for them during the application process. Companies have different medical guidelines, and approvals will differ specifically based on your unique medical history. Part of your assessment of which company has the best disability insurance for your needs will be what coverage you might be approved for.

disability insurance design


There are two types of claims: ERISA-based policies and non-ERISA policies. ERISA disability plans lead to denied claims much more often. Depending on the type of policy you have, the legal redress process can be very different. Typically, ERISA claims are tried in federal courts with a judge against non-ERISA claims, which can get jury trials. ERISA only allows benefits for your back (no pain or suffering) and generally does not pay your legal costs.

In most fully underwritten policies, at the time of claim you will be asked to provide full financial documentation; that is, tax returns, W-2 forms, pay stubs, and employment contracts. Your rolling 12-month CPT billing codes will be reviewed to determine if your own specialty occupation is supported by your referring physicians and specialist records.

The majority of delays that occur relate to securing all detailed medical records and transcripts, as you rely on your doctor’s office (and third party like copy services) to obtain all records. The more complete the documentation you provide, the faster your application will be approved.

What other disability insurance questions do you have? How did you design your own disability insurance policy? Comments below!

[Editor’s Note: Many thanks to and Bob Bhayani, one of our Platinum Level (contributing $8,000+) Sponsors for the WCI Medical School Scholarship, for helping physicians secure the best DI policies. is independently owned, managed, and founded on the basic principle of providing independent, unbiased disability insurance planning solutions to physicians, residents, and fellows nationwide, often at discounted rates. Leveraging its decades’ worth of relationships with top insurance carriers, it will shop your business with every major insurance carrier to create a True Own Occupation policy with the best possible rates with all applicable discounts. Bob is a long-time advertiser and on our list of Recommended Insurance Agents. This is the third of our five scholarship-sponsored posts for 2022. Thank you for supporting those who support this site and especially the scholarship. All proceeds go to the scholarship winners.]


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