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Unexpected Factors That Affect Your Application for Life and Disability Insurance with Anjali Singh

by Jen Barna MD, Money and Finance, Podcast

On this episode of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast, Certified Financial Planner, Anjali Singh discusses the unexpected factors that affect your application for life and disability insurance.

“Carriers want to see an independent party prescribing the medication, not the person that the client is married to.” – Anjali Singh

In episode 170, Dr. Jen Barna welcomes Anjali Singh back to the podcast. Anjali is a Certified Financial Planner and Financial Advisor and a Trusted Resource at DocWorking. Here she tells some real life stories that really exemplify how your personal medical record, including prescription medications and who prescribed them, can affect your application for life and disability insurance.  Anjali tells us a few stories of times a prescription did and did not affect someone’s ability to get coverage. We love having Anjali on the podcast to share her expertise and we love learning from the stories she shares with us. Tune in to find out what you need to know long before shopping for a life or disability insurance policy. 

Anjali is a Certified Financial Planner and Financial Advisor. She is a Trusted Resource at DocWorking. She specializes in disability, life, malpractice, commercial and workers comp plans. She has been working exclusively with healthcare providers since 2000.

This material contains the current opinions of the author but not necessarily those of Guardian or its subsidiaries and such opinions are subject to change without notice. Registered Representative and Financial Advisor of Park Avenue Securities LLC (PAS). OSJ: 333 N Indian Hill Blvd, Claremont CA, 91711, 909-399-1100.

Securities products offered through PAS, member FINRA, SIPC. Financial Representative of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America(Guardian), New York, NY. PAS is a wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian. Anjali Singh Insurance Services is not an affiliate or subsidiary of PAS or Guardian. CA Insurance License Number – 0C43235, AR Insurance License Number – 2674089.

 

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Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran

 

Please enjoy the full transcript below

 

Anjali: Carriers want to see an independent party prescribing the medication, not the person that the client is married to.

 

[DocWorking theme]

 

Jen: Welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m Dr. Jen Barna and today, I have Anjali Singh, a Certified Financial Planner, and Financial Advisor, and a Trusted Resource of DocWorking. Anjali has been with us on the podcast before and she always brings really interesting stories and enlightenment about how to go about getting disability and life insurance coverage, and things about that that we may not necessarily know as applicants and as healthcare professionals. Anjali specializes in disability, life, malpractice, commercial and workers comp plans. She has been working exclusively with healthcare providers since 2000. If you would like to reach out to her, you can find her on the DocWorking Trusted Resources page under insurance providers. The Trusted Resources section of the website is to help you, as a member of our community, to decrease the amount of time that it takes to investigate and find the needed resources that you may be looking for, for example, for life and disability insurance, where Anjali Singh is one of our experts. I’m excited to have this conversation with you, Anjali. Welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.

 

Anjali: Thank you so much for having me, Dr. Barna.

 

Jen: Please call me, Jen. [laughs]

 

Anjali: Sure. [laughs]

 

Jen: It’s great to have you here. We’re going to talk today about something that I think a lot of physicians, including myself, don’t really have much information about, and it’s something that we don’t really know ahead of time often, and that is, what information is important to know prior to purchasing life and disability insurance? You and I have had some interesting conversations around the topic of prescription medications, and how that can affect your application for life and disability insurance, and that’s something that I didn’t even know was on the radar for this type of application. So, for those of us who are listening, who may be considering applying for life and disability insurance and are not yet insured, what can you tell us about how both prescribing medications and taking prescription medications ties in to being able to get life and disability insurance?

 

Anjali: Yeah. One of the early steps when you apply to carriers, and this is true for pretty much all the carriers I work with, is they take your name, and your date of birth, and your social, and they run it through a pharmacy database and that database has the prescriptions that have been written to your name. My understanding is, it’s similar to the records that physicians use to avoid drug interactions, which is obviously a huge safety issue. The prescriptions are logged and so they can see what was given, the dose, the quantity, and roughly when and where it was prescribed. Sometimes, there’re a few details missing, but definitely the name of the medication is in there.

 

Now, if you are prescribed medication by another provider, that’s fine. Obviously, health is important. The challenge that can occur though is, if a provider is self-prescribing or a family member is prescribing, let’s say, a husband prescribes to a wife or wife prescribes to a husband, that can sometimes get a little challenging and part of what our recent conversations were around work. I had a few cases in the last year where those scenarios did happen.

