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Insuring Against Financial Disaster


A financial plan is much like an anesthetic plan. Young physicians should aim to optimize outcomes and set themselves up for success while also insuring against the rare but potentially catastrophic bumps in the road. By Daniel Kinney, MD

Anesthesiologists spend a great deal of time thinking about all the potential hazards that lie ahead of our patients during their procedure, and we work diligently to craft an anesthetic plan that will help avoid or minimize those risks. For example, we might plan for success by optimizing post-operative nausea and vomiting prophylaxis and incorporating multimodal pain management so that our patients wake up comfortable and are able to leave the recovery area quickly. At the same time, we plan for the worst-case scenarios by using increased intraoperative monitoring, having blood on hold, and large bore IV access. So why do so many young anesthesiologists seek to optimize financial opportunity while failing to insure against financial hazard?

Take it from me, having made this mistake in my own life: Now’s the time to consider your insurance options. Many types of insurance become more expensive and harder to qualify for as you get older. If you have already suffered an injury or developed certain medical conditions, it may be more challenging to qualify for certain types of insurance. So let’s take a brief look at some of the types of insurance that may be helpful to consider when developing a financial plan.

Disability Insurance

Many medical specialties, including anesthesiology, require physicians to be fairly able-bodied to perform particular procedures. As a result, it is critical for young physicians to insure against injuries that may prevent them from doing their jobs. Here are some important things that a young anesthesiologist should consider when purchasing disability insurance.

First, it will likely be cheaper and easier for young physicians to qualify for disability insurance while they are still residents or fellows. Many insurance companies offer discounts to trainees. I had read that this was the case as a resident, but unfortunately I did not seek out disability insurance until I was an attending. I missed out on some savings, but luckily my insurance salesperson mentioned that I could qualify for a discount if multiple faculty signed up together. So even if you miss the boat as a resident, it may not be too late. Keep in mind when pricing out disability insurance to ask your insurance representative about ways to qualify for discounts.

Second, it’s also important to keep in mind that you want a policy that is “own-occupation” and specialty specific. You also want your policy to be an individual policy which is portable. You don’t want to have to rely on a policy that is attached to your employment, since it may be more difficult to qualify for a new policy in the future if you leave your current position.

There are many other very important things to consider when shopping for disability insurance, and both Dr. Casey and Dr. Dahle do a wonderful job going into much more detail in their posts.

Disability Insurance: Why You Can’t Just “Take It or Leave It”

Understanding Disability Insurance for Doctors (White Coat Investor)

Umbrella Insurance

As a resident I had never heard of umbrella insurance. As a medical student and resident, I had the typical insurance on my cars and my home. However, once I became an attending and started hosting events at my home, I started to worry about liability if someone were injured on my property during a party or while out tubing on our boat. I started researching and discovered that umbrella insurance exists for this exact purpose.

Umbrella insurance is personal liability insurance that covers you and members of your household against claims that are larger than your homeowners, auto, or boat insurance policies will pay. This liability insurance will cover you or a member of your household if you are held responsible for damages to someone else or their property. (Note: It won’t cover damage to your own property.) For example, if you are teaching your child how to drive a boat and they exceed the speed limit in a no-wake zone, resulting in damage to multiple boats in a marina, any costs exceeding the coverage of your boat owners insurance policy would likely be covered by your umbrella insurance policy.

Whether or not to get an umbrella insurance policy is a personal decision and likely depends on your own risk of being held liable for damages to others or their property. For example, if you frequently have large social gatherings at your home and you have a pool, you are at higher risk of someone being injured at your home than someone else who never has guests over and doesn’t have a pool. Fortunately, umbrella insurance policies are relatively inexpensive. If you’d like to learn more, read this article on Investopedia.

Other Types of Insurance

Over the years I have stumbled upon many other kinds of insurance, and whether to purchase many of these policies is a personal decision. It’s always important to consider the cost of purchasing the insurance, how likely you are to collect on the insurance, and the financial hardship you would face if the event you are insuring against happens and you haven’t purchased the insurance.

For example, I typically do not purchase travel insurance. For one, my credit card already has some level of travel insurance built into it, and most of the trips I am taking are not so expensive that I would consider it a significant financial hardship if they had to be cancelled last minute. I would be upset, but in the long run it wouldn’t make a large difference. However, I might think differently if I was booking an extended trip in a remote location, like a safari, where there is an increased risk of injury and possible need for medical evacuation. In this situation I would likely consider purchasing additional travel insurance which included medical coverage, and coverage for medical evacuation, since these expenses could add up quickly. This might not be the correct choice for everyone, but it would help me sleep better at night.

Young physicians should take a hard look at the activities that they participate in and are passionate about. If they are exposed to increased financial risk, they should consider learning more about any related insurance that is available to them.

Daniel Kinney, MD, is the Associate Residency Program Director for the Yale Anesthesiology Residency Program. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University in 2011. Following his Anesthesia residency at Yale New Haven Hospital, he subsequently completed a fellowship in Cardiothoracic Anesthesia and the Yale Graduate Medical Education Fellowship. Dr. Kinney officially joined the Yale University School of Medicine faculty as Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology in 2016.

The ASA Committee on Young Physicians is pleased to present this monthly article series on personal finance. These articles are not written by hedge fund managers or real estate tycoons but by practicing physicians. Some have business degrees and some do not – but every contributor is an anesthesiologist who has some guidance to offer the rising generation of attending physicians. It is not the intention of the committee to offer definitive financial advice, but rather some pearls of wisdom to consider while developing a personal fiscal plan. 


ASA Community Blog is published as a benefit for ASA members. The views expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributing writers only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of ASA.