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Can a Disability Insurance Agent Dupe You?

Unfortunately, doctors are a known target for disability insurance agents. This stems from the confusing nature of the industry, as well the high amount of income doctors need to insure.

Identifying your coverage needs is the first step you need to take to buy physician disability insurance.

But it is not nearly as cut-and-dry as life insurance. Physician disability insurance is full of difficult jargon and gray areas. And doctors aren't the only ones who struggle with its complexity.

Unfortunately, disability insurance agents often get caught up in this wave of confusion, too. Not a great sign for someone who is supposed to guide you to your most cost-effective coverage options.

Whether he or she is misinformed or just plain unethical, a bad agent will only worsen your disability issues. Here are five ways disability insurance agents have been known to take advantage of doctors in the past (and still do today).

1. Your disability insurance agent does not understand the product

So, what exactly makes physician disability insurance so hard to understand?

Physician disability insurance policies are designed to cover most illnesses and injuries that may limit or prevent you from practicing.

Due to the highly specialized nature of your work, doctors face a higher risk of filing for disability benefits due to:

  • Diabetes.
  • Back pain.
  • Arthritis.
  • Blindness.
  • Other career-threatening conditions.

Of course, there are various policy term lengths just like any other type of insurance coverage. But there are also various definitions of disability to choose from. This is how insurance companies determine what types of conditions qualify for coverage. And they are extremely specific.

As a doctor, you need an own-occupation definition of disability. This will allow you to work in another profession in the medical field upon becoming disabled while still receiving benefits.

Insurance carriers also categorize doctors according to their area of specialty. This is heavily influenced by:

  • How much risk is associated with a medical specialty.
  • How difficult it is to return to work in a medical specialty following a disabling condition.

With this in mind, it's easy to see how an unprepared agent may mislead you to buy a policy that doesn’t match your needs.

2. You take your disability insurance agent at his or her word

Disability insurance agents have a job to do just like like the rest of us.

So it should come as no surprise they are incentivized to increase the cost of your policy to earn a higher commission. As a consumer, this means you are doing yourself an injustice by simply taking the agent at his or her word.

To find an agent you can trust, follow these steps:

  • Ask people you trust (friends, family, colleagues) for referrals.
  • Check online reviews of that specific agent, as well as any ratings or complaints listed by the Better Business Bureau.
  • Determine whether or not the agent represents a credible company. How long has he or she worked there?

But your due diligence shouldn't end there.

Some unethical agents will blatantly lie and use scare tactics to get you to buy from them. Make sure you compare quotes from multiple agents to get a second opinion and to find the most cost-effective solution.

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This broker is blatantly lying and using fear tactics to pressure people to buy. Why? Because doctors fall for these traps.

This once again underscores the importance of vetting your disability insurance agent options.

Ready to check your options?
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3. You work with an agent who cannot offer discounts

Time and time again, doctors buy disability insurance at full price. More often than not, they are significantly overpaying.

That is because doctors typically have access to various disability insurance discounts. But an experienced broker without access to these discounts may tip-toe around these potential savings. (After all, this is a surefire way to lose your business to a competitor.)

Common savings opportunities include:

  • Unisex discounts.
  • Medical resident discounts.
  • Graduating medical resident discounts.
  • American Medical Association (AMA) discounts.
  • Disability and life combination discounts.

Before moving forward with an agent, make sure he or she is able to offer these physician discounts. More likely than not, they will also be willing to help you compare rates.

So how do you find a broker like this? Learn how to avoid Mistake #4.

4. You work with a captive agent instead of an independent agent

A licensed, well-informed agent will save you time and effort in securing a strong disability insurance plan. A good agent should help you with research and legwork while offering valuable recommendations.

There are two main types of disability insurance agents:

  • Captive agents. A captive broker represents a single insurance company. This individual can only sell you policies from that specific insurance carrier.
  • Independent agents. An independent broker works on behalf of multiple disability insurance companies. This individual is unbiased and licensed to sell policies from any insurance carrier it represents.

In both case scenarios, the agents receive a commission as a percentage of total sales made. To avoid getting duped, work with an independent broker. That way, you will have multiple policy options to choose from.

5. You buy products and features you do not truly need

The final way that disability insurance agents trick doctors is by up-selling.

Physician disability insurance features a variety of optional benefits you can add to your policy, known as riders. A good agent will help you pick out the appropriate riders for your coverage needs.

Here are the most common riders you should consider:

  • Residual disability. This rider pays benefits if you become disabled but can still work in a limited capacity.
  • Catastrophic disability. This rider adds extra funds to your regular disability benefits if you become extremely disabled.
  • Cost-of-living-adjustment. This rider ensures that any disability benefits you claim keep pace with inflation.

However, deceptive brokers see this as a lucrative opportunity to push added features on doctors they do not actually need.

This is yet another way malicious agents incite fear to maximize their bottom lines.

