Whether you’re a resident or practicing dermatologist, it’s highly encouraged that you own disability insurance.
Disability insurance is designed to replace a major portion of your income if you are unable to work due to injury or illness.
Without it, you could lose a significant amount of income and all that your income supports if you’re in a bad accident, lose your vision, or suffer an illness that affects your ability to treat patients.
Even if the disability is temporary, you could fall behind on your mortgage or car payments, rack up more debt, and be forced to sell valuable items or tap into retirement accounts for needed cash.
There is a lot to consider as you evaluate and compare policies. One of the factors that determine how much you pay in premium is your medical specialty.
Dermatologists are considered low to mild risk in terms of their occupational class. Some carriers rate them in the 6M class, which is the best risk class and therefore pays among the lowest rates for coverage.
Here is an overview of the current premium rates you may encounter for your speciality:
|Company||Occupation Class||30-year-old male||30-year-old female|
|Ameritas||6M||$106.60/mo, $1,054.45/yr||$173.59/mo, $1,716.20/yr|
|Guardian||4M||$122.15/mo, $1,423.20/yr||$204.04/mo, $2,377.20/yr|
|MassMutual||4P||$117.89/mo, $1,384.00/yr||$186.62/mo, $2,178.50/yr|
|Ohio National||6M||$84.86/mo, $981.00/yr||$121.41/mo, $1,403.50/yr|
|Principal||4A-M||$129.02/mo, $1,179.60/yr||$242.99/mo, $2,221.60/yr|
|The Standard||4S||$121.94/mo, $1,393.65/yr||$196.66/mo, $2,247.51/yr|
For the major carriers that specialize in disability insurance for doctors, there is almost no difference in risk classes between traditional dermatologists and those certified in dermatopathology.
On the other hand, a couple of carriers place specialists in Mohs surgery in a classification one rate lower than other dermatologists; otherwise they are rated the same as other dermatologists by most carriers.
If you specialize in Mohs surgery, it’s especially important to have a policy with an own-occupation provision and to confirm that the definition applies to the surgical part of your practice.
For medical professionals, an own-occupation definition of disability means the policy will pay benefits if an injury or illness prevents you from working in your chosen specialty, even if you are healthy enough to perform other types of work, and even if you can work in another field of medicine. So long as your disability prevents you from working specifically as a dermatologist and a loss of income results, you will qualify for disability insurance benefits.
While all dermatologists should be covered by an own-occupation policy, it’s especially important for Mohs surgeons. For one, dermatologists in Mohs surgery can earn at least $100,000 more a year than traditional dermatologists, who average annual earnings of $386,000, according to Medscape.
Because of the precise nature of Mohs surgery, a number of ailments can limit the ability to perform the procedure, yet still allow a doctor to provide dermatological consultation and other treatments. But losing the ability to practice the surgical procedure may result in a significant loss of income.
Without an own-occupation provision that identifies you as a Mohs surgeon and not just a dermatologist, you may not qualify for disability benefits if you lose the ability to perform surgical procedures.
It's also important for dermatologists to have residual disability benefits.
This 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 the time. This would mean that you can still practice urology but have to limit the type of or the 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.
In addition, look for policies that:
- Are non-cancelable, meaning the insurer cannot change any part of or cancel the policy for any reason.
- Offer benefits to age 65, so you’re covered to the age in which you likely would have retired from medicine.
- Provides a future purchase option, so that if you’re a resident or just starting out in practice, you can obtain additional coverage amounts as your income increases without having to go through additional underwriting.
- Includes a Cost of Living Adjustment, in which the policy’s benefits will increase annually based on inflation.
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Joel Palmer is a writer and personal finance expert who focuses on the mortgage, insurance, financial services, and technology industries. He spent the first 10 years of his career as a business and financial reporter.