Sweeping Cultural Changes in Medicine Offer Opportunities for Disability Insurance Innovations, Says Guardian
January 30, 2012 11:12 AM Eastern Time
NEW YORK–(EON: Enhanced Online News)–The economic and societal forces that have transformed the medical profession over the past decade open the door to new approaches to income protection, according to The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America(Guardian), a market leader in individual disability insurance, which announced a new offering today.
“On the other hand, staff doctors and non-physician medical professionals may not need as many bells and whistles on their disability policies, but they don’t want to compromise on the expectation that the coverage will be there when they need it most”
Physicians and other medical professionals have long been aware of the need for this type of coverage – which protects one’s ability to earn an income even if a work-stopping illness or injury strikes – because they witness the lifestyle changes caused by unexpected disabilities every day in their work. Many are also motivated to protect the significant investment they’ve made in their education. But all professionals whose families depend on their income will benefit from the product innovations just launched by Guardian.
“The changes we’ve observed in the marketplace, reinforced by what we’ve been hearing in focus groups across the country, confirm that one size doesn’t fit all,” said Gordon Dinsmore, President of Berkshire Life Insurance Company of America, the Guardian company that issues its individual disability insurance policy.
“Just as there is no longer one path to practice medicine, in the 21st century, no matter what profession you’re in, there should be multiple ways to secure this important protection – ways that take price into account – without compromising the quality of the coverage,” he added. “We are confident that Guardian now has the broadest disability insurance product portfolio in the industry.”
Changing Landscape for Medical Providers
While demand for medical services in the U.S. continues to increase due to the aging population, the face of who is providing that care – and how it is delivered – is changing rapidly. The high cost of electronic health records, downward pressure on medical reimbursement and soaring levels of medical-school debt mean that many doctors are opting to join hospital staffs and large medical practices as salaried employees, rather than opening their own practices. At the same time, growing numbers of female physicians –50% of medical school students are women, compared to just one-third 30 years ago – as well as the recent influx of Gen X doctorsinto the marketplace has underscored the priority on work-life balance.
All of these trends have brought on yet another significant change: the expanding role of non-physician professionals such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners in providing more and more medical services. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that jobs within this category of skilled mid-level providers will grow 20-50% by 2018.
Having monitored these market developments over the past several years and verified their impact on income protection requirements through national research, Guardian has increased the breadth of its flagship ProVider Plus individual disability insurance portfolio to accommodate the total needs spectrum.
“Solo medical practitioners are essentially small business owners, operating on a high risk/high reward basis. They have significant earnings potential but are likely highly leveraged in their practices, and should therefore have top-tier income protection coverage in place,” explained Dinsmore.
“On the other hand, staff doctors and non-physician medical professionals may not need as many bells and whistles on their disability policies, but they don’t want to compromise on the expectation that the coverage will be there when they need it most,” he added. “Now, thanks to Guardian, they don’t have to.”
Aligning to Price Sensitivity While Maintaining Value
To better serve this value-focused segment of the medical market – as well as those individuals in other professions for whom affordability is a concern – Guardian has introduced ProVider Plus Limited, an individual disability insurance policy built on Guardian’s well-known core contract. With package-exclusive configurations and a host of optional riders, policy owners are able to customize coverage to fit their income-protection needs, while not having to pay for features their situations don’t require.
At the same time, Guardian has strengthened its traditional ProVider Plus individual disability insurance policy by introducing a patent-pending Lump Sum Disability Benefit Rider, an option not available anywhere else that is designed to provide benefits after the policy expires (at age 65 or 67), a time when the full impact of even a brief disability during one’s working years can make itself felt as retirement begins.
How does it work? Guardian’s exclusive rider pays a one-time, lump-sum benefit equal to 35% of all disability benefits paid over the lifetime of a policy. Policy owners don’t need to even be disabled at the end of their contracts in order to qualify for this benefit. So, a 47 year-old professional who is in a serious accident requiring multiple surgeries and extensive physical therapy, who returns to work after two years and remains healthy until his or her retirement, will still receive this additional payment when the policy expires at age 65 (or 67), as long as it remains active until that time.
Finally, Guardian has enhanced the flexibility of both its ProVider Plus and ProVider Plus Limited offerings by giving consumers the option of selecting a true own-occupation or modified own-occupation definition of total disability for either product – enabling an unprecedented level of coverage customization.
“Everyone’s personal and professional circumstances are unique, and the disability insurance they obtain to protect their ability to earn an income should be tailored to their needs, not the needs of the doctor or lawyer across the hall,” explained Dinsmore.
A mutual insurer founded in 1860, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and its subsidiaries are committed to protecting individuals, business owners and their employees with life, disability income and dental insurance products, and offer 401(k), annuities and other financial products. Guardian operates one of the largest dental networks in the United States, and protects more than six million employees and their families at 115,000 companies. The company has approximately 5,000 employees in the United States and a network of over 3,000 financial representatives in more than 80 agencies nationwide.