Disability insurance is an important part of any business plan, and yet it is not a hot topic on many checklists. While it can be purchased on an individual level, the Minnesota Dental Association offers a group product that brings together the insurance marketplace and the oversight of a qualified insurance administrator. Knowing how to move your application through the underwriting progression makes the entire process more efficient.
Once you make the decision to protect your income with disability insurance, the next step is applying for your coverage. Because disability coverage is medically underwritten, your application must be approved by the insurance company before benefits can be put in force.
While the underwriter at the insurance company will review your paperwork to determine your qualifications for coverage, there are a few things you can do to help the process run as smoothly as possible.
Tip #1: Avoid Holes in Your Foundation
Your application becomes the foundation of your benefit request. If there are holes in your application due to missing or incomplete information, the process of evaluating your benefit request cannot be started.
That’s why the benefits administrator for the MDA Member Group Insurance Program has developed a verification process that begins before your application even goes to the insurance company.
“We double-check your application and confirm that all information is completed on the application before we ever send it to The Hartford Life Insurance Company (the company that underwrites the MDA Disability Income Insurance Plan),” says Toni Sanger, Administration Manager for MDA Benefit Plans at Marsh.
“This has quickened the turnaround time for MDA members because the underwriters can begin work immediately when an application arrives on their desk,” adds Sanger.
This is also an area where neatness counts. An application that is hard to read may cause delays in your benefit request if the program administrator is forced to go back to you for clarification. So be sure to double-check answers you write in to make sure they are easily legible … it is an easy way to help make sure your paperwork flows as efficiently as possible.
Tip #2: Don’t Let Your Physician Be a Stranger
In addition to providing complete answers to the questions on your application, it is also critical to include your physician or physicians’ name(s), address, and telephone number where indicated on the application. (If you need space for additional medical information, be sure to include a separate piece of paper that you have signed and dated.)
“Having accurate and up-to-date medical contact information makes underwriting a significantly smoother process,” says Sanger. “Sometimes people just write a physician’s name and the hospital with which he or she is affiliated, but it can be difficult to find answers to questions an underwriter might have on the status of a certain medical condition when we don’t even have a physician’s phone number.”
That is why MDA Group Disability Income Insurance applications ask for information on any medical problems you may have in addition to your physician’s name, address, and phone number. A health condition that may appear to be a “red flag” to an underwriter may be quickly cleared up after a conversation with your physician or after your physician provides more information from your medical file.
But if the underwriter cannot locate your physician, you won’t have the benefit of this potential clarification.
In addition to providing your physician’s contact information, it is also important to include complete and accurate answers to medical and financial questions asked on the application. Avoid using terms such as “approximately” when describing your income, as these can cause delays in your benefit request while the financial information is verified.
Tip #3: Don’t Sit on the Sidelines
Depending upon your age and the level of benefits requested, a medical exam, blood test, or other medical information may be needed to make a decision on your benefits.
If a medical exam or blood test is required, the insurance company will contact you to arrange a convenient time for these important tests. An independent professional paramedic can perform the tests in the privacy of your own home.
“The biggest delays we see are often in scheduling exams or tests,” according to Sanger. “Sometimes this takes several weeks to work out. But with a member who is actively involved in the process, we can often turn those tests around to get an answer much more quickly.”
Sometimes the only additional information needed may already be in your medical files. A letter requesting that information will be sent to your physician. You also receive a copy of that letter to keep you informed of the progress of your request.
“It can be extremely helpful if the MDA member calls his or her physician to tell them an insurance company will be asking for the information and ask for their cooperation in providing the information as quickly as possible,” notes Sanger.
“While a letter from an insurance company may not always prompt quick action, a call from a patient asking for help can work wonders in moving the process forward.”
How Long Is the Waiting Game?
While we would all like immediate answers, the underwriting process for disability insurance generally takes between 30 and 90 days. But as an MDA member, you can also be assured you will be kept fully informed on the status of your request.
“First, we let members know when their application is received,” says Sanger. “A letter is sent confirming receipt of your application … requesting any missing information … or notifying you that your application has been sent on to the insurance company.
“Then, when the application reaches the insurance company, the underwriters work to make sure you are aware of the next steps in their process.”