Key takeaways

Unfortunately, doctors are a known target for disability insurance agents. This stems from the confusing nature of the industry, as well the high amount of income doctors need to insure.

To prevent this from happening to you, it will help to familiarize yourself with these common traps:

  1. Working with an agent who lacks knowledge and/or experience.
  2. Taking your agent at his/her word instead of performing your due diligence.
  3. Working with an agent who does not have access to physician discounts.
  4. Selecting a captive agent instead of an independent agent.
  5. Buying products and features you do not truly need.

So, what's the best way to avoid them altogether? Get your unbiased rate comparison from the top physician disability insurance companies right here at LeverageRx.

Who Offers Disability Insurance
for Physicians?

Compare rates, features, and more from the best disability insurance policies of 2022.
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CompanyA.M. Best RatingDefinition
of Disability
Future
Increase Option
Residual BenefitStates available in
States AvailableAK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KT, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
About

Ameritas Life is as reputable as any name in the insurance industry. However, it's actually a newcomer to the disability insurance space in comparison to its competitors. DInamic Foundation is its best disability insurance product for doctors. Policies are underwritten and issued by Union Central Life, its wholly-owned subsidiary.

Ameritas features a true own-occupation definition of disability. This provision benefits you if an accident or illness prevents you from practicing your specialty.

DInamic Foundation requires you to choose between non-cancelable coverage and guaranteed renewal. The maximum benefit period available is to age 70. Ameritas offers basic and enhanced residual disability riders. It also offers two different COLA riders.

Pros

  • True own-occupation provision.
  • Lowest premium amount.
  • Two COLA rider and residual disability options.
  • Various add-ons such a good health benefit, presumptive total disability benefit, COBRA premium benefit, partial disability benefit, and non-disabling injury benefit.

Cons

  • Slower customer service.
  • Lowest maximum policy benefit: $20,000 per month.
  • Must choose between non-cancelable coverage and guaranteed renewal.
  • For certain occupation classes, the own-occupation provision is only available for five years.

Read our full review of Ameritas's disability insurance policy.

States AvailableAK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KT, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
About

As one of the largest, most trusted mutual insurance companies in America, Guardian Life is the Cadillac of its industry. Its disability insurance product, ProVider Choice, is a great fit for doctors. Policies are underwritten and issued by Berkshire Life, a wholly-owned stock subsidiary.

According to Guardian, total disability occurs when injury or illness prevents you from performing your occupation. For doctors, more than half of your income must come from hands-on patient care or surgical procedures to qualify.

Guardian’s true own-occupation definition of disability guarantees full benefits. It still applies if you’re able to maintain gainful employment in another occupation. In fact, you may be able to benefit if you can still practice your specialty with major limitations.

Coverage is non-cancelable and guaranteed renewable to age 70. You may elect 10-year, five-year and two-year benefit periods. Guardian offers 30-day, 60-day, 90-day, 180-day, 360-day and 720-day elimination periods.

Unlike other providers, Guardian features three cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) rider options. As for residual disability, Guardian offers both basic and enhanced partial riders.

Pros

  • True own-occupation provision.
  • Highest COMDEX score: 99.
  • Highest maximum policy benefit: $20,000 per month.
  • Simplified underwriting for up to $7,500.
  • Various options for benefit and elimination periods.
  • Various options for COLA and residual disability riders.
  • Various add-ons such as an automatic benefit enhancement, benefit purchase option, catastrophic disability rider, hospice care benefit, serious illness supplemental benefit and student loan protection.

Cons

  • Highest premium amount.
  • No presumptive total disability benefit.

Read our full review on Guardian's disability insurance policy.

States AvailableAK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KT, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
About

MassMutual has been a mainstay in the insurance game since 1851. MassMutual offers two disability insurance products, Radius and Radius Choice. Both feature provisions and add-ons that allow you to customize your coverage to meet specific needs. MassMutual helps you protect your income and retirement without relinquishing payment control.

MassMutual features a true own-occupation definition of disability. However, the provision is not part of your base policy. You must purchase it as an additional rider. With this provision in place, ‘total disability’ occurs when you cannot perform the main duties of your occupation. This requires you to be under a physician's care.

Both Radius and Radius Choice are non-cancelable and guaranteed renewable to age 65. Radius is conditionally renewable for life, while Radius Choice is only until age 74. Both policies have benefit periods available to ages 65 and 67, as well as two years, five years and 10 years. Radius Choice also offers a maximum benefit period to age 70. Both policies offer elimination periods of 60 days, 90 days, 180 days, one year and two years.

MassMutual offers one cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) rider. After your first year of disability, your monthly benefit increases by a set percentage each year. MassMutual offers one option with basic criteria that increases your chance of qualifying.

Pros

  • True own-occupation provision.
  • Various add-ons such as an automatic benefit enhancement, catastrophic disability rider, future increase option, presumptive total disability benefit and student loan protection.

