Best Disability Insurance for Surgeons

Discover the importance of disability insurance for surgeons, including factors that affect its cost and essential coverage considerations.

Key Terms

  • With a specialty-specific own-occupation policy, surgeons can receive benefit payments even if they could work in another field or industry.
  • It is important for surgeons to carefully review the exclusions and limitations of their disability insurance policy, as some policies may exclude certain medical conditions or types of injuries from coverage.
  • Surgeons may want to consider purchasing disability insurance that offers “residual” or “partial” benefits, which provide partial income replacement if you’re able to return to work on a part-time or modified basis.

Surgeons rely on the dexterity of their hands, and anything that affects their steadiness, control, and precision, could leave them unable to work. Thankfully, disability insurance, which can pay benefits roughly equivalent to your take home pay for years until you retire. That’s a boon for surgeons, who can earn top-dollar among medical professions: the average annual income for surgeons is $208,000

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Why surgeons need disability insurance

Surgeons are highly trained and skilled professionals who play a vital role in the healthcare industry. However, like any other profession, surgeons are also at risk of suffering from a disability that could prevent them from practicing medicine. Disability insurance is an important financial tool that helps surgeons to protect their income and financial stability in the event of a disability.

There are several reasons why surgeons may need disability insurance. First, surgeons are prone to work-related injuries due to the physical demands of their job. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), surgeons have a higher risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain, neck pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome, due to the long hours they spend standing and performing repetitive tasks. These conditions can result in temporary or permanent disability, which can impact a surgeon’s ability to perform surgery.

In addition to work-related injuries, surgeons are also at risk of developing disabilities due to other health conditions. For example, heart disease, cancer, and mental health disorders are common causes of disability among surgeons.

How much does disability insurance for surgeons cost?

Disability insurance typically costs 1% to 3% of your income. 

Disability insurance premiums tend to cost more for women. It’s always best to talk to a licensed insurance broker, who can help you find a policy that’s best suited to your needs, circumstances, and finances. (They often have deep knowledge of discounts, too.)

What affects the cost of disability insurance

Benefit period: The benefit period is the length of time that the policy will pay out benefits. Consider how long you would need income in the event of a disability and choose a policy accordingly.

Benefit amount: The benefit amount is the amount of income the policy will provide. It’s important to choose a policy that will provide enough income to cover your expenses in the event of a disability.

Elimination period: Disability insurance doesn’t pay out immediately — there’s a waiting period (90 days is typical), and the shorter it is, the more your policy will cost.

Here are a few examples of disability insurance riders that surgeons can consider adding to their disability policy:

  • Future increase option: You can increase your benefit in the future as you age, without undergoing a medical exam. 
  • Student loan rider:  Many suregeons have significant student loan debt, which can be difficult to manage on a reduced income.
  • Partial or residual disability rider: This can be especially useful for surgeons who may be able to return to work in some capacity after an injury or illness but are not able to perform surgery at the same level as before.
  • Waiver of premium: Some policies include a waiver of premium feature, which means that the policyholder will not have to pay premiums while they are receiving benefits. This can be a helpful feature, as it allows the policyholder to focus on their recovery without worrying about paying premiums.

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3 things surgeons should know about disability insurance 

Disability insurance can provide financial protection for surgeons in the event of a disability. It can help cover lost income and expenses such as medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and household expenses. Without disability insurance, surgeons may face financial hardship and may be forced to rely on savings or borrow money to cover their expenses.

Group coverage payouts may not be enough 

Your workplace may offer disability insurance at a low cost, as part of an employee benefits program. However, these one-size fits all policies are usually limited and may not provide sufficient coverage for surgeons, who tend to have high incomes. If you have an employer-sponsored disability plan, consider the benefit amounts and layer your policy by purchasing your own disability income insurance policy.

Own-occupation coverage is a must

If you’re a surgeon you should definitely consider getting a disability policy with an own-occupation definition of disability. That means you can receive disability benefits when you can’t work as a surgeon, not just any job, which can allow you to take on another job. 

“While they’ll all pay you benefits when you can’t work as a surgeon, some insurance companies have slightly nuanced definitions,” according to Pradeep Audho, broker and owner of PKA Insurance. Working with an experienced insurance broker can help you understand what’s best for your circumstances and ensure you get the best coverage. 

Your location matters

If you graduate in one state, but plan to move to another for your job, when should you buy your disability insurance? The cost of disability insurance and other insurance can vary across the country. That means premiums in one state may be higher or lower than another — something to consider before buying. Again, an experienced insurance broker can help you navigate buying the right policy for your needs. 

Talk to an independent agent

Joshua Holt is a licensed insurance agent (License #2785989) and founder of Biglaw Investor and Sidebar Insurance LLC, an insurance agency created by lawyers, for lawyers. His insurance expertise lies in the areas of life and disability insurance, particularly covering lawyers, doctors and other high-income professionals. Prior to Biglaw Investor, Josh practiced private equity mergers & acquisition law for one of the largest law firms in the country.

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