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What Is the “Own Occupation” Disability Policy?

YOU HAVE PROBABLY heard that doctors should invest in “own occupation” disability insurance. Yet many physicians do not realize that insurers sometimes include loopholes and unfavorable terms in their private disability policies—which are sometimes discovered only after you file for disability. This article outlines three things you should look out for in your policy and suggests ways to strengthen your coverage.

Most private insurance policies include one of the following definitions of disability: Own occupation: you are eligible for benefits if you cannot perform the duties of your specific job due to an illness, injury, or chronic medical condition. Any occupation: you must prove that you cannot perform any type of work because of your health conditions.

While “own occupation” policies are typically more expensive than those with “any occupation” clauses, they are often worth the investment.

Suppose you are a cardiothoracic surgeon practicing in Chicago, earning $550,000 per year. You develop an essential tremor that prevents you from operating on patients. If you have an “own occupation” definition of disability, you might qualify for disability benefits. But with an “any occupation” policy, the insurer will likely deny your claim, arguing that you can still do other work not requiring the fine motor skills of a surgeon.

However, even if it seems like you have a more advantageous “own occupation” plan, you should care- fully review the terms and conditions of your policy.

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