A short history of Physicians’ Disability Insurance

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 59, No. 9, November 2017, Page 469 News

The Physicians’ Disability Insurance (PDI) plan was one of the first negotiated benefits implemented in BC.

The Physicians’ Disability Insurance (PDI) plan was one of the first negotiated benefits implemented in BC. It was approved in 1974 after an NDP government was elected in 1972 and there was pressure on the government not to exceed a fixed percentage increase in fees. In lieu of a larger fee increase, the government and physicians agreed to create CME and PDI funds.[1]

PDI was first introduced as a tax-free monthly benefit that would pay if a member was completely unable to work. It was implemented in 1975 with a benefit maximum of $5700 per month that reduced by 15% after 6 months on a claim. This benefit was originally insured by Canadian General Life (which became Westbury Canadian Life in 1989).

Over the years the Insurance Committee has evolved the plan to meet members’ needs. Sun Life took over as the insurer in 1995 and remains the insurer today. In 1998, the maximum benefit limit was raised to $6100 per month, and the 15% reduction was removed. First-day hospital benefits were added as well as hepatitis B and HIV riders to enhance coverage. In 2001, the all-source maximum formula was adjusted to 60% of total income after business expenses and before taxes to address taxation inequities between incorporated and unincorporated physicians.

In 2008 the plan was overhauled again—partial disability benefits were introduced for any physicians experiencing more than 20% income loss due to a disability. The eligibility age of physicians for claims was extended to 70 to reflect the increased number of physicians working beyond age 65.

At the time of writing, there are 8040 insured physicians on the plan, and the plan paid out over $13 million in benefits in 2016. Enrollment in this plan is not automatic, and physicians typically must prove good health to first join. Benefits depend on eligible income in the previous calendar year, with a maximum of $6100 per month. Total and partial disability benefits are payable until age 65, with total disability benefits available for physicians disabled between age 63 and 70. (If you are disabled after age 63, total disability benefits are payable for 24 months for each period of total disability; however, no monthly disability benefit is payable after age 71.) The PDI plan is unique in the insurance industry as a disability plan that pays benefits after only 14 days of a disability. For comparison, the shortest waiting period available through current industry offerings is 30 days.

For over 40 years, the PDI plan has been an integral part of many BC physicians’ financial plans and serves to properly protect the income of BC physicians in conjunction with the Disability Income Insurance plan available to Doctors of BC members and other private insurance plans. We encourage members to apply to join the PDI plan as soon as possible. If you want more information or want to speak to a licensed insurance advisor about how the PDI can be part of your financial plan, please contact the Insurance Department at insurance@doctorsofbc.ca or 604 736-5551.
—Erin Connors
Advisory Services Manager, Doctors of BC


1.    Fritz B. The BCMA, then and now: A selected history from 1965 to Doctors of BC. Doctors of BC; 2017. p. 33. www.doctorsofbc.ca/sites/default/files/-_bcma_history_v9-i.pdf.

Erin Connors. A short history of Physicians’ Disability Insurance. BCMJ, Vol. 59, No. 9, November, 2017, Page(s) 469 - News.

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