Author: Bill Lawrence. MGIS Director of Underwriting
When you know what to look for, selecting the right partner to work with you and your physician practice clients is easy. Consider the following checklist.
Commitment to Physician Practices
Your carrier partner must be committed to and have a history of success in the physician market. More than other business segments, physicians and other healthcare providers have a sometimes-volatile business cycle … one that has driven carriers away. That’s why you need a carrier partner with staying power. Otherwise, pricing and benefits can become quickly limited or unavailable. Remember: long-term disability is long term.
A key foundation of commitment and staying power is, of course, financial strength. A.M Best, Standard & Poor’s, and Moody’s and others rate insurance companies regularly. If you’re into financial buzzwords, dig into market capitalization data, shareholder equity, or total assets under management. The more impressive the financial strength rating — and just as importantly the outlook — the better.
Appetite for Physician Business
It’s a fact: Covering physician groups can be risky business. While many carriers “cover” physicians, it’s not their forte (and this is easy to see in the contract provisions they provide). Some indications of an appetite for risk include Own Specialty coverage, coverage for specialized risks (such as malpractice, infectious and contagious diseases, etc.), and covering anesthesiologists.
Find a partner that is leveraging its experience and knowledge from the past and applying that expertise to current and emerging trends and protection needs for your clients. It’s that focus that drove the development of infectious and contagious disease riders, riders that protect against progressive illnesses, and riders that cover trailing income losses.
Favorable Contract Language and Provisions
Seek out the best contract definitions, language, and provisions. For example, look for ones that base disability on the procedures the physician performs, not just the name of their specialty or what is done by that specialty in the national economy. A contract that recognizes staff employees should be judged on income level requirements that don’t change as definition change to any occupation.
No “Claims Hammer” Language
Finding a partner with reduced unfavorable contract language is just as important as favorable contract language. These claim hammers include mandatory rehabilitation provisions, adjusting benefits by earnings that “could be made if working to maximum capacity,” or even the termination of benefits if not working to that certain level. Other provisions limit benefits from self-reported conditions or chronic fatigue, if the claimant is living overseas while receiving benefits, or terminating benefits based on a 40-hour work week.
Focused on Your Clients and Their Needs
Leveling the playing field – appropriate coverage for groups of all sizes
Does an Ortho who is a member of an 8-life practice have any less need for specialty protection than one from a 19-life practice? Does the practice have any less need for business protection benefits? Make sure your selected partner recognizes this (some carriers limit under 10-life groups to own occupation rather than own specialty protection).
Focused on the needs
Look for a partner that gets what the “need” is. For example, suggesting plan designs across multiple “products.” These would take into account the entire spectrum of what disability coverage is all about: income replacement needs of the employee and the practice. Look for a partner that fulfills the promises made to the physicians and their staff members about continuing their salary upon disability.
Take into account the cost for the features that both physicians and staff members may pay. For instance, an STD policy with a benefit that starts after 14 days for the staff may not be the best solutions for the physicians. Because the physician’s income flows differently, a 29-day or even 59-day waiting period might work just as well and save significant money in premiums for the practice.
“No Assembly Required”
When working with physicians, you need a partner that is easy to do business with and gets it. The best way to find such a partner is to look for one with extensive experience with physician practices and a specialized built-for-physicians platform. Make sure your partner understands the specialized needs of physicians and has a history of working closely with administrators, doctors, and staff members. And just as importantly, seek out someone who understands your role and needs as a broker.
Focus on Meeting You and Your Client Needs
The ideal partner is one focused on you and your client’s needs and has learned those needs on the front line for decades. One that has applied past experience, has the physician practice laser- focused research and trend analysis to identify emerging needs and the creativity to develop solutions to meet those needs.
Enhanced through Synergism
Look for a partner that leverages its size and expertise, brings financial stability, offers specialized claims servicing, and provides a market-leading reputation and commitment to physician groups. Finally, look for a partner that combines two partners into one for you — a carrier partner and the administrator/service program manager partner. This synergistic partnership can provide enhanced strength and capabilities for you and your physician groups.
Group disability insurance policies are underwritten by Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada (Wellesley Hills, MA) in all states, except New York under policy form 93P-LH. In New York, group life and disability insurance policies are underwritten by Sun Life and Health Insurance Company (U.S.) (Windsor, CT) under policy form 13-GP-LH-01 and 13-LTD-C-01. Administration for physician products is provided by Medical Group Insurance Services, Inc. (MGIS), in all states, except as follows: in CA by MGIS Insurance Agency, Inc; in NY by MGIS Insurance Agency. Product offerings may not be available in all states and may vary depending on state laws and regulations. Sun Life Financial and the globe symbol are registered trademarks of Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada. Visit us at www.sunlife.com/us. For producer use only. GGEL-PHY-4902 SLPC 26306 12/14 (exp. 12/15)