Surviving heart surgery, financially speaking

Feb. 1, 2009
Open-heart surgery can be a life-changing event at any age, but when you are only 44 years old, the challenges can feel particularly daunting.

by Kevin Henry, Managing Editor, DE

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: Dr. John Koberlein, ADA Insurance Plans, open-heart surgery, disability insurance planning, life insurance, waiting period, protection portfolio.

Open-heart surgery can be a life-changing event at any age, but when you are only 44 years old, the challenges can feel particularly daunting. We recently spoke with John Koberlein, DDS, in Uniontown, Ohio, to learn what kept him on an even keel financially while he worked on his recovery.

Dental Economics®: You're a young man, relatively speaking. What happened with your heart?

Dr. Koberlein: Last year I unexpectedly learned that a mitral valve in my heart had gone bad. I had to undergo major surgery to repair it. I never realized the magnitude of heart surgery until I came home from the hospital and could barely walk around the kitchen.

Dental Economics®: How long were you away from your practice?

Dr. Koberlein: For three months I couldn't work at all, followed by another month when I was only able to go to the office for a few hours a day. Yet I still had the expenses of keeping my practice open, making house and car payments, and providing for my wife and two children.

Dental Economics®: How did you manage to keep your office open when you couldn't work?

Dr. Koberlein: I'm a sole practitioner, but I share staff and office space with another dentist who agreed to take some of my patients while I recovered. Other colleagues in town — great friends — covered for me as well.

Dental Economics®: Still, you must have experienced significant financial strain.

Dr. Koberlein: It was manageable because I was able to tap into my disability insurance. I've owned three disability policies since the 1990s. One is a business overhead expense plan through ADA Insurance Plans. It reimburses a disabled dentist for covered practice expenses. As soon as I got home from the hospital, I filed a claim, and the benefit was calculated from day one of my disability. I got a good-sized check, which was a big boost for me. It helped pay my staff and other overhead costs while I focused on my rehabilitation.

Dental Economics®: And the other two disability policies?

Dr. Koberlein: I also have disability income insurance through ADA Insurance Plans to help cover my family's personal expenses. After my 60-day waiting period, I received one month of full benefits and another month of partial benefits while I worked part-time. My third disability policy is through another insurance company, which eventually paid.

Dental Economics®: It sounds like having an insurance safety net in place was good planning on your part.

Dr. Koberlein: The biggest thing my insurance gave me was peace of mind. I knew that my practice and my family could get by until I was able to go back to work. I can't imagine what we would have done without the insurance.

Dental Economics®: What else did you learn from your experiences that you can pass along to other dentists?

Dr. Koberlein: First, I would say buy the maximum coverage you can afford. I would also encourage dentists to consider options that enable them to increase their coverage without a medical exam. With my disability income insurance, for example, I decided to pay an additional amount for an option that guarantees that I can increase my monthly benefit amount five times. I have to exercise the options before age 55. Now that I have a health issue, I'll definitely take advantage of it.

Dental Economics®: Is life insurance part of your protection portfolio, as well?

Dr. Koberlein: Yes, my wife, Suzy, and I both have term life insurance. I have enough insurance on my life to pay off our home mortgage and practice debt if I die, and for my family to live comfortably. Suzy's life insurance provides money to pay someone to take care of the kids if something happens to her. Both policies are through the ADA, which has great pricing.

Dental Economics®: Thank you for taking the time to share some important information with our readers.

Editor's note: This article does not constitute legal, tax, or financial advice; please seek professional input as appropriate to your situation. For more information about the ADA Insurance Plans, visit www.insurance.ada.org or call (866) 607-5330.

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