[Editor's Note: This is another in a long running series from website advertiser Lawrence B. Keller, CLU, ChFC, CFP® about disability insurance. These posts go way out into the weeds on disability insurance. These policies can become unbelievably complex. Although disability insurance is something you may only need to purchase once or twice in your life, it is best to do it the right away. Evaluate all of your options, including any group policies available to you, with an independent agent, and try to find the best balance between features/amount of coverage and the price at which the policy is offered to you.]
Principal recently announced an increase in their Issue & Participation (I&P) limits for both the Future Benefit (FBI) Rider and for the majority of medical specialties. They have also made a few occupation class changes for certain medical professionals including: Anesthesiologists, Emergency Medicine Physicians and Physician Assistants.
Issue and Participation Limits
The Future Benefit Increase (FBI) Rider is now available to those purchasing policies in occupation classes 4A-M and 5A-M with total benefit amounts up to $14,000 month (previously $13,000 month). This Rider allows the insureds to increase their monthly benefits 4-10% based upon changes in the Consumer Price Index, regardless of their earned income and/or other disability insurance inforce (individual, group or association) for the first six policy years. The limit is different for those policies written prior to the 700 policy series.
The issue limit has been increased to $17,000 month (up from $15,000 month) except for Anesthesiologists and Emergency Medicine Physicians (see below). This is the amount of coverage that Principal is willing to issue on their own to occupation classes 4A-M and 5A-M. They will continue to participate with other individual disability insurance policies to a total of $25,000 month (this has not changed) and, the biggest news, is they will now participate up to a total of $35,000 month for those physicians that have group Long-Term Disability (LTD) coverage inforce. Prior to this change, MetLife was the only carrier that had participation limits this high for those with group LTD coverage. I believe that this will help Principal increase their share of the medical market – especially for female physicians where policies with a unisex rate and discount may be available.
Occupation Class Changes
Anesthesiologists and Emergency Medicine Physicians were downgraded from the 4A-M occupation class to the 3A-M occupation class. While the Regular Occupation Rider (true “Own-Occupation” definition of total disability remains available), the premium rates for these specialties has increased by 15-20%. The same is true for Psychiatrists as they have been downgraded from an occupation class of 5A-M to 4A-M.
While, in my opinion, Principal will continue to be the carrier of choice for females in these specialties – especially when a unisex rate and discount is available, some males may choose to purchase their polices from other carriers with similar pricing and contractual provisions. [I mentioned this in my November newsletter. If you're not getting these, sign-up here. Unfortunately, prior to December, Principal was usually the best value for emergency docs. -ed]
Physician Assistants have also had their occupation class changed. However, they have been upgraded from 3A to 4A-M. As a result, they are provided with both a premium savings along with the availability of the Regular Occupation Rider (true “Own-Occupation” definition of total disability). Just keep in mind that the Regular Occupation Rider is not available to those in the 4A-M occupation class in the State of California.
Just when you think MetLife could not make any more positive changes to better position their product in the marketplace, they have made changes to their government employee guidelines, have more options for Californians, and improved their Simplified Underwriting Program (SUP).
Changes to the Government Guidelines
Government employees can now qualify for disability insurance coverage based upon MetLife’s normal Issue & Participation limits (compared to the previous “cap” of $10,000 month for physicians). Additionally, the Guaranteed Insurability Option (GIO) Rider is also now available where this was not the case in the past.
Prior to this change, it was very difficult to recommend MetLife’s policy to government employees (State, City or county) as, if they left the VA Hospital or a similar employer, they would potentially have to purchase another policy from MetLife or another carrier in order to protect their rising income and/or loss of their disability benefits, including those associated with the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). This would subject them to both medical and financial underwriting at that time and, if their health had changed since the purchase of their original policy, they could find themselves either underinsured and/or unable to purchase additional insurance either at all or the way they had been originally underwritten.
The GIO Rider protects against this as no exams, blood tests, urine tests or medical underwriting is required. This is a welcome change and should serve both potential policyholders very well as they can adequately protect their income – both now and in the future.
Income Guard Policy Series – Approved in California
MetLife’s Income Guard policy has also been approved in the State of California (Income Guard CaliforniaSM). Although some policy provisions differ compared to other states, this is another welcome change as most other states had approved this policy series years ago! California physicians will quickly see that this is a significant improvement over the Salary Saver that had been available previously.
MetLife has also increased their issue and participation limits (I&P) for applicants age 59 and over. While I don’t get many calls from physicians that are in this age group looking for coverage, for those that need and want it, it will have a positive impact and is potentially much better than the prior maximum monthly benefit of $10,000. However, issue limits will not exceed MetLife’s maximum issue and participation limits by occupational class and any existing, in-force individual coverage will be taken into consideration when determining the additional monthly benefit available, regardless of occupation.
Simplified Underwriting Program Improvements
MetLife will now issue up to $7,500 month (increased from $6,500 month) of individual disability insurance coverage or up to $10,000 month of disability Business Overhead Expense (BOE) insurance (to those applicants age 45 or younger) using their Simplified Underwriting Program (SUP). This program allows insureds to acquire the disability insurance coverage they need with just a fully completed application, prescription drug check and, in some cases, a brief telephone interview.
The Simplified Underwriting Program is not available in California. Additionally, an application is ineligible if an insured has an adverse driving record (DUI) and/or had a disability insurance policy rated, modified or declined in the past.
Insureds applying under the “New Professional Program” (interns, residents, fellows and those in the first year of practice) age 40 and younger who use TeleMed Interview will no longer be required to do an exam, blood test or urine test. This DOES NOT include Dentists or those purchasing lifetime benefits or the Lump Sum Rider. This program is also available to physicians in the State of California.
While this should speed up the underwriting process tremendously and make things easier for physicians to purchase coverage from Berkshire, the “preferred” underwriting classification will not be available for those that do not do labs as a part of the underwriting process. This would normally translate to a 5% premium savings for those that would otherwise normally qualify for this underwriting classification. [I think I'd gladly pee in a cup for 5% off my disability insurance premiums for the rest of my life.-ed]
Two new enhancements have been made to the DInamic Foundation in approved states for certain occupational classes.
One, a new preferred occupations premium (10% savings) has been introduced for those medical specialties in occupation class 6M that use the EZ App process. These include:
- Family/General Practice Physicians
- Genetic Physicians
- Hematologists/Oncologists (excluding Surgical Oncologists)
- Internal Medicine Physicians
- Psychiatrists/Psychologists (with a PhD)
- Radiologists (does not include Interventional Radiologists)
This is not applicable to Business Overhead Expense (BOE) policies or those in a Guaranteed Standard Issue (GSI) program. This is also not available in all states.
Two, premium rates for female physicians have also been reduced by 10% in approved states. While this is helpful, it won’t translate to all that much when a unisex rate and discount may be available elsewhere (Principal and MassMutual’s policies with a multi-life discount or Standard’s GME Program are good examples).
When it comes to purchasing disability insurance, be sure to do your homework. The marketplace continues to change and carriers continue to compete for their share of new business. Insurance agents and financial planners that are familiar with and have an understanding of each company’s policy or policies will be able to make specific recommendations based upon your individual needs, goals and budget. They should also be familiar with the discount plans available to you through your hospital affiliation and/or professional associations, which can translate to a significant premium savings – both now and in the future!
What do you think? Will any of these changes affect you? What features were most important to you when you purchased your policy? Have you had to use your policy? What company did you end up going with? Comment below!