Disability insurance: Protecting your income

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 59, No. 1, January February 2017, Pages 54-55 News
By: Eric Wong

Most of us, including physicians, probably do not think about becoming disabled in our daily lives. However, statistics indicate that the possibility is higher than we might imagine. Disability is not limited to the physical, either, as a growing number of physicians require time off work due to mental health issues. In either case, it is important to seek out support and to protect your financial assets.

The World Health Organization has described disability as encompassing impairments, limitations to activity, and restrictions to participation. In a 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability conducted by Statistics Canada, an estimated 3.8 million adult Canadians, roughly 13.7% of the adult population, reported being limited in their daily activities due to a disability. Respondents cited pain, mobility, and flexibility limitations. Women across age groups generally report disability in higher numbers than men and the prevalence of disability rises with age.

Aside from musculoskeletal injuries, disabilities due to mental health issues are prevalent. Physicians experience significant rates of burnout and stress. For some, this can lead to issues such as depression, suicide, and substance use. In a recent survey of Canadian physicians, over one-quarter of respondents stated that their mental health made it difficult to work at least some of the time in the previous year.

The growing awareness that physicians are managing mental health issues has led to the creation of physician health programs across Canada. The Physician Health Program (PHP) of British Columbia helps BC physicians foster an environment of health and wellness, offers prompt personalized assistance to physicians facing physical or mental health issues or addiction, and advocates for individual and collective physician health. It provides support and referrals (through a PHP physician or counselors), as well as education and prevention services to manage personal and professional problems. Further, it addresses the stigma associated with mental health issues, so that physicians can freely seek support and focus on their health.

With this increasing attention toward physician well-being, it is important to also consider financial well-being. Disability insurance provides you with a monthly benefit in the event that an accident or illness prevents you from working. Physicians in BC currently have access to the provincially funded physicians’ disability insurance plan. However, it is common for physicians to have additional disability insurance through Doctors of BC or an individual plan. Disability plans are designed to work together to provide comprehensive disability protection, and many plans offer elective features such as the option to purchase additional coverage as your income grows, without having to provide proof of good health. This allows you to design the disability insurance strategy that best suits your individual lifestyle, budget, and needs.

Applying for disability insurance earlier, while you are in good health, maximizes your chances of obtaining coverage at favorable rates and without exclusions on health conditions. Having coverage in place ensures that your income is protected if the unexpected happens and you are unable to work for a period of time.

Disability insurance also guards against the cumulative costs of longer-term disabilities: statistics show that when a disability lasts longer than 90 days, the actual length of that disability can average between 2.1 and 3.2 years.

It is never too early to start thinking about disability and disability insurance. The chances of becoming disabled vary among individuals, but for many people the odds might be higher than you would expect, and it is important to remember that physicians are vulnerable to disability as well. The licensed, noncommissioned insurance 
advisors with Doctors of BC are available to speak with you about your disability insurance and other insurance needs.
—Eric Wong 
UBC Medicine, Class of 2018

Eric Wong. Disability insurance: Protecting your income. BCMJ, Vol. 59, No. 1, January, February, 2017, Page(s) 54-55 - News.

Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

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