 

Jen: Yeah. Are you able to tell us a little bit, maybe, just give us some of those anecdotes that you’ve seen come through your insurance practice?

 

Anjali: Yeah, absolutely. Two recent cases come to mind. One, involved a medication that was fairly harmless and I think the person self-prescribed more out of embarrassment. It wasn’t anything that affected morbidity, which is what insurance companies look out for with disability. This was the type of policy that we’re trying to get. We simply had to explain why it was self-prescribed. It wasn’t taken very long, which was another helpful aspect. It ended up luckily not affecting the offer that that person got. But they were definitely a bit surprised that it got asked about and I think they weren’t aware that when they self-prescribed that it was going to be logged. So, that was one scenario.

 

And then another one involved a couple that were both healthcare providers and one of the partners, and I’m purposely being vague with the genders just because I don’t want to identify anybody, one of the partners prescribed to the other over time. The medications involved were Ambien and Vicodin, a sleep aid and a pain med. The challenge was that it was prescribed over several years’ period and there were quite a few prescriptions, so that was frankly a lot more challenging and what ended up occurring is, instead of the carrier that we had originally wanted to go with, we had to go with one that was more of an impaired risk company. What that does is, there are certain consumer protections you don’t get when you have to get one of those policies and those plans also have to be renewed every few years. So, it wasn’t the best outcome, but with a few years of prescriptions of two medications that are, please correct me if I’m wrong, they’re controlled substances, that was the best we could do.

 

Jen: So that really did affect their ability. Now, am I understanding the story correctly? Were both of them applying or which person was it that was applying for insurance? And was it the prescriber who was affected or was it the recipient that was affected?

 

Anjali: It was the recipient. Whether it flowed the other way, if both spouses were self-prescribing, I don’t know because I wasn’t screening the other person, but it was the recipient that was the issue. The key challenge was, besides the types of medications and the frequency involved, was that when you have a marital situation, it’s not deemed as independent care. Because it doesn’t matter how good of a physician somebody is, there’s an emotional attachment when you’re choosing your spouse, so, that’s why carriers want to see an independent party prescribing the medication, not the person that the client is married to.

 

Jen: Okay. So, there’s one good piece of advice right there, especially if you’re going to be applying for a policy, certainly, and generally speaking, don’t prescribe to yourself and don’t prescribe within your family-

 

Anjali: Yeah.

 

Jen: -for a number of reasons, of course, and this is just one of them. But this may be one of them that most people aren’t aware of. It’s just really interesting to hear about it from your perspective and similarly with the first case that you mentioned, where it was a medication that someone prescribed themselves for enhancement that perhaps they didn’t want to go to another provider to get a prescription for and that affected their ability or it did not affect their ability to get a policy? I think it was short lived.

 

Anjali: Yeah. It was short lived and it was for a fairly innocuous purpose. It wasn’t like they were treating a full-blown medical situation. It wasn’t pain medication, or sleep medications, or anything psychiatric. Besides the embarrassment factor when it came up with this, it wasn’t that big a deal.

 

Jen: I see. So, that was just a situation where the person probably wouldn’t have prescribed it to himself if he had known that it was going to come up and have to be discussed when he applied for life or disability insurance.

 

Anjali: Yeah. It was interesting, too, because it wasn’t in their specialty. I would think it would be more appropriate to go to somebody, whose specialty is in that range versus taking it upon yourself. I know, even when I go to the primary care doctor, if I start to ask any OB-GYN questions, they immediately stop and say, “Well, you gotta save that for the OB and vice versa.” There’s a reason physicians have specialties. But in terms of the pure impact on their coverage and what was available to them, and their pricing, and all that, it actually didn’t end up having an issue once it was explained.

 

Jen: Okay. These are cases where someone is either self-prescribing or spouses prescribing. What if you’re a physician, who is being prescribed a medication that could be an antidepressant or other type of medication that’s considered either psychiatric or narcotic? Would that show up and would that be important in the application? How would that factor in?