Cons

  • Own-occupation provision sold separately.
  • Only one COLA rider and residual disability rider option.
  • No benefit purchase option, hospice care benefit or serious illness supplemental benefit.

Read our full review on MassMutual's disability insurance policy.

States AvailableAK, AL, AR, AZ, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KT, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NE, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WA, WI, WV, WY
About

Ohio National’s disability insurance product is relatively new to the market. Still, it's among the best money can buy. ContinuON Income Solutions II allows you to customize your coverage without losing control of premium expenses.

Ohio National offers its true own-occupation provision as a rider. Regardless of occupation class, it does not come with your base policy. With Ohio National, total disability occurs when you're unable to perform the material and substantial duties of your specialty. To qualify, you must be under the care of a physician.

ContinuON Income Solutions II is guaranteed renewable on an annual basis. Coverage is non-cancelable as long as you consistently pay on time. Benefits periods include age 65, 67 and 70. Two-year, five-year and 10-year benefit periods are also available. Ohio National offers 60-day, 90-day, 180-day and one-year elimination periods.

Ohio National offers both a 3% and a 6% COLA rider. Policyholders may elect the basic or enhanced residual disability rider.

Pros

  • True own-occupation provision.
  • Excellent customer service.
  • Various add-ons such as a hospice benefit, survivor benefit and recurrent disability benefit.

Cons

  • Lowest physical and labs limit means simplified underwriting is only allowed for up to $3,000 per month.

Read our full review on Ohio National's disability insurance policy.

States AvailableAK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KT, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
About

Principal Life is among the most competitive providers in the disability insurance market. HH750 is an excellent option for doctors seeking a top-shelf disability insurance product. It features a wide variety of options that afford you maximum flexibility.

Principal offers both a true own-occupation and a modified own-occupation provision. A true own-occupation provision is the best bet for highly-skilled individuals like doctors. You benefit if you become unable to perform the material and substantial duties of your specialty. It still applies if you can maintain gainful employment in a different occupation.

Modified own-occupation is a watered-down version of the former. Frankly, it's only feasible if you’re cost is a concern. The definition of disability is the same, but you will not benefit if you can fulfill another occupation. Either way, both provisions are available as part of your base policy. You do not have to purchase an additional rider.

HH750 is non-cancelable and guaranteed renewable to age 65. Benefit periods are available to ages 65, 67 and 70, and for two years and five years. Principal features 30-day, 60-day, 90-day, 180-day and one year elimination periods.

Principal offers one cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) rider. After selecting a maximum benefit between 3-6%, it increases on a compound basis. Principal also offers one partial residual disability rider.

Pros

  • True and modified own-occupation provisions.
  • Advisor’s Choice Award for advisor support.
  • Available to those who only work 20 hours a week.
  • Simplified underwriting for up to $6,000 per month.
  • Various add-ons such as a benefit update rider, catastrophic disability rider, future benefit increase rider, presumptive total disability benefit, and serious illness benefit.

Cons

  • The modified own-occupation provision can be misleading. It can save you money now, but you will not receive as strong of benefits as true own-occupation.

Read our full review of Principal's disability insurance policy.

States AvailableAK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KT, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
About

The Standard is among the largest, most trusted providers in the disability insurance space. The company has several options, but Platinum Advantage is the most beneficial for doctors. It features built-in provisions and additional riders that maximize income protection.

The Standard's true own-occupation definition of disability is available as an additional rider. With this provision in place, ‘total disability’ occurs when you are unable to perform the substantial and material duties of your specialty. You must also be under the care of a physician to qualify.

Platinum Advantage is guaranteed renewable to age 67. To make your policy non-cancelable, you must purchase an additional rider. Benefit periods are available to ages 65 and 67, as well as two years, five years and 10 years. Elimination periods of 60 days, 90 days, 180 days and one year are available.

The Standard offers one cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) rider. After selecting a maximum benefit between 3-6%, it increases annually on a compound basis according to the Consumer Price Index. The Standard offers a basic residual disability rider.

Pros

  • True own-occupation provision.
  • Wide variety of options and strong coverage guarantee.
  • No-cost riders and benefits, such as the family care benefit.
  • Various add-ons such as an automatic increase benefit rider, benefit increase rider, catastrophic disability rider, family care benefit, premium waiver benefit, presumptive total disability benefit, student loan rider and survivor benefit.

Cons

  • Own-occupation and non-cancelable riders sold separately.
  • Only one COLA rider and residual disability rider option.
  • Lowest COMDEX score: 79.

Read our full review on The Standard's disability insurance policy.

Jack Wolstenholm - Head of Content Marketing

Jack is a Creighton University graduate and former advertising creative who has written extensively about topics in personal finance, employee benefits, and technology. You can find Jack's writing on Calendar.com, StartupNation, and Muck Rack.

Disability InsurancePublished March 11, 2019
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