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GSI Disability Insurance

GSI disability insurance programs

Guaranteed Standard Issue (GSI) Disability Insurance

What is GSI?

GSI disability insurance programs offer medical residents and fellows at select GME programs the opportunity to apply for private disability insurance coverage without requiring medical screening, as is normally required when applying for these policies. This means that applicants can qualify for coverage regardless of their medical history or any pre-existing conditions, when certain criteria apply:

  • These policies are not generally available to applicants who have already applied and been denied or offered modified coverage by a different insurance company. There are some exceptions to this rule, but it is generally advisable to first consider a GSI option because you risk losing access by applying with a different company.
  • You must be actively enrolled in a residency or fellowship program where a GSI offering is available. GSI offerings are not broadly available at every hospital, so it’s important to connect with an agent who specializes in working with residents/fellows and keeps up-to-date on unique programs like this. Very few GSI programs are endorsed by a GME office, so HR will not generally be a reliable resource for verifying your eligibility.

GSI Policy Benefits

GSI disability insurance programs simplify and streamline the process of securing income protection for medical residents and fellows. Perhaps the best part though, is that these policies often include the same benefits, features and discounts available outside of a GSI offering. Eligible residents and fellows can generally expect these policies to include the following benefits:

  • Noncancelable and Guaranteed Renewable coverage (the insurance company cannot alter policy provisions or pricing, generally until age 65, as long as you continue to pay your premiums timely)
  • True Own-Occupation Definition of Total Disability (pays full benefits if an injury/illness prevents someone from performing the material duties of their medical specialty, even while gainfully employed in a different occupation)
  • Partial Disability benefits (pays a portion of the monthly benefit when an injury/illness creates a significant income loss but still allows a person to work in their medical specialty)
  • Cost of Living Adjustment rider (an optional feature that increases one’s monthly benefit throughout a long term disability claim, intended to limit the effects of inflation for longer-term claims)
  • Benefit Increase Option (allows for the future purchase of additional coverage, generally up to $15,000 of total monthly benefit, without requiring any updated medical information)
  • Permanent Discounts (GSI disability insurance programs include discounts that remain on the policy beyond graduation, and even apply to the future purchase of additional coverage under the Benefit Increase Option provision)
  • Private Coverage with Full Portability (While initial eligibility for a GSI program is determined based on one’s GME affiliation, these policies are individually owned and fully portable once in force. This means that the policy remains intact, with the same features and pricing, after graduation and throughout a physician’s career)

Medical Underwriting Can Be Difficult and Frustrating

Insurance companies are attempting to manage risk on a large scale and often offer policies that involve 20 to 30 year commitments on their part. They don’t have the flexibility of saying “come back if anything changes”, so they tend to be conservative in their assessments. This can be extremely frustrating for the typical applicant who has limited medical knowledge, but even more so for medical professionals with advanced knowledge and understanding of these conditions. A disease or disorder that may normally be perceived as clinically insignificant could be enough to cause a decline, increased premium, limited benefit, or pre-existing condition exclusion in the eyes of the insurance companies.

Simply put, medical underwriting can be unpredictable, frustrating and inconvenient for busy medical residents and fellows. Applying for coverage under a GSI program simplifies the process and can allow for approvals within 24-48 hours with some companies.

Income Protection is Important and GSI Helps Simplify It

There is a common misconception that physicians should buy disability insurance during residency/fellowship because it’s less costly. While premiums are generally lower at younger ages, the real benefit of purchasing coverage during training is that it provides much needed income protection. The physician career path is unique because it requires a 7-12 year commitment that often involves student loan debt, working long hours and delayed earnings/savings. Physicians may not earn much during training, but could suffer tremendous financial loss if a disability derails their medical career.

GME-sponsored group long-term disability policies normally only cover 50-60% of a resident/fellow stipend and often include restrictive policy definitions that make it more difficult to qualify for benefits. Owning a private disability insurance policy with the proper features and benefits allows medical residents and fellows to better protect the investment in their medical career and future financial wellbeing. Insurance companies typically allow physicians to secure as much as a $5,000 monthly benefit while in residency/fellowship, but even starting with a smaller amount is better than not having coverage at all. We understand that affordability is a concern during residency/fellowship and try to provide solutions that help make cost reasonable.

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