I’ve been working with physicians for over 15 years and during that time period, I’ve reviewed hundreds of contracts and offers from physicians that included plans written and offered through Northwestern mutual.
Since the need for True Own Occupation coverage is so important to Physicians, we advocate for plans that provide Own Occupation coverage only. Unfortunately, I have never come across a plan written after 1997 from Northwestern Mutual that could be considered a True Own Occupation Disability Insurance Plan.
What is True Own Occupation Coverage?
“True” Own Occupation Disability Insurance. Provides you your full benefit should you suffer a sickness or injury that prevents you from performing the material and substantial duties of your medical specialty without reducing or eliminating your benefits if you elect to work in another occupation for wage or profit.
The choice is yours with a True Own Occupation Disability plan. If you don’t want to work in another occupation, you get paid your bull benefit. If you decide you want to do something else, you get paid your full benefit regardless of the income you earn doing another occupation.
As of today, only 6 disability carriers offer this benefit to physicians. Own Occupation Disability Insurance is only available through Ameritas, Guardian, MassMutual, Ohio Nationa, Principal, and The Standard.
Modified Own Occupation: Northwestern Mutual provides a “Modified” Own Occupation Definition of Total Disability or as they’ve re-imagined it to be called the Medical Occupation Definition for Total Disability. This simply means it provides you your full benefit should you suffer a sickness or injury that prevents you from performing the material and substantial duties of your medical specialty so long as you are Not Gainfully Employed.
The Choice is still yours with a Modified Or Medical Occupation definition of disability plan, but if you decide you want to do something else, your benefit is reduced and eliminated once you are earning over 20% of your pre-disability earnings working in another occupation.
With Northwestern Mutuals premiums being the same or more than the other six carriers that do in fact offer a True Own Occupation Definition of Total Disability we cannot advocate for a Northwestern Mutual plan to be included in any physicians disability portfolio. Why pay more to have a plan that is more restrictive.
Check out the below definitions taken right from Northwestern Mutuals contract along with an example from Guardian for comparisons purposes.
Northwestern Mutuals Medical Occupation Definition
Guardian (Berkshire) "True" Own Occupation Definition
Always read the Definitions of a Disability Plan
Northwestern Mutual tells you themselves on their site, be certain to read the definitions of your policy carefully and this is an area of Disability Insurance that we agree with them on.
A physician’s most valuable asset is their ability to earn an income. Because of the incredible amount of education and training, it takes to become a doctor you don’t want your disability policy to limit your abilities to continue to earn an income outside of your medical specialty while collecting your full disability benefit from your inability to work in your medical specialty.
Check out my blog post about Dermatologists. There’s a great story in there about a female physician named Dr. Laurie Polis. Unfortunately, Dr. Polis owned policies with similar Medical Occupation/Modified Occupation definitions of total disability and she is forced to do nothing for the rest of her career because she doesn’t want to risk losing her disability coverage by earning an income in another occupation. She can still contribute to the field of Dermatology and Medicine as a whole but her plans, much like the plan offered through Northwestern mutual restricts her ability to collect her full benefit if she is gainfully employed.
If you’re a Physician – Get True Own Occupation.
It’s not hard to find. There are no shortages of independent insurance advisors like us that work exclusively with physicians and who advocate for True Own Occupation Disability Insurance. Make sure you get quotes from all six carriers and pick the carrier that’s are right for you. Price matters and certain discounts may be available based on your hospital affiliations or professional associations.
If you are a physician and you currently have a disability policy issued by NorthWestern Mutual during the mid 1990’s through their QQ series product then it is possible that you have a True Own Specialty policy. However, under Northwestern Mutuals current TT product series and their Medical Occupation Definition of Total Disability, your total disability benefit may be reduced if you earn income working in another occupation and therefore is not considered to be a True Own Specialty product suitable for physicians.