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ADA Student Insurance Plans offer security

May 21, 2012

By Kelly Soderlund, ADA News staff

Lauren Greco knows a lot about budgets.

As a fourth-year dental student at Boston University, Ms. Greco will leave school with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans. Add on living expenses and other bills, and Ms. Greco knows she has to be mindful as to how she spends her money.

Ms. Greco

“Dental students are usually very aware of their finances and are usually living on a budget,” said Ms. Greco, who will graduate in May and begin a general practice residency at Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine. “If it’s something we have to pay for, it might be something we’d shy away from because we have so many other expenses.”

But as a freshman, enrolling in disability insurance and life insurance through the American Dental Association Student Insurance Plans was a great value to Ms. Greco. It was even better when, in 2010, the Council on Members Insurance and Retirement Programs approved funding the student disability plan premiums through the ADA Member Plans, at no cost to the student.

“Students recognized the disability insurance was important but didn’t have the funds to pay for it,” said Leslie Franklin, director of new dentist markets for ADA Insurance Plans at Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Co.

The positive impact is apparent. As of April 1, more than 14,000 students were utilizing the life insurance plan, 78 percent of the eligible students, Ms. Franklin said. As for the disability insurance, almost 12,000 students were enrolled, 65 percent penetration, she said. It’s a big increase over the level of participation when students had to cover their own disability insurance premiums.

The life insurance plan provides debt protection for student loans and other financial obligations and can serve as practice loan collateral when a student finishes school. Students receive $50,000 of term life insurance and $50,000 in accidental death coverage. ADA student members under the age of 40 enroll online and cannot be denied coverage regardless of their health history.

The student life policy renews automatically each year, and premiums are paid by the ADA Member Plans through Dec. 31 of the year a student completes his or her studies. Plus, the amount increases to $100,000 in coverage after dental school.

“So many students come to dental school having undergraduate debt, many of them are already married or have families and have obligations beyond just themselves,” Ms. Franklin said. “So the notion of being able to obtain life insurance provides extra peace of mind for them.”

The disability insurance provides a source of monthly income for students who become ill, injured or are involved in an accident that prevents them from completing dental school. It can also help repay large debts like student loans.

Mr. Struthers

Students who become disabled would receive, after a 90-day waiting period, $2,000 per month for up to seven years. They would also receive up to $150,000 to repay student loans if disability prevents them from completing their dental education.

“It essentially allows them to repay what they’ve invested in dentistry,” Ms. Franklin said.

In the past several years, the plans have become even more valuable because of benefit enhancements, such as increasing the amount of money available for students to repay their loans and lowering the qualifications for loan repayments.

“Most other loan repayment plans will only help students repay their educational debt if they meet the highest standard of disability, which is functionally disabled, meaning they can’t complete the activities of daily living,” Ms. Franklin said. “Our policy will pay if that individual can’t finish dental school.”

The conversion package was also enriched. When students graduate and start to practice dentistry, the coverage includes $2,000 per month to replace personal income and another $2,000 that reimburses professional expenses. The latter would pay for practice overhead if a dentist can’t return to work in a timely manner and cover student loan payments while the dentist isn’t practicing.

For most new graduates, the life insurance plan costs $10 per year per $100,000 of coverage, and the disability insurance costs around $225 per year for the coverage described above.

Michael Struthers, who just finished his third year at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine, said it’s important for Great-West and the ADA to communicate to students the importance of the plans.

“If you can tell them why they should have insurance and why the ADA has spent the money and the time and effort to present such a great opportunity for students, they’re much more likely to follow through and elect to be covered,” Mr. Struthers said.

Like Ms. Greco, Mr. Struthers paid for his disability insurance when it wasn’t available free of charge his freshman year.

“I thought if anything happened, I just wanted to be protected,” Mr. Struthers said.

Mr. Struthers, who has held a number of leadership positions within the American Student Dental Association at UNLV, has taken a keen interest in insurance.
Knowing that students have many priorities, Mr. Struthers has gone out of his way to educate students and encourage them to enroll just so they’ll reap the benefits.

Signing up is easy. All students have to do is visit and enroll.

“There’s absolutely no reason why every student member in the country shouldn’t have it,” Mr. Struthers said.