 

Anjali: Yeah. Those medications absolutely do show up. If you’re doing an application where they ask about medication history, it’s important to be upfront with that. I ask about that before application, actually, in order to avoid adverse outcomes. My goal is, if somebody has a history of using x medication and let’s say, company A is not okay with it, try to go find company B or C that is. Or there are some medications if they’re being used, there isn’t an option. I had another case recently, where the person had thankfully survived breast cancer, but they were taking a prescription following that and they were going to be on it for several years. Apparently, that’s the course of treatment once you complete the chemo and the other things.

 

By identifying that medication upfront, I was able to say, “Hey, I’ve already researched this. I know none of my carriers are willing to make an offer. This was in the area of life insurance and we got the timeframe for which they could come back once the medication had been discontinued for a time.” You definitely want to be upfront with your agent when you’re looking at these types of plans, because it’ll come up and it’s better that you start down the right path to begin with, or if there’s something like the breast cancer medication where you’re taking it, it’s best to wait till you’ve been off it for a time and again this varies by situation, but that’s how you can help set yourself up for the best possibility of getting a plan.

 

Jen: Any other tips for how to best set yourself up for getting, not only a plan, but an affordable plan?

 

Anjali: Obviously, like I said before, if there’s a condition, get appropriate treatment. Your health comes first. But if your agent asks about your background, just share the things that exist in it and hopefully, they can find a plan that’s a good fit. Again, some medications will lead to surcharges, some don’t, but transparency is the best policy. [giggles] If you’re upfront about your situation, that will help the agent or broker help you, and it’s a win-win. But yeah, unfortunately, once a medication has been taken it’s there and then it’s just a matter of working with the options that are available to you based on the history.

 

Jen: Should a person who would be applying for life and disability insurance be concerned about taking a medication and having it on the record in the past or does it only need to be a concern if it’s a current medication?

 

Anjali: That really depends on the medication. Carriers can look back for five, 10 years. Again, the breast cancer medication is a good example. If you went off that two years ago, that would still be in a timeframe that most carriers would want to know about it and it could have an adverse effect. If you took an antibiotic three years ago and it was some acute infection, that’s not going to do anything. Not all medications are bad. I’ve had quite a few clients that take blood pressure medication that’s not that big a deal. It actually controls their blood pressure, which is a good thing. As long as there aren’t other risk factors, that actually doesn’t have an impact on the offers that I’ve seen and that’s even if they’re currently taking it. Just because somebody’s taking a prescription doesn’t mean there’s going to be an issue. It just depends on what it is and the dose they’re taking. Again, if it’s being self-prescribed or if they have an independent provider that’s unrelated to them and the overall medical history.

 

Jen: From what you’ve seen, if you’re looking at one medication that is self-prescribed versus the same exact medication that is prescribed by an independent provider, do you see a difference in terms of the rate of the policy?

 

Anjali: It’s a little tricky, but let’s say, we had twins, [giggles] and one had self-prescribed, and the other didn’t, and their backgrounds were exactly the same. I would say, you could probably expect a similar outcome. I think the person that is self-prescribed would probably have more questions to answer, the process could probably take a little longer. But if they truly had identical backgrounds, I think the outcome should be expected to be the same or similar. Barring somebody self-prescribing pain meds or prescriptions that could be abused, that’s not going to have a good outcome.

 

Jen: Yeah, I think generally speaking, we all agree that that isn’t going to have a good outcome on many. [laughs]

 

Anjali: Yeah. No, I understand. It’s like Spiderman says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Yeah, you can write prescriptions, but you do need to be cautious with that ability.

 

Jen: Yes, absolutely. I appreciate your insights. Do you have any other tips for preparing yourself and putting your best foot forward when applying for life and disability insurance?

 

Anjali: Yeah. Earlier in the career is better. The older we get the more health issues tend to present. Even if somebody’s in a residency and going to a fellowship, I’ve sometimes seen changes in health, even in that additional year or two of training. So, the earlier you start, you usually get the better outcome. If your agent is asking you questions, there’s a purpose behind it and you want to put out all the details that are being requested, so the best selection can be made for you.

 

Jen: Wonderful. This is Anjali Singh, our Trusted Resource Insurance agent in California. Anjali, thank you so much for coming on and talking with us with such a frank discussion today on the podcast.

 

Anjali: Thank you so much for having me, Jen.

 

[music]

 

Amanda: I’m Amanda Taran, producer of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Thank you so much for listening. Please don’t forget to like and subscribe, and head over to docworking.com to see all we have to offer.

 

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