Buying Disability Insurance as a Radiologist
Radiologists are among the highest paid specialties in medicine. According to the Radiological Society of North America, non-interventional radiologists earn a median annual income of around $500,000, while interventional specialists can make close to $600,000.
If you find yourself sick or injured to the extent you can’t work full-time or at all, that means losing a half-million dollars a year in income you use to pay your rent or mortgage, your living expenses and your student loan debt.
Why every radiologist needs disability insurance
Despite the need to have adequate protection against disability, radiologists often believe a group disability plan through their employer is enough insurance coverage.
But group insurance alone may leave you underinsured. These plans typically cap monthly benefits, and the limit may be well below what you earn.
At the same time, group policies generally offer fewer features than individual policies. Also, your ability to have coverage is contingent on being employed by the company or a member of the organization sponsoring the group plan. If that changes, you lose your coverage. There is also usually an annual renewal process for group plans and there is no guarantee that the employer, organization or even the insurance company will renew the group coverage.
When you determine the need for disability insurance, it’s important to compare features and rates among several insurance options.
How disability insurance companies classify radiologists
One of the factors that determine how much you pay in premium is your medical specialty. Insurance companies generally classify occupations on a scale of 1 to 5 or 6; the higher the numerical value of the classification, the lower the rate available will be from the insurance company.
Radiologists generally are ranked in the higher classes, with a few companies that specialize in disability insurance for doctors rating them as high as a 6.
Your classification may also be designated by the type of radiology you practice, be it interventional, diagnostic, neurological, or nuclear medicine. The same insurer may classify, say, a diagnostic radiologist a 5 and an interventional radiologist a 6.
In addition, some insurance plans may upgrade your occupational class after you’ve been in practice five years, which means a further reduced rate.
The best disability insurance for radiologists
Here is an overview of the current premium rates you may encounter for your speciality:
The rates provided above are based on the following assumptions:
- The applicant is a non-smoker, in good overall health and with access to some common discounts
- Quote assumes the client is 30 years of age, located in Colorado
- Contains a true own occupation definition of disability that allows insured to collect benefits even if they’re earning income somewhere else
- The disability insurance plan pays $10,000 per month in benefit to age 65
- Cost of living adjustment and partial disability riders are added
Radiologists should have own-occupation coverage
The most important provision a radiologist should have included is one that uses an own-occupation definition of disability.
This means the policy will pay benefits if an injury prevents you from working in radiology, but allows you to do other types of work. A policy without an own-occupation feature would not pay benefits so long as you’re able to work in some capacity, even if your new speciality or profession leads to a considerable loss of income.
Radiologists should have residual disability
Residual disability is generally defined as being able to perform one or more, but not all, of the material and substantial duties of your occupation, or unable to work in your occupation for a set percentage of time. This would mean that you can still practice radiology but have to limit the type of or number of procedures.
Residual disability benefits are triggered when the insured suffers an established percentage of income because of their disability. The benefit you receive under the provision is typically proportionate to your lost earning power.
Radiologists should have a future purchase option
Most radiologists should consider having a future purchase option on their disability insurance policy, also referred to as a future increase option, a future insurability option, a benefit update rider, or a similar name.
This feature, whether provided as an optional rider for additional cost or as part of the base policy, enables a policyholder to increase the amount of coverage at a future date without having to undergo additional underwriting. The added coverage will increase your premium, if you elect to exercise the option.
A future purchase option is a critical component if you’re purchasing disability insurance while still a resident or fellow, as your benefits will be capped based on the income at the time of purchase. Once you’re out of residency, you will want the option to increase your disability insurance coverage.
It’s also important if you’re starting out. Entry-level radiologists make about $200,000 a year, but as noted above they can experience substantial increases in income as they gain experience and would therefore require higher coverage amounts.