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Using Disability Benefits to Recruit & Retain Physician Talent

By Elizabeth Haynes 11:06 am MDT 2/5/2021

Prior to COVID-19, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projected that, by 2033, the United States would face a shortage of between 54,000 and 139,000 physicians—including primary care and non-primary care specialists. An aging population, a mature physician workforce, expanded healthcare access, and now a raging pandemic all contribute to these trends.

The challenges that come with caring for both older patients and those impacted by the pandemic are further compounded by the fact that nearly 40% of the physician workforce is close to retirement age. While some physicians may continue seeing patients well into their golden years, healthcare systems cannot continue to depend on their services indefinitely. Additionally, more doctors are leaving the practice early due to burnout—especially during the pandemic—so the medical field will need to work quickly to produce (and keep) enough doctors to make up for this shortage.

Healthcare systems can do more to meet the growing demand for services outside of just finding ways to attract enough students to enter the medical profession, or encouraging more doctors to immigrate to the U.S. One of these ways is through employee benefits. To that end, brokers can help healthcare employers recruit top physician talent by educating them on how to offer quality disability insurance (DI) as part of their benefits packages, and why it’s important to do so.

Why Disability Benefits Matter in Hiring

A 2016 benefits analysis showed that employees who are happy with their health insurance plans are 96% more satisfied with their jobs—and are less likely to look for new ones in the next 12 months—than employees who aren’t happy with their benefits. Since there are increasing numbers of healthcare professionals choosing to work as employees rather than as practice owners, and because doctors have high incomes to protect as well as large student loans to pay over the course of their careers, these stats are quite important for the healthcare industry too.

When selling group benefits to clients, brokers should make sure to focus on long-term disability (LTD) benefits during discussions and also stress that standard policies can be insufficient for many healthcare professionals. Some doctors obtained top-notch benefits and features from individual disability insurance (IDI) plans when they graduated, however these plans tend to be starting points that should be reevaluated over time to match changing needs. Physicians may find that as their earning potential increases, their IDI policies no longer provide enough coverage for full income replacement. Or, they may find that the plans don’t take student loan payments into account, or don’t provide coverage that considers the actual procedures being performed on a day-to-day basis (meaning the physician may have no coverage at all for their specific job, and could only be covered if they cannot work at all).  

Being attractive as an employer means offering a robust group LTD plan as part of a comprehensive benefits package that acts like a gold-standard IDI plan. A good LTD plan that is attractive to healthcare professionals includes all of the following:

  • “Own occupation” coverage that is based on a physician’s actual CPT/CPD-coded procedures
  • Generous MDNA benefits that allow for relapses and recurring claims (especially for conditions like physician burnout and stress)
  • Ample partial disability benefits so that physicians can return to work in whatever way they see fit
  • Waiting periods that match the group short-term disability (STD) coverage period
  • Appropriate riders and supplemental options that can be offered for unique situations

Healthcare professionals deserve coverage that empowers them to do what they love without worrying about their livelihoods in the event they can’t work in the same way as before. Check your clients’ policies to make sure their benefits package offers an edge via strong LTD coverage, making their workplace truly competitive on the benefits front for prospective hires.

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