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Submitted Courtesy of MGMA Connexion Magazine
Used by Permission

Derailing the dream?

Physicians have invested time, energy, and money pursuing a life-long dream: To practice in the field of medicine. Their lifestyles reflect their income and their families enjoy the benefits of what their skills, efforts, and education can provide. But what will physicians do if they become disabled and cannot perform the duties of their specialties?

Disability is to be feared. In fact, statistics indicate that 30% of workers entering the workforce will become disabled before retiring. To ignore the possibility is putting career and family at risk. Physicians, and anyone else for that matter, need coverage that protects them–and their dreams–in the best manner possible.

Disability happens: Consider the story of Robert J. Goodrich, M.D. CST

A private practitioner and Ob/Gyn for 10 years in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, Dr. Robert Goodrich was enjoying the benefits of a thriving practice, and then the unthinkable happened. Here is his story in his own words.

Goodrich: While working out with my son, I fractured the fifth metacarpal in my right hand. At the time, I thought the injury was only temporary. However, I eventually developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy [a condition of burning pain, stiffness, swelling, and discoloration of the hand]. Because of this, I was unable to practice any longer. I couldn’t do surgery. I couldn’t deliver babies. I couldn’t do pelvic examinations. As you can imagine, it was very traumatic to go from working 80 hours per week to doing nothing and being in pain all the time. I had some very good doctors who really helped me out; they did the best they could for me. They sent me to various specialists, and I had various nerve blocks that were unsuccessful. As a result, I was forced to close my practice permanently.

Fortunately, early in my career, an insurance broker from the Arizona Medical Association recommended that I purchase an individual disability policy. At the time, I knew practically nothing about disability insurance. He asked me what I would do if I couldn’t practice medicine, and what would I do if I couldn’t provide for my family. I hadn’t really put a great deal of thought into those questions, so I asked him how I could protect my business and financial assets. He explained the advantages of individual disability insurance, and indicated that the insurance company would pay me until I could return to practice or would pay me permanently if I couldn’t return to work at all. It sounded reasonable to me, so I relied on his expertise and purchased a policy. Although the coverage was rather expensive, I was making a good living at the time.

That insurance broker gave me some good advice and I took it. But I must tell you: I thought I was wasting my money because I was young and healthy, working 80 hours a week, and working out another 10-12 hours per week–lifting weights, running, and swimming. I thought I would never have anything happen to me. When it did, my individual insurance carrier stepped up to the plate and took good care of me.

There’s more to my story. Before my disability, I met with a second insurance agent who recommended a group disability policy for my office. Again, I took his advice and invested in group coverage. Unfortunately, when things started to get a little tight with managed care, I cancelled this group policy very foolishly.

I’ve learned some valuable lessons, both good and bad. The good lesson was having an individual policy that protected most of my assets. The bad lesson was that I could have had a group policy layered on top of my individual policy, which would have made things much easier on me financially.

In the meantime, I have a permanent disability. Thanks to the “own occupation” clause in my original individual policy, I am able to teach here at the Mohave Community College and still receive my full benefit even though I can’t practice medicine. Fortunately, I have individual coverage to age 65. Unfortunately, cancelling my group coverage has cost me dearly.

You may not see it coming, but you can be prepared

Like Dr. Goodrich, many physicians invest in individual disability insurance (IDI) early in their careers. That’s good. The downside is that most of these policies provide just a percentage of what physicians earn monthly. As income increases, a gap may exist between a physician’s income and the income the IDI policy replaces.

To help fill this gap, you and your practice should consider the benefits of a Group Long Term Disability (LTD) policy. Such coverage can be layered on top of any individual disability plan, with no offset or coordination of benefits. Additionally, it provides superior protection for the general specialty or sub-specialty in which a physician practices. And disability benefits may be provided to your physicians tax free.

As one of the nation’s largest providers of group disability, group life, and professional liability coverage to physician groups, MGIS has a rich tradition of service excellence. Through its partnership with Sun Life Financial, MGIS provides best-in-class contract features customized to a physician’s specialty.

About Dr. Goodrich
With 20 years of surgical experience, Goodrich currently serves as Program Coordinator– Surgical Technology at the Mohave Community College, Lake Havasu City. He also serves as President of the Arizona State Assembly of the Association of Surgical Technologists, and he is a member of the Board of Directors for the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. He earned his Doctor of Medicine from the Medical College of Georgia.


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