Can You Afford The Wrong Insurance Advisor?

February 15th, 2011

DR. IAN WEXLER

Perhaps the single most important variable in obtaining the right insurance protection for you, your family, and your practice is choosing the right insurance advisor. The reality is that irrespective of the coverage you purchase, whom you choose to assist you, whether it is an independent advisor or a representative of The Canadian Dentists’ Insurance Program, can mean the difference between financial security or financial devastation in the event of a disability claim.

The following is a list of specific reasons to both choose and avoid certain insurance advisors. Once you have reviewed all issues listed, you will better understand whether your advisor fits the bill or whether it’s time to make a change.

What to look for

  1. Specializes in the dental profession. Understanding the variables pertaining to you and your practice can have a significant impact on the type, amount, and structure you have, as well as a claim. Ideally your advisor should understand differences among:
    1. New grads
    2. General practitioner versus specialist
    3. A new versus established practice
    4. A solo practice versus partnership
    5. Associate versus owner
    6. The impact of hygiene, associates and partners
    7. Practice type, size, and location
    8. Goodwill issues and sale-ability
    9. Retirement and transition issues
  2. Treats you with respect and professionalism
  3. Represents insurance products that are “guaranteed and non-cancellable”
  4. Is not “new” to either the insurance business or working with (many) dentists
  5. Has handled “many” successful claims AND has an entire claim protocol that includes:
    1. Overseeing the entire claim with you and /or family members
    2. Interviewing you with respect to your “limitations from practicing”
    3. Reviewing all claim forms before submission
    4. Interacting as needed with claim adjudicators
    5. Ensuring all important timelines are met
    6. Assisting you with submission of all financial, medical, and other documentation
  6. Someone with whom you develop a high level of trust
  7. Understands and compares ALL products
  8. Provides a high level of specialization in insurance products versus being a “jack of all trades.” Insurance products are extremely complicated. You may wish to deal with an advisor who either specializes in a particular area of insurance, e.g., life insurance/estate planning or living benefits, or has specialists in each particular area
  9. Is 100 per cent independent and represents ALL major insurance companies
  10. Provides exceptional service including regular communications and reviews
  11. Is accessible
  12. Has preferred status by insurance companies (underwriting, claims, etc.)
  13. Reviews and assists with partnership, cost-sharing, shareholder agreements in areas pertaining to insurance
  14. Provides strong problem solving capabilities…i.e., helping difficult to insure clients
  15. Provides a range of value added services
  16. Has the capacity to expand their business
  17. Has a strong professional network that includes accountants, lawyers, financial planners, practice management consultants, bankers, etc.
  18. Has a “Succession Plan” to look after your needs down the road
  19. Has a “support team” that is available to assist you, and offers a superior level of service (most advisors either work alone or with one support staff)
  20. Enjoys a stellar reputation

What to avoid

  1. Little or no dentist and practice understanding
  2. Pressure, guilt, and scare tactics
  3. This is one of the most important reasons not to choose a particular advisor. Unfortunately many are subjected to this while in dental school.
  4. False promises of the best deal and cost available. Warning: generally, no advisor can get you a better deal and lower cost than another
  5. Poor communications, e.g., failure to contact you for reviews
  6. Do not choose an advisor simply because they are a patient or family member
  7. Advisors who portray themselves as a “fighter or leg biter” at claim time. Claims are best dealt by amicably assisting the claimant and the claim adjudicator to assemble the most complete claim possible
  8. NOT independent and NOT allowed to represent all major insurance companies
  9. Sells primarily one company’s plans
  10. Leaves “diagnosing your own insurance needs up to you”
  11. Few years in the business
  12. Focuses on permanent life insurance without paying attention to living benefits
  13. Little or no claims experience, and poor claim assistance, e.g., only sends you the claim forms You should ask your advisor about their claim experience and EXACTLY how they handle them.

If you decide to make a change

Switching insurance advisors can range from being fairly easy to “uncomfortable.” While certain advisors will respect your new decision and make the switch easy for you, others will try to guilt and harass you into staying with them. Issues to be aware of include:

  1. How your new and old advisor are compensated for “taking over” existing plans
  2. How you wish to notify your old advisor of your decision to make a change. This should always be done in a professional fashion via a courtesy phone call, letter, or email
  3. Submission of necessary paperwork to secure a smooth transition for taking over as “agent of record” on existing plans

Dr. Ian Wexler is a leading authority on insurance issues for dentists. He is the President of Protect Insurance Agencies Inc. in Toronto which provides insurance and estate planning products and services to over 800 dentists across Ontario. He can be reached for questions or other enquiries at (416) 391-3764 or drwex@protect-ins.com


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