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Disability Income and Office Overhead Expense insurance plans provide ‘peace of mind’ for dentists

Dallas—Dr. Barnett Bookatz walks around with a titanium plate and six screws in his neck.

The periodontist started having disk problems in 1988 that affected his neck, shoulders, arms and hands. It culminated in neck surgery in 2000, and he was out of the office for three months recovering.

Image: Dr. Bookatz
Dr. Bookatz

Upon returning to his dental office, Dr. Bookatz’s hands were still numb and tingling, the result of untreated cervical vertebrae.

“The writing was on the wall. I had to stop practicing or I would risk further injury,” Dr. Bookatz said. “I was 53 years old at the time—right in the middle of a dentist’s highest earning years. I was able to sell my records to another periodontist, but it was not a financial gain for me.”

Decades prior, Dr. Bookatz, now 64, was forward thinking enough to purchase the ADA-sponsored Office Overhead Expense and Disability Income Protection Insurance Plans through Great-West Financial. Through the insurance plans, Dr. Bookatz was able to keep up on the bills and employee salaries at his practice while he was out recovering and tap into disability income after being forced to retire in 2001 because of his injury.

In addition to his ADA policies, Dr. Bookatz purchased disability insurance coverage through two additional independent companies. He ranks his experience with the ADA and Great-West Financial as the best.

With the titanium plate and screws as proof he was dealing with a debilitating injury, Dr. Bookatz didn’t think he would have a hard time having his claim paid by any of the insurance companies. His Great-West Financial policy went into effect as soon as he was eligible.

But the two other companies made him jump through a lot of hoops to get his claims paid. Dr. Bookatz even had to hire an attorney to represent his claim with one of the companies.

“What’s interesting, though, is how differently the three companies approached my disability claim. With Great-West Financial, filing a claim was uneventful. I had to supply doctors’ reports and prove income loss, but that was easy to do,” Dr. Bookatz said. “The other two companies put me through a lot of seemingly arbitrary tests that, in my opinion, didn’t pertain to my condition. They threatened to deny my benefits if I didn’t do this or that. What I learned from this experience is that disability insurance is offered by many companies but getting a company to pay if you are disabled is a whole other story.”

The Office Overhead Expense Plan keeps dentists’ practices viable while they are out on disability. It covers up to $25,000 per month of eligible business expenses, such as employee salaries, a lease or mortgage, utilities, and student and practice loans.

“This coverage could make the difference between keeping the doors of your practice open during a disability and having to close them permanently,” said Tylor Sidener, director of sales and marketing for the ADA Insurance Plans at Great-West Financial.

The ADA-sponsored Disability Income Protection Plan is designed to protect dentists from a devastating financial loss because of a debilitating illness or injury. This disability plan can pay benefits up to age 65 and dentists who become totally disabled from their specialized area of dentistry can receive full benefits even if they choose to work in another area of dentistry or in a new profession.

ADA members can apply for coverage for up to $15,000 per month, up to $180,000 per year, to replace lost income in the event of a disability.

“The ADA-sponsored Disability Income and Office Overhead Expense Plans provide member dentists with peace of mind, knowing they can continue to support their family’s current lifestyle,” Mr. Sidener said.

Dr. Bookatz teaches part time in the graduate department of periodontics at Baylor University and every few years he lectures on disability income insurance.

“I tell them that it’s the most important lecture they’ll attend in their three years of residency—and I’m only somewhat kidding. My message to them: Get as much insurance as you can because you never know what can happen. If you get hurt or sick and can’t practice, you can get into financial trouble very quickly if you don’t have adequate insurance coverage,” Dr. Bookatz said. “Most dentists need life insurance to protect their families financially and disability insurance to protect their income. And, as their income goes up, they should increase their coverage accordingly.”

Great-West Financial has an A+ rating from the ratings service A.M. Best Co., has been in business since 1891 and has insured ADA member dentists since 1934. ADA Insurance Plans are available only to members, their families and dental students. For more information on any of the plans, call 1-866-607-5330 or visit insurance.ada.org.