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Disability Insurance for Primary Care Doctors: A Checklist of What to Look For

Key Takeaways:

  • Own-occupation disability insurance for primary care doctors provides strong income protection for major illnesses and injuries.
  • General practitioners are in a low-risk occupation class for filing disability claims, translating to favorable premiums.
  • Residents and fellows might have access to guaranteed coverage options, while other primary care doctors can tap into various discounts to lower costs.

As the trusted source for all things preventative and out of the ordinary, the relationship between patient and primary care provider can last for decades. Due to the knowledge necessary to serve as the first line of defense for a wide variety of health concerns, the average primary care doctor earns around $250,000 a year. But this generous salary typically requires equally large medical school debt and additional years in residency or fellowship.

Therefore, primary care doctors can benefit from disability insurance that protects their high six-figure income and education and training investment.

How much does disability insurance cost for primary care doctors?

When budgeting for long-term disability insurance, you can expect to pay around 2% to 4% of your income for adequate coverage.

Primary care medicine is a non-invasive specialty, so you’ll likely receive more favorable premiums for own-occupation coverage than surgeons and other physicians who perform invasive procedures. However, your actual costs will depend on various factors, such as age, gender and health history. 

Here are some sample quotes for male and female primary care residents.

Own-occupation disability insurance monthly cost for primary care doctors (age 34, resident/fellow)

*NOTE: True own-occupation definition, $5,000 base monthly benefit, $15,000 future increase benefit, residual/recovery and mental/nervous coverage added. 3% inflation rider. Ninety-day elimination period. Includes 10%-30% discounts available through SLP Insurance LLC.

Why do primary care doctors buy disability insurance?

Disability insurance makes sense for most high-income individuals, particularly those in the medical field who rely on their hands and mental abilities. Considering you see a full spectrum of medical conditions, injuries and illnesses, you’re aware of the many ways that someone could unexpectedly experience a disability that prevents them from working. But maybe you don’t think that someone could be you.

However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) estimates that about a quarter of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before retirement. But when we talk about being unable to perform your primary care duties, you might have a higher likelihood of an injury or illness sidelining you from the job.

It might feel uncomfortable or seem like a far fetch to need disability insurance. But the last thing you want is to get caught without it after signing up for six-figure student loans and years of additional training.

If you want a quick quote for disability insurance for primary care doctors, fill out the form below. Or keep reading to learn about policy decisions that can affect your coverage.

Get the best price on own occupation disability insurance

SLP Insurance will find you the best price even if it's not with us. Fill out the form below to get discounts of up to 30%.

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What should disability insurance for primary care doctors include?

For the strongest income protection, primary care doctors should opt for a policy with a true own-occupation definition of disability. Own-occupation coverage provides disability income if you can’t work in primary medicine due to a long-term injury or illness.

This type of specialty-specific coverage has several variations. But a true own-occupation policy will also allow you to work in another medical field while collecting monthly benefits.

Additionally, residents, fellows and early-career primary care doctors should consider adding a future purchase option to their policy. This rider allows you to buy more coverage as your income increases without additional medical underwriting.

Other common disability insurance riders include:

  • Partial disability or residual disability benefits
  • Recovery benefits
  • Cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)
  • Catastrophic disability benefits

Other optional provisions can further customize your policy to meet your financial needs. But each disability rider can also quickly increase your premiums.

How often do primary care physicians file disability insurance claims?

Based on historical claims data, primary care doctors are less likely to file disability claims than other invasive medical specialties. Therefore, disability insurance companies tend to rate primary care medicine as a low-risk occupation — which is great news for you.

Low risk translates to lower premiums. But it doesn’t mean no risk. Disability insurance safeguards your income from the unknown, providing a payout that can be well worth the cost if needed.

What types of disability insurance are available to primary care doctors?

Primary doctors can look for disability insurance with their employer, group practice or a professional association, such as the American Medical Association (AMA). However, these disability insurance plans are usually via a group policy that has limitations. For example, the maximum monthly benefit might be less than you need. Additionally, group coverage usually has a weak definition of disability, making it harder to file a claim.

Residents and fellows might also have access to a guaranteed standard issue (GSI) policy through their program. Unfortunately, insurance agents often overlook GSI policies. But they offer guaranteed coverage, which is beneficial for residents with an existing medical condition.

If you have an existing policy that falls short, you can supplement your coverage with an individual disability insurance policy. This type of policy offers the most flexibility, allowing you to choose true own-occupation coverage and various policy riders that fit your needs.

How much disability insurance do primary care doctors need?

You can usually find disability insurance coverage for up to 60% of your gross income. However, you might be eligible for more or less depending on your existing disability policy. Let’s look at how the maximum benefit could differ among primary care doctors using data from the Medscape 2022 Physician Compensation Report.

Disability payout examples for primary care doctors

Let’s say you’re a family medicine doctor who earns $255,000 annually. With a maximum 60% payout, you could receive up to $12,750 per month in disability benefits. Whereas the average internist with a salary of $264,000 could be eligible for monthly benefits up to $13,200.

But you might not need such a large payout if you have other income sources to fall back on or live below your means.

Alternatively, you might be married to someone in another high-earning profession who could cover certain expenses until you recover. In this case, you might opt for a lower benefit amount than a primary doctor who is the breadwinner or sole provider.

How much disability insurance you need will depend greatly on your current financial situation and future lifestyle changes you’re willing to make to accommodate a loss of income.

Disability insurance checklist

When it comes to disability insurance, “the devil is in the details.” If you have an existing disability policy, we encourage you to examine and compare the specifics to ensure sufficient coverage.

  • Look for true own-occupation coverage. There are varying levels of own-occupation or own-specialty coverage that might prevent you from returning to the workforce without risking your disability insurance benefits.
  • Choose a benefit period and waiting period based on your risk tolerance. Your benefit period defines how long you’ll receive disability benefits, ranging from two years up to your 60s or 70s. The elimination period determines how long it’ll take to receive benefits once disabled. This can range from 30 days to one year.
  • Make sure your benefit amount covers your fixed expenses at a minimum. Consider adding a few extra thousand dollars to your monthly policy benefits for miscellaneous expenses.
  • Understand any exclusions or limitations for coverage. For example, your policy might limit your benefit period for mental and nervous disorders.
  • Work with a knowledgeable insurance broker for exclusive premium discounts. The top insurance companies offer unisex pricing and other discounts to help lower the cost of disability insurance. But you might not be aware of these opportunities on your own or with an inexperienced insurance agent.

Get a disability insurance quote for primary care doctors

SLP Insurance can help compare your options for disability insurance for primary care doctors. This includes looking at available GSI and individual policy options. We’ll find you the best disability insurance discounts or send you over to another broker if our team is aware of a better option. Fill out the form below for a quick quote!

Compare disability insurance quotes and save

SLP Insurance will find you the best price on own occupation coverage, even if it's not with us. Fill out the form below for a quote with up to 30% discounts.

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