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Disability Income Insurance: What Every Medical Professional Needs to Know

The right Individual Disability Insurance (IDI) coverage can help you keep your household going if you suffer a long-term disability. But before you go shopping for a policy, you need to know which features to look for—and the language the insurance industry uses to describe them. The following terms are part of the language describing high-quality policies, and are what you should look for to get coverage you can count on:

Non-cancellable and Guaranteed Renewable: To avoid the possibility of losing your coverage just when you need it most, choose a policy that’s non-cancellable and guaranteed renewable to age 65. This provision will guarantee that as long as your premiums are paid on time, your policy cannot be cancelled, premiums cannot be increased and policy provisions cannot be changed. With group or association coverage, you run the risk of being dropped and left unprotected at a time in your life when, due to your age or a change in your health, it would be difficult to qualify for coverage from another provider. The premiums for your classification group can also be increased at any time. Unlike Group LTD, IDI coverage stays with you even if you change jobs.

True Own-Occupation: A true Own-Occupation policy considers you totally disabled—and therefore eligible for benefits*—when, solely due to injury or sickness, you are unable to perform the material and substantial duties of your occupation even if you are gainfully employed in another occupation. As a highly skilled professional who has greatly invested in your education and training, you want to make sure you have true own-occupation coverage. Group LTD plans rarely include a true own-occupation definition of total disability.

  • For medical doctors and doctors of osteopathy, there is a new Enhanced Medical Specialty Definition of Total Disability. This is true own-occ definition of total disability with specialty language which provides a physician with the flexibility to be gainfully employed while still receiving benefits. Total Disability means solely due to injury or sickness, you are unable to perform the material and substantial duties of your occupation, even if you are gainfully employed in your practice or another occupation.
    • We will consider you totally disabled if more than 50% of your income is from:
      • Hands-on patient care and, solely because of an injury or illness, you can't perform hands-on patient care; or
      • Performing surgical procedures and, solely because of an injury or illness, you can't perform surgical procedures.
  • For dentists and medical occupations not eligible for the Enhanced Medical Specialty Definition of Total Disability, Guardian offers Specialty True Own Occupation Definition of Total Disability. This definition describes total disability as solely due to injury or sickness, you are not able to perform the material and substantial duties of your occupation, even if you are gainfully employed in another occupation. If you have limited your occupation to the performance of the material and substantial duties of a single medical specialty or a single dental specialty, we will deem that specialty to be the insured's occupation.

Partial Disability Benefits: Through an optional rider, a good Individual Disability policy can provide you with a partial benefit for when you suffer a loss of income as a result of a partial disability—even if you have never previously suffered a period of total disability. This kind of partial coverage is not available with many Group LTD plans.

Recovery Benefit: This benefit is important for many medical professionals. It provides a benefit, even if you have recovered, if you continue to suffer a loss of income due to an injury or illness that caused your disability*. The best policies have a recovery benefit payable to age 65, 67, or 70. Guardian is the only carrier which does not require total or residual disability benefits be paid in order to qualify for recovery benefits.  All other carriers do.

Personalize your policy with riders: Optional riders offer additional coverage such as Guardian's exclusive Students Loan Protection Rider, Guardian's exclusive Lump Sum Disability Benefit Rider, Retirement Protection Plus Disability Rider, Catastrophic Disability Benefit Rider, Future Increase Option Rider with annual increase options, and Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) Riders.


Optional riders are available for an additional premium. Restrictions and limitations apply. The Student Loan Rider provides coverage for period of ten or fifteen years from the Policy Date.  When a qualifying total disability occurs, benefits are only payable during the remaining portion of the ten or fifteen-year term that has not elapsed when the disability begins. Retirement Protection Plus is not a pension plan or a substitute for one. While medical information is not required when exercising a future increase option, applications to exercise an increase option will be financially underwritten, taking into consideration both the applicant’s then current income, as well as all disability insurance which is then in force, or for which the insured has applied or is eligible to receive.  The COLA benefit is not necessarily protection against increases in the cost of living.