American Medical Association Disability Insurance, or AMA Disability Insurance, offers specialty coverage for medical professionals, including medical students, residents, and retired physicians.
American Medical Association: Overview
The American Medical Association (AMA) is a professional association of active and retired physicians and medical students. Its aim is “To promote the science and art of medicine and the betterment of public health.”
The AMA is best known for its medical research, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) publication, and public policy efforts to improve healthcare for patients and providers.
- CEO: Dr. Nathan Smith Davis
- Year founded: 1847
- BBB score: A+
- A.M. Best rating: A++
- Phone number: 1-800-262-3211
- Services offered: Physician-focused insurance for disability, life, health, auto, home, medicare supplemental, and dental; retirement savings; financial planning.
AMA Disability Insurance: Fast Facts
AMA offers individual disability insurance for physicians, or group disability insurance coverage for physicians, residents, or medical school students.
- Disability insurance products: Own-specialty or true own-specialty
- Eligibility requirements: Under age 55 (physicians) or under age 40 (residents and full-time medical school students)
- Benefit periods: Up to age 67 (for disabilities before age 62) or 12 months for medical school students
- Maximum benefits: $15K per month (physicians), $5K per month (residents), $1K per month (medical school students)
- Elimination periods: 2, 3, 6, or 12 months (30 days for medical school students)
- Discounts: 35 percent discount for AMA members for the first year of coverage. (Non-member physicians get a 10 percent reduction.)
AMA Disability Insurance: Definition of Disability
Like all insurance companies, AMA has its own specific definition of disability. In order to receive disability benefits, the policyholder must meet the definition of disability as outlined in the policy.
There are three primary definitions of disability used. Your premiums and level of coverage will vary based on the definition you select for your policy.
This any-occupation definition of disability is the hardest to qualify for. With this definition, you must be so severely injured, ill, or otherwise disabled that you are unable to work in any occupation.
Disability defined in such a narrow scope is not a good choice for doctors.
If you were a surgeon and lost the dexterity to perform surgical procedures, you would not be able to collect disability with an any-occupation policy. This is because you would still be considered employable, and able to work in other non-surgical occupations.
Any-occupation ultimately means that you must be “totally disabled” to collect benefits. The AMA Disability Pro policy defines “totally disabled” as the policyholder being “unable to perform the material and substantial duties of your medical specialty as the result of a covered illness, injury, or organ donation, and are not gainfully employed in alternate, comparable occupation.”
This definition of disability is commonly used for group disability policies. If you have group coverage through your employer that uses this definition, it may be worth investigating private disability insurance options with a more generous definition.
The own-specialty definition of disability means a policyholder can receive coverage if they are unable to perform the duties of their regular occupation and are not gainfully employed in another field or occupation.
As an example, this might mean you can no longer practice as an obstetrician because you lack the physical stamina needed for this line of medicine. You could receive disability benefits here, but only if you did not work in any capacity.
Even if you wanted to work in a less physically demanding area of medicine, or another occupation altogether, you would not be able to do so and collect benefits.
3. True Own-Specialty
True-own specialty disability coverage means you can collect full benefits if you are unable to work in your field of medical specialty and still opt to work in a different medical field or occupation.
This is the most extensive definition of disability, and perhaps the one best suited to medical doctors and other highly specialized professionals.
Selecting this definition with your AMA Disability Pro plan is also the most expensive option and will increase your premium costs.
AMA Disability Insurance: Built-In Benefits
AMA disability insurance comes with a number of attractive, built-in benefits designed to meet the needs of physicians and physicians-in-training.
- Medical School Loan Repayment: If you become totally and permanently disabled before the age of 45, the AMA will give you up to $200,000 to pay any outstanding student loan debt. After age 46, there’s no student loan benefit whatsoever.
- Residual Benefit for Part-Time Work: AMA offers policyholders a residual benefit for a return to work part-time. This can provide financial support as you transition from full-time to part-time permanently, and still enable you to collect some of your benefits. You can also receive this benefit if transitioning to a new career that will reduce your total income by at least 20 percent.
- Waiver of Premium: This benefit means you do not have to pay monthly insurance benefits while you’re collecting disability benefits. This waiver is standard among disability insurance carriers.
AMA Disability Insurance: Riders
AMA offers many optional disability insurance riders you can add on to increase your insurance benefits in the event of a disability. Riders will add to your monthly premiums, and in some instances, you may need to qualify through a medical exam.
In the event of a catastrophic disability, this rider will increase your monthly disability benefit by up to 30 percent. A catastrophic disability occurs when you cannot perform at least two of six basic daily living functions such as dressing, eating, or toileting.
There is a 10 percent increase in your premiums to add this catastrophic disability rider for physicians under age 60. For older physicians, there is a 20 percent increase.
Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)
This rider will adjust your monthly benefits yearly to keep pace with inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U).
There is a 15 percent increase in your premiums to qualify for the COLA rider. Still, most physicians consider it an important rider as it means your monthly benefits will increase with inflation. Most providers opt to add this to their insurance.
Future Purchase Option
The future purchase option rider is sometimes referred to as an FIO for future increase option. This means that within the first three years of your policy, or up until age 40, you can do a one-time increase to your benefits without having to submit to additional medical exams.
Most insurance companies offer some version of this future purchase option, but AMA is unique in enabling you to take advantage of it within three years of signing your policy or until age 40, or whichever comes first.
