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Disability Insurance - Yes or No?

Posted Apr 19 2013 12:00am

I am set to graduate residency this June 2013 and among all the other things on my to-do list such as credentialing paperwork for my future employer is to explore disability insurance. Because I know very little about insurance, I decided to do some research.
  • What is disability insurance?
  • Why should I get it?
  • Do I need it as a physician?
  • Do I need it as an emergency physician?


According to Wikipedia , “Disability Insurance (DI) is a form of insurance that insures the beneficiary’s earned income against the risk that a disability creates a barrier for a worker to complete the core functions of their work.” It’s basically a form of insurance that will give you money if you become injured and are unable to work.

In researching if other EM physicians had disability insurance, I polled my physician friends via Twitter and Facebook. These are a few of the comments that I received
  • “You are much more likely to become disabled then die. Has to be EM specific”
  • “Absolutely need it. Get it in residency, you can increase amount later. More important than life insurance.”
  • “Yes! Better rates and discounts available to residents.”
  • “Make sure you can purchase more later when your salary increases without another physical.”

But the pesky question still remains – WHY should I get disability insurance? 

It comes down to the eternal question of risk. It is the same question that is asked about any form of insurance. What is the risk that I will become disabled and require disability insurance? In the 2012 NY Times article , according to the Social Security Administration, a 20 year old person in 2011 had a 30% chance of being disabled at least for 6 months before retirement. But then they cite another NY Times article from 2010 which claims that the statistics involving disability vary WILDLY depending on whom you ask.

So what is real and what is not real? Should I get disability insurance in case I might not be able to perform my job? My job, which entails intubating people, placing central lines and transvenous pacers, and being mobile enough to examine hallway patients in the tiniest of spaces due to ED overcrowding? It’s a physical job, and don’t forget that most of this must be done urgently (and many times emergently).

There are many other considerations for disability insurance when debating whether to get it.
  • How long can you afford to not get paid if you cannot work due to injury?
  • How much disability does your current job provide?
  • How much do you have in savings?
Other important considerations that I have read regarding disability insurance when considering policy and coverage.
  • As a woman, disability insurance is more expensive than it is for men, but the rates are not so disproportional if you get it during residency.
  • Partial coverage is very important to consider. For example if you injury your ankle, you are still able to work, but maybe not as many hours as before. Many policies will provide for partial coverage.
  • Own occupation policy. A very important caveat to have in your policy is this contingency which states that disability prevents you from doing your OWN job. Therefore, as an emergency physician, I will not be expected to go back to work in the hospital as a radiologist, even though both are physician occupations. My OWN job trained me specifically for the ED.
What do you think? Any opinion and thought is welcome!
Nikita ( @njoshi8 )


References for further reading:
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