Of course, as an MDA member, you also have access to the coverage administration experts at Marsh. “We have access to the insurance company’s computer system so we can quickly look up where your application is in the process and let you know what you can expect next,” states Sanger. “Of course, we can’t supply any medical information, in compliance with privacy standards.”
But What If …
Of course, every benefit request is unique. But MDA members often ask more targeted questions about their personal situation. Here are answers to just a few of the concerns your fellow members have brought up:
What if I have a chronic health problem? Can I still get coverage for unrelated disabilities? Or will my health problem exclude me from all disability coverage?
Answer: Members with health problems may still qualify for coverage in the MDA Member Group Disability Income Insurance Plan. Of course, it depends on the nature of the health issue. Some members are issued full coverage with no exceptions. In other cases, coverage can be issued with a restriction excluding benefits for certain health conditions. And still other members are approved for coverage with a longer waiting period before benefits can be paid.
Because health issues can vary significantly, MDA strongly urges members with health conditions to request benefits and then work with the underwriting staff to see exactly what level of disability benefits may be available after understanding of the health condition is clarified.
What if I was turned down for coverage by another insurance company?
Answer: That does not necessarily mean you cannot qualify for benefits through the MDA Member Group Disability Income Insurance Plan. Acceptance standards can vary greatly between insurance companies. In addition, the situation that caused your original application to be declined may have changed enough to warrant coverage through the MDA program. For instance, you may have been declined due to a recent surgery. If it has been several months since that surgery, you may now qualify for coverage.
I recently enrolled in an MDA life insurance program. Can you use the same information to underwrite my request for disability coverage?
Answer: If you advise the insurance company of your recent life insurance application, the underwriters can review it for any information that might assist in determining your qualification for disability coverage. However, because disability coverage levels depend upon both your health and your income, and are issued in a separate Group Policy, it is necessary to fill out a disability application.
I had disability coverage through MDA a few years ago but dropped it when my new employer offered disability benefits. Now I have moved to a new company and need disability benefits again. Does my status as a “past participant” in the program help me get accepted more easily?
Answer: Every benefit request in the MDA Member Disability Income Insurance Plan is underwritten on an individual basis based on your current health and income levels. Past participation in the program is not applicable in this process.
I just started my own business, so I do not have a record of my income through my new company. Can I still get coverage through the MDA Disability Program?
Answer: Within the first year of your new business venture, you can request benefits at the minimum level through the MDA Member Group Disability Income Insurance Plan. At the end of your first year of coverage, you can request a higher level of benefits based on the income you are earning at that time through your new business.
What Happens Once a Decision Is Made?
After the underwriters at The Hartford finish reviewing the information in your files, a decision will be made regarding y our request for benefits. This decision is passed to the MDA benefits administrator at Marsh who then communicates the decision to you.
If you are approved: An acceptance letter will be mailed to you with an official certificate of insurance, your bill, and other paperwork you may need for claims in the future. As soon as your premium is paid, your coverage can go in force.
If your request is denied: You will receive a letter detailing why your application has been declined. In most cases, applications are turned down due to medical reasons. If you disagree with the findings of the underwriter, you can appeal the decision. Additional medical information from your physician may help convince the underwriter to revise his or her decision on your benefits request.
Disability Protection for MDA Members
Are you interested in helping to protect your income against an injury or illness that keeps you from working? MDA offers a valuable long-term disability benefit plan that can give you the advantage of solid protection that is not tied to any employer or job.
Monthly benefit amounts up to $7,500, with a wide range of benefit waiting periods, give you the flexibility to tailor your level of protection to your family’s specific financial needs.
For more information* on the MDA Member
Group Disability Income Insurance Plan, visit the product page on www.mndentalsolutions.com or call toll-free 1-866-810-9384.
*Features, costs, eligibility, renewability, limitations, and exclusions.
Underwritten by Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company
Simsbury, CT 06089
Policy Form #GBD-1000A (5541)
The Hartford® is The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., and its subsidiaries, including issuing company Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company.
AR Ins. Lic. #245544 CA Ins. Lic. #0633005
d/b/a in CA Seabury & Smith Insurance Program Management
(1/11) © Seabury & Smith, Inc. 2011
*Charmin Sterbenz, Sterbenz Creative, for Marsh U.S. Consumer, a service of Seabury & Smith, Inc.