Communicable Disease Benefit
If you contract a communicable disease before age 67, you may qualify for disability benefits even if you have not suffered a total disability.
You would be eligible if the communicable disease caused you to earn less than 75 percent of your average monthly wages due to contracting the illness.
The communicable disease must meet the AMA’s insurance policy’s specific definition and may need to include a diagnosis that a physician would be required to disclose to their patients.
Family Care Benefit
This coverage will provide basic monthly benefits to care for an immediate or close family member with a serious health condition who is unable to perform multiple daily living functions.
To receive this benefit, you must work 20 percent fewer hours and have a loss of at least 20 percent of your average monthly salary. It is paid in proportion to the amount of your lost monthly income.
AMA Disability Insurance: Premiums
With low premium rates, AMA is considered more affordable than many other physician disability policies.
Depending on your age, sex, health, state of residency, elimination period, and optional riders, AMA premiums will usually run from 1.5 to 6 percent of your total income.
A 35-year-old male physician in Missouri would pay roughly $4,344 a year in disability premiums for an AMA policy with a true-own specialty definition of disability.
The same individual could pay $7,020 a year for a comparable policy with Principal.
While AMA’s 62 percent cheaper premiums in this scenario may seem like the better bet, AMA’s policy lacks many coverage options and cost-saving features.
For example, AMA’s policy is cancellable and not non-renewable. There’s no guarantee your policy will be renewed from one year to the next.
And unlike other policies, you cannot lock in your premiums. Your premiums will increase as you age. Revisiting our hypothetical scenario with a 35-year-old physician in Missouri, at age 50 his annual AMA premiums would increase to $7,893.
AMA Disability Insurance: Alternatives
Mass Mutual is a Big Five insurance carrier that provides own-occupation disability insurance for dentists, physicians, and other medical practitioners. There are two different policies well-suited to medical doctors, with excellent customizability including a remarkably generous COLA rider.
Since 1860, Guardian has been a reputable disability insurance provider popular among physicians. A Big Five provider, Guardian offers perhaps the most comprehensive definition of total disability. It has high marks for customizable plan options, customer satisfaction, and financial strength.
Another Big Five carrier, Principal has a reputation for excellent customer service and fair underwriting and provides three different comprehensive definitions of disability. Elimination periods can be as short as 30 days, and policies are non-cancelable and guaranteed renewable as long as it remains in full effect (premiums are paid). Principal also offers outstanding transparency in its pricing.
Ameritas is a Big Five insurance provider that offers disability coverage to medical specialists under favorable terms and rates. Originally founded as a term life insurance company, Ameritas also offers life insurance, health insurance, dental insurance, wealth management, and investment and retirement planning services.
The Standard was founded in 1906 as the Oregon Life Insurance Company and is the fifth Big Five insurance provider featured on our list of alternate disability providers. It offers a host of insurance and finance products, including a Platinum Advantage disability insurance plan designed especially for doctors and healthcare workers.
Pros and Cons
Here is a list of a few pros and cons of disability insurance with AMA to compare:
- Flexible definition of disability. AMA lets you build a plan around your preferred definition, including own-specialty and true own-specialty.
- Plan portability. Group AMA plans are portable if you change employers.
- Student loan protection. Coverage up to $200K is included for policyholders up to age 45.
- Short elimination period. You can opt for a benefit waiting period of only 60 days.
- Discounts for AMA members and physicians. AMA members save 35 percent for their first year of coverage and non-member physicians save 10 percent.
- $15K monthly benefit cap. Significantly lower than the $30K monthly benefit cap many other similar policies offer.
- True own-specialty definition of disability costs extra. A rider for this definition adds several hundred dollars to your annual premium.
- Cannot lock in premiums. Rates will increase annually with age. Other plans allow you to lock in guaranteed rates.
- Geographic restrictions. Coverage is not available to residents of New Hampshire, Vermont, or Washington State.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Does AMA Insurance Stand For?
It stands for American Medical Association Insurance. The organization is a subsidiary of the American Medical Association, and it provides life, health, dental, and disability insurance products to its members.
Does AMA Membership Include Insurance?
No, your AMA membership does not include insurance. Your membership grants you access to the JAMA, the ability to earn continuing medical education credits (CME), and access to exclusive savings and industry events.
As a member, you can save up to 35 percent off some AMA insurance products.
Is AMA Disability Insurance Good?
AMA disability insurance has many good features, including a true own-specialty definition of disability and affordable rates. But AMA insurance has received many reviews critical of the carrier because plans are not guaranteed renewable and they have lower benefit caps.
Is it a Good Idea to Get Disability Insurance?
Yes. One-third of workers will become medically disabled between the ages of 20 and 67, and most of them have no disability benefits to carry them through these short or long-term periods without income.
In the event you can’t work due to illness or injury, disability benefits can cover a large portion of your income so that you can continue to meet your financial obligations.
The American Medical Association offers physicians, residents, and medical students group disability insurance at reduced rates or spendier, individual disability plan options.
AMA may be a good option for medical school students, physician residents, or those under the age of 45 with a significant amount of medical debt. But for most physicians, AMA is not the best coverage option.
An AMA disability policy generally has much cheaper premiums, but its maximum benefit is half of what other Top 5 insurance providers pay out. And the policy comes with many question marks, including whether or not your policy will be renewed from one year to the next or how much your premiums will go up.
Since you’re buying disability insurance as a hedge against future unknowns, you’re probably better off going with an insurance policy that offers a lot more guaranteed certainties.