Inside Dentistry
October 2008
Volume 4, Issue 9

Using Your Insurance: The Drive to Work

Don Rothenberg, DMD, has an uncommonly short commute to work, but it is all he can do to get there some days.

“My practice is on the first floor of my house,” the Marblehead, Massachusetts, dentist said. “When my kids were growing up, they could walk home from school, come through the front door of my practice, and say ‘Hi.’ It was wonderful. But I also have severe migraines, which make it impossible for me to practice at times.”

Like many migraine sufferers, Dr. Rothenberg had tried everything from prescription drugs to acupuncture to manage his headaches, but last year, the 61-year-old dentist hit a particularly rough spell. “I was getting migraines every day,” he recalled. “It wasn’t the pain so much as the vertigo and vision problems that affected my ability to practice.”

His physician asked Rothenberg if he had disability insurance and if he had filed for benefits. “I actually have owned two disability policies for 20 years or longer—one through the ADA Insurance Plans (underwritten and administered by Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company), and one with another major insurance company,” Rothenberg explained. “But I had never thought about filing a claim because I wanted to work whenever I could. My doctor said that was pride talking and that I should get in touch with the insurance companies.”

Two Claims, Two Results

Dr. Rothenberg filed claims with both companies. “They both required a lot of information at first,” he recalled. “However, the difference was that Elaine Saxen, a Great-West Life senior disability consultant, took time to learn about my unique circumstances. She knew that I want to work whenever I can, which could mean a full-day’s schedule when I’m migraine-free, a partial day if I get the migraine under control by noon, or having to cancel all of my appointments for the day if the migraine won’t let go. She also realized that if I had to commute to work, there would be many more days when I would be unable to practice because the migraine would make it impossible for me to drive.”

“The result is that I qualify for a partial (or residual) disability benefit under the ADA Income Protection Plan,” Dr. Rothenberg continued. “I send Great-West Life my income statements every month, and I’m paid a proportionate benefit based on my loss of earnings due to the migraines. In addition, I no longer pay premiums, because the Plan was recently amended last May to extend its waiver of premiums to claimants who are partially disabled, just like it does for those who are totally disabled. That helps, too.”

And the other company? “I’m still fighting with them,” Dr. Rothenberg said. “They have sent me only one check and keep asking for more and more paperwork. I may have to get a lawyer involved.”

Friendly Advice

Based on his experiences, Dr. Rothenberg offers the following advice to other dentists:

  • Ask your colleagues and professional associations to recommend an insurance company.
  • Check out the company thoroughly for its financial strength and its reputation for paying claims; then, keep up to date on the company’s status.
  • Increase your disability coverage as your income increases.
  • Understand how your policy works before you have to use it.

In addition to his dental practice, Dr. Rothenberg finds time to be a Big Brother and a hospice volunteer. He also values his patients, who have remained loyal to him throughout his migraine episodes. “My goal is to practice for 50 years, so that means I won’t retire until 2022. I love what I do,” he said.

Editor’s note: Dr. Rothenberg’s statements were obtained by Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company, underwriter and administrator of the ADA Insurance Plans, relative to his coverage under Group Policy #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.

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