Mental and Nervous Long-Term Disability Claims for Doctors Jumped Significantly in 2020

James Crook

SALT LAKE CITY, Aug. 17, 2021 — Mental and Nervous conditions ranked third among the top causes of long-term absence from work (more than 90 days) in 2020, according to claims submitted by doctors with long-term disability insurance coverage through MGIS, a leading national insurance program manager. Mental and Nervous disability claims filed in 2020 (11.5% of total claims) reflected an 85.8% increase over those filed in 2019 (6.7% of total claims).

“It’s not a surprise to see this increase, considering the number of reports about doctors on the front lines experiencing burnout and stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year,” said Jeff Brunken, MGIS president.

In fact, a recent Washington Post – Kaiser Family Foundation survey earlier this year revealed that 62% of healthcare workers said worry or stress related to COVID-19 had a negative effect on their mental health. A 2020 North Carolina State University study found that on average, doctors reported enough symptoms of depression to be diagnosed with clinical depression. And Yale School of Public Health survey data of thousands of health workers showed worrying rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder amid the worsening pandemic.

According to the tally of long-term disability claims submitted in 2020 by doctors insured by MGIS, the top five reasons for filing the claims were:

  1. Cancer
  2. Musculoskeletal (back condition, rotator cuff, carpal tunnel, knee, etc.)
  3. Mental and Nervous
  4. (tie) Injury
  5. (tie) Nervous System (Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis)

“The increased incidence of mental health disabilities last year highlights the importance of comprehensive disability insurance for doctors,” Brunken explained. “A specialized disability insurance policy is one way to obtain the full coverage they need for burnout- or stress-induced disabilities. This can be done through improved Mental & Nervous and Drug & Alcohol (MNDA) benefits.

The American Journal of Medicine estimates that 40-50% of doctors experience burnout in an average year. Their studies also suggest this burnout regularly transitions into major depression, substance abuse, and even suicide. “So, even when there is not a pandemic,” Brunken added, “it is important for doctors to have specialized policies that will pay out for multiple occurrences of mental health or addiction issues, that do not have a cap on benefits, and that do not exempt preexisting conditions like depression from coverage.”

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