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What I Wish I’d Known Before My Injury

Have you dusted off your insurance policy in the last year? If there’s at least one thing that has changed in your life during the past 365 days, your answer should be yes. Maybe your salary changed, or you welcomed a new addition to the family. These are the kinds of things you want to keep your insurance carrier aware of, because last year’s coverage may not meet the needs you have this year.

Taking just 10 minutes to update the key details of your policy, especially when it comes to life and disability insurance, could save you thousands of dollars down the line.

Cars need oil changes. Insurance policies need updates. Boy, do I wish someone told me this when I was practicing.

I get it. That envelope from your insurance carrier doesn’t exactly scream “Over here! Open me!” on a precious day off. And the insurance companies don’t exactly make it easy to understand what’s inside: future benefit increases, future increase options, cost of living adjustments…; the terminology can seem endless. (Since my transition to working in insurance, I’ve learned that the insurance industry is just as rife with shorthand and jargon as medicine, but with a lot less standardization.)

What you need to know is this: Yearly maintenance on your insurance policy is the only way you can be sure that, if disaster strikes, you truly have coverage. Insurance is not set-and-forget.

Let’s say you get a policy in place before graduating from residency or fellowship (highly recommended for reasons explained in detail here). When you graduate and your income increases, say, 200 percent, you’re eligible to receive a much larger benefit. If you don’t report that new salary to your insurer before disaster strikes, you may find yourself living on a fraction of what you worked for (and truly earned after all those years of schooling).

Attendings aren’t off the hook from needing to do these check-ins, either. Even if you were already an attending when you got your policy in place, hopefully you will still get raises. Or conversely, if you ever decide to go part-time, you might end up being over-insured unless you remember to cut back. Who wants to pay a deadweight premium?

Before I began working in insurance, I was a practicing OB/GYN until a patient inadvertently kicked me in the shoulder during a difficult patient delivery. I ended up with a torn labrum in my shoulder that should have healed, but it just didn’t. I developed a frozen shoulder, had to have surgery, and then my recovery didn’t go as expected. For me, going back to work was no longer an option, and I can tell you firsthand how important it is to make sure you covered your bases by keeping your disability policy up to date.

Unbeknownst to me, worker’s compensation and my hospital-provided physician disability insurance, the safety nets I took for granted as a resident and attending, did not automatically go into effect to give me the stability I assumed they would. Eventually, I had to go to court to fight for, and eventually receive, the benefits I knew were rightly mine.

We know life is busy and you have a hundred other things on your task list. This is why we check in with you every year. We learned the right questions to ask to make sure we don’t miss anything that might mean more benefit for you.

The ability to make these updates to an existing policy is one of the most valuable things insurance companies offer clients because it requires no additional medical underwriting.

The underwriting process can be intrusive, not to mention a hassle. Insurers could ask you to provide blood and urine samples, there are script checks that go back five or more years, and a mountain of medical questions you will have to answer. The goal is to go through the underwriting process as few times as possible. Plus, the less medical underwriting that takes place, the less chance anything problematic will crop up to reduce your benefit.

Usually, insurers mail you a form, or in some cases, we send it to you. The update form usually takes 10 minutes or less to complete. Ten minutes for possibly tens of thousands of dollars of additional benefit, if you ever have to go on claim? I’ll be the first to tell you it’s worth it.

Of course, I wish my agent had checked in with me so I could have maxed out my benefit before my injury, but if he had, I might not be sitting here writing this. And if it weren’t for my partner, Scott, stepping up to help me advocate for myself, I would never have learned how to advocate for you, my clients.

I love my second career, so in a way I’m grateful. But no one deserves to think they’re doing everything right and then one day find themselves pondering the possibility of having to sell their house, all because they hastily threw away some piece of mail.