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Using Your Insurance: Taking Insurance from School to Practice
When Lawrence Miller, DMD, was a teenager, his mother suffered a disability and had to quit her job. “She did not have disability insurance, so I saw firsthand the financial difficulty that a disability can cause,” he recalls.
That experience stayed with Dr. Miller when he entered dental school at the Medical University of South Carolina, so one of the first things he did was buy student disability insurance for a nominal cost through the American Dental Association (ADA). With premiums currently as low as $36 for a full year of coverage, the ADA’s student disability package offers excellent policy features, including guaranteed conversion after graduation.
“My professors and mentors in dental school told me how easy it is to injure a hand or develop neck and back problems when practicing dentistry, which is another reason why I wanted disability insurance,” Dr. Miller says. “It was inex-pensive, and I did not need a medical exam to qualify.” He also signed up for free life insurance that the ADA provides to its student members.
Insurance Follows Dentist
Six weeks after graduation in 2005, Dr. Miller returned to his hometown of Lyman, SC, to open a general practice. He converted his student disability insurance to the ADA Income Protection Plan, with no medical exam required. It provides him with $2,000 a month in disability coverage, which would help replace his income if an accident or illness prevented him from practicing dentistry.
Dr. Miller also recognized the value of his ADA life insurance, which increased from $50,000 to $100,000 on July 1 of his graduation year. Dr. Miller’s life insurance continued at no cost to him through the end of that year, with premiums fully paid by the ADA.
“At that point, I decided to get more coverage,” Dr. Miller explains. “I had student loans from dental school and more loans to open my practice, so I needed additional life insurance to financially protect my wife Adrienne in case something happened to me.” He applied to increase his life insurance to $1 million, and following a medical exam, his excellent health qualified him for coverage at the lowest rates for his age.
Dan Donohue, a plan specialist at Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company (Greenwood Village, CO), which underwrites and administers the ADA Insurance Plans, says that Dr. Miller’s story is similar to other young dentists he has worked with over the years.
“Dental students and new dentists need insurance for debt protection and to safeguard their families, but they usually do not have much extra cash,” he says. “My recommendation is this: First, as dental students, take advantage of free and low-cost insurance offers from the ADA. Second, keep that insurance after graduation, because it is very affordable, and the coverage is guaranteed even if health problems have developed. Third, new dentists should apply for the additional insurance they need as soon as possible, when their relative youth and good health can help them qualify for the most favorable rates available.”
At age 26, Dr. Miller fits into the “young and healthy” categories Donohue references. He is also planning for the future needs of his family. “My wife and I have a baby boy now, so I am thinking about him, too,” he says. “I want to grow my practice and establish a stable, long-term place in my community.”
Dr. Miller adds, “I would say this to other new dentists: Protect the investment you have made in yourself through your education and your practice. Insurance provides that protection.”
Dr. Miller’s statements were obtained by Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company, relative to his coverage under Group Policies 104TLP and 1105GDH-IPP, and reprinted with permission. For more information, visit www.insurance.ada.org, or call 888-463-4545. This article does not constitute legal, tax, or financial advice; please seek professional input as appropriate to your situation.