Own Occupation Disability Insurance for Mental Health: Proactive Advice for Medical Residents

Own Occupation Disability Insurance for Mental Health: Proactive Advice for Medical Residents

If you’re a doc battling depression, you’re not alone. A CDC report dated May 11, 2022, stated that 69% of physicians reported experiencing depression—13% with suicidal ideation.
And according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, residents –docs just beginning their careers—are 20% more likely to experience a depressive episode than peers in other professions.
These are just the numbers according to the physicians who shared their struggles. Imagine how many aren’t participating in the reports. Because most docs don’t talk about their mental health struggles.
The fact is that a physician with a mental health issue deserves the time and space to receive treatment. Their life and the lives of their patients depend on it.
If you’re a resident, now is the time to protect yourself, your career, and your financial future from a mental health crisis by considering disability coverage for mental health.

Can I Get Disability for Mental Health Issues?

By definition a True Own Specialty disability coverage provides protection if a physician is unable to perform the duties their specialty demands due to an injury or illness. That includes mental illness for most policies.
Disability providers have different parameters around mental health coverage; different states have different regulations. But most Own Occupation carriers cover a mental illness if it meets standard medical coding for mental, behavioral, and neurodevelopmental disorders.
The good news is that mental health benefits generally provide up to two years of disability income. This gives physicians who develop a mental malady such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or substance abuse a good chunk of time to deal with their illness.
A couple of caveats: If you’re already living with or have dealt with a mental health issue in the past, you’ll most likely be excluded from mental illness coverage. And not all insurance companies offer mental health coverage to high-stress specialties like Emergency Medicine, Surgery, or Anesthesiology. However, there are companies that will provide coverage for pre-existing conditions on a case-by-case basis. Save time and shop around from your phone when you have a minute.

Mental Health Disability Limitation Riders

A True Own Specialty Disability policy that offers mental health coverage use a limitation rider usually called a Mental/Nervous Limitation Rider, or M/N. Other names may include Mental Nervous & Substance Abuse (MSNA) Limitation Rider, or a Mental and Substance-Related Disorders (MSDR) Limitation Rider.
In some cases, adding this rider to your plan can reduce your premium.
And if a mental disorder rears its scary head from another illness or injury, like say, you develop depression because of Parkinson’s, your mental illness is automatically covered under your general own occupation disability policy.
While most mental illnesses do not create a long-term disability, the symptoms can affect your ability to perform your specialty effectively. It makes sense to take time off to deal with your mental health than risk burnout that takes you out of the game altogether. Or worse, risk patient care and your career.
One more thing: As you shop around for disability coverage, be aware that how a company defines disability matters. Only True Own Specialty Disability policy allows you to collect full income replacement tax-free even if you choose to work in another occupation if you suffer an accident or illness that prevents you from practicing in your specialty.
And if you are tussling with a mental health issue, don’t wait to get help. You’re too vital to lose.

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