Keep well and do well: health & dental insurance for solo practitioners

Woman and daughter brushing teeth

If we were to tell the life story of a typical lawyer using only their health & dental insurance, it might go something like this: 18 years on their parents’ plan, seven years on university insurance, 40+ years of employee benefits, with possible sporadic breaks where the protagonist is allotted 1.5 annual dental cleanings under their partner’s coverage (this is the romantic part of the story where soft music plays in the background).

But even with a soundtrack, this isn’t the most exciting story—and the longest part of it (the 40+ years part) is becoming less typical all the time. Roughly 20% of Canada’s lawyers are solo practitioners1, and many more work at small firms that don’t offer employee benefits. That means that a significant subset of Canadian lawyers isn’t covered by group insurance.

As Canadians, we’re lucky to have universal coverage for services like medical exams and hospital stays, but government-sponsored plans don’t include dental cleanings, eyeglasses, or prescription drugs—services that are arguably essential for our overall well-being. That’s why, for anyone who doesn’t have group benefits, it’s so important to complement your provincial health care with personal coverage. And why it’s even more important to get the right advice.

We talked with Lawyers Financial advisor, Shari Standil, about her experience selling personal health & dental insurance and why (like so many things in life) it pays to start early.

Q. Tell us about your experience as an insurance advisor

A. I was a middle school teacher for many years, but also grew up in a family that was in the insurance industry. Insurance is in my blood! Then, as it turns out, after practicing law for 13 years, my husband became a Certified Financial Planner and entered the insurance and investments world as well. I was his office manager, and after I retired from teaching, I became licensed to sell insurance. The timing was right, and it all worked out well. I find it a wonderful space to be in because you really feel like you’re helping people.

Q. Who is your typical client?

A. I work with clients at every stage of their career, and I am so pleased when connecting with young lawyers who turn their minds to their financial planning and insurance needs early in their careers. Many of my clients are under 40, and a lot of them come to me through word of mouth. It’s a lot of solo practitioners, or people working for firms that don’t have group benefits. I have older clients too, people in their 40s and 50s who are looking for healthcare coverage for their families. From my experience, it’s really when people start families that they think about this stuff, but as I always say, the earlier the better.

It’s better to get insured now, when the premiums are lower and you’re less likely to have pre-existing conditions that will lead to exclusions.

Q. Why do you work so well with younger lawyers?

A. Well, I don’t want to pull out my mom hat, but I will say that with my kids, we saw the relevance of having protection while it’s cost effective. So, sure, I’ll use that line with clients, “This is the advice I’d tell my kids.” That’s very convincing for people. I connect with young professionals with families. There’s a lot on the horizon as you settle down and start a family, so it’s better to get insured now, when the premiums are lower and you’re less likely to have pre-existing conditions that will lead to exclusions.

There’s also the fact that it happens to be a comprehensive product. Lawyers Financial sponsors two health and dental plans: Health Protect and Health Protect Plus, with varying levels of coverage for vision, dental, prescription drugs, and more. As association plans, you’re in a large pool with other lawyers, which is important to smooth out the premiums, especially in years where people are making a lot of claims.

Q. Are there any types of resistance you experience from clients when it comes to these plans?

A. The biggest issue is drug exclusions. As I said, we offer two health and dental plans for working lawyers, Health Protect and Health Protect Plus. Health Protect Plus is more popular, because it offers more coverage, but the problem is if you’re already taking a drug, it won’t be covered under the plan. This is frustrating for people, and I get it. This is where HealthProtect can be an excellent choice because it will cover existing conditions and drugs.

And if you prefer the deeper plan, HealthProtect Plus, I think you have to look at insurance more holistically. By this I mean, if you can’t be covered for an existing condition, you may want to anticipate your future needs. What if you need another drug down the line? Being a lawyer is a stressful job, so you might need a massage every once in a while. Oftentimes it’s worth it to just pay for your current medication yourself and take advantage of the rest of the coverage the product offers.

Q. How do you see your role as an advisor?

A. I think that my background as a teacher plays into how I approach this job. I consider it my job to educate people on these products as clearly as possible. Now, I know our clients are very smart, accomplished people, but insurance isn’t their area of expertise. You know, I've heard stories of people reaching out to insurance companies and the advisor they’re connected to just sends them a product page. I would never do that. It doesn’t work. You need someone to unpack the jargon for you. It’s too technical. I’m not successful every time. There are other insurance carriers out there and people are going to do what works best for them, but I believe in our product. This type of coverage is important, and we’re offering a good package. Keep well and do well, is what I always say.

 

It can be easy to brush off our need for comprehensive health care, especially when we’re young. Public coverage may be enough for big things like major illnesses and accident recovery (i.e. the stuff that only happens to other people). But give it a few years and some deeper thought, and you’ll see and feel the many ways our bodies call for help: toothaches, back pain, migraines (i.e. the stuff that happens to everyone).

For those of us without coverage through work, school, or our romantic partners, the need doesn’t go away just because the solution might seem a little complicated. That’s where a good advisor comes in, someone who can help you navigate how specific policies align with your needs. It’s the kind of help that makes the difference between finding a plan that will add to your story, instead of one that will only add to your budget.

We can help.

Connect with your local Lawyers Financial advisor and get the health & dental coverage you need.

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Source: 1. Federation of Law Societies of Canada, “Statistics Report for 2019,” published March 2022

August 18, 2023