As dentists, we’re in the business of prevention. But what happens when in spite of our preventive efforts, our patients develop a problem? We quickly move into damage control mode to protect our patients’ interests. Shouldn’t we do the same for ourselves?
That’s why we need insurance. When something happens, we want to control the damage and protect our interests. Would you ever consider leaving an auto dealer with your new car and no auto insurance? You have so much invested in your decision to become a dentist, and as a result of this investment, you have tremendous earning potential. Yet although you’d insure your car without hesitation, you still haven’t insured yourself.
Maybe you just don’t know what you need. Unfortunately, both of us got a quick education when we had to use our insurance plans early in our careers. We are hoping that our stories will help to illustrate which insurance coverage you need as soon as you get your license, and why.
Ivy was working for an insurance-based practice early in her career. After extracting a periodontally involved third molar, her patient developed a severe infection. He was hospitalized and treated. The patient sued Ivy two years later. His wife sued Ivy for loss of consortium. Thankfully, Ivy had malpractice insurance. Her malpractice insurance company supplied her with an attorney who made the decision to fight the case rather than settle it, and eventually got the case dismissed.
Eric was an extremely successful new dentist with a busy, growing practice. His future could not have been brighter. After a couple of years, he started to have a lot of pain in his hands. Surgery after surgery did not help – in fact, his pain worsened to the point that he could not practice. After a while, he could not lift a fork or tie his shoes. His disability insurance should have provided him with monthly payments to replace his lost income, but instead, he wound up having to take the insurance company to court. While he was eventually awarded a one-time settlement, the settlement barely covered his legal expenses.
In addition to illustrating the need for malpractice and disability insurance before you begin to work as a dentist, Eric’s story also emphasizes the importance of working with an insurance broker with a good reputation – someone you respect and trust. If and when something happens, you not only have the coverage you need, but you also have a dedicated and knowledgeable advocate to help make sure that you are properly compensated. The person who sells you the policy will be the person who will service the policy in the event of a claim. Would you want this person to be the one holding your hand in your time of need?
So how do you know which insurance representatives are out to help you, and which are out to help themselves? Ask recent graduates if they have a recommendation. If they do, ask if they have ever made a claim, and find out if they were happy with the way it was handled. You can also ask your teachers, mentors and other senior colleagues for recommendations. Try to find an insurance representative who works mainly with dentists, since a seasoned representative will not only have more expertise, s/he will also be able to offer more cost-effective plans.
The problem is that everyone wants the most coverage when they can no longer get any. So, just as you would advise your patients, invest in a preventive plan. Get the insurance coverage you need before you need it.
~Dr. Ivy D. Peltz and Dr. Eric S. Studley
Dr. Ivy Peltz and Dr. Eric Studley are both GP directors and clinical associate professors at New York University College of Dentistry, where Dr. Studley is the director of the practice management curriculum. Dr. Studley is also the CEO of a nationally based insurance brokerage company specializing in the insurance and financial needs of dentists (DrEricStudley.com). Dr. Peltz has a private practice in New York City (IvyPeltzdds.com). They are both the co-founders of Doccupations, an algorithmic dental job matching website (Doccupations.com).