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‘Own specialty’ in a disability policy significant for physicians

June 11, 2015 – By Kathy Mueller, CLU, ChFC, FIC, LUTCF, Insurance Advisor, Wisconsin Medical Society Insurance & Financial Services, Inc.

Physicians know how important preventive care is for the health and well-being of their patients. The same is true for physicians when it comes to protecting their future incomes with a disability insurance policy.

In looking at disability contracts, one of the most important pieces of the contract is the definition of disability. Many contracts will use “own occupation (physician)” as their standard definition. That contract may say that if the insured cannot carry out the material and substantial duties of a physician, then they would be considered disabled. But what if a surgeon becomes unable to perform surgery but can still do consults? What if an OB/GYN can’t work as an obstetrician any longer due to a disability, but can do gynecology in the office?

The “own specialty” definition in a disability policy addresses that issue. It states that due to a disability, if a physician is unable to do the material and substantial duties of his or her specialty, that physician is considered disabled and eligible for disability benefits under that specialty. For example, if a surgeon—due to a disability—could no longer perform surgery, but went on to complete a residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation, that physician would be working in another specialty full time. At the same time, he or she would be receiving full disability benefits under the original policy because the physician could not do his or her former specialty any longer.

In reviewing disability contracts, make sure that the “own specialty” definition of disability is for the lifetime of the contract. Some companies will limit the “own specialty” definition for two to five years.

For additional information regarding disability insurance, contact Wisconsin Medical Society Insurance & Financial Services, Inc. at insurance@wismed.org or call 866.442.3810.

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