Best Disability Insurance for Physicians

If you’re a doctor, securing long-term disability insurance is a crucial step.

With all the time, money, and effort you put into your education, it’s important to protect your future earning potential and ensure you can pay off medical school debt if you’re unable to work.

It’s equally important to choose the right provider for your disability policy. In the guide below, we’ve compiled a list of the best disability insurance for physicians and outlined some key details about getting covered.

5 Best Disability Insurance Providers for Physicians

Several insurance companies provide any-occupation disability policies, which only protect you if an illness or injury prevents you from doing any job you’re qualified for

But the providers below specialize in own-occupation policies, which pay out if you can no longer perform the duties of your occupation as a doctor.

  1. Guardian
  2. MassMutual
  3. Ameritas
  4. The Standard
  5. Principal

1. Guardian

  • BBB Rating: A+
  • AM Best Rating: A++

Guardian is a popular insurance company with a solid reputation among customers and a strong financial outlook, reflected in its high ratings from the Better Business Bureau and AM Best.

Among its many insurance products, Guardian offers comprehensive disability coverage for physicians, with own-occupation coverage and a handful of riders to customize your policy.

With Guardian’s enhanced true own-occupation coverage, you can continue to practice as a doctor and still qualify for benefits if your disability limits you from practicing at your previous capacity.

The base policy offers a Hospice benefit, which most insurers don’t, and a serious illness endorsement. The latter pays an additional 50% of your policy’s benefit for up to a year if you’re disabled by a stroke, heart attack, or cancer.

To extend your coverage, you can add optional student loan coverage, a lump sum benefit, and partial disability protection, along with more traditional riders like a cost of living adjustment and catastrophic disability protection.

There’s also a 10% discount for general practice, family practice, internal medicine physicians, and all surgeons excluding orthopedic and oral surgeons.

Guardian’s biggest drawback is its cost. We found that Guardian’s average premiums can be more expensive than some competitors. However, it’s a top-tier option if you’re looking for comprehensive coverage from a reputable provider.

Pros

  • Includes Hospice coverage
  • Comprehensive disability definition
  • Offers specialty-specific discounts

Cons

  • Higher average premiums
  • Slower underwriting process

2. MassMutual

  • BBB Rating: A
  • AM Best Rating: A++

MassMutual is one of the largest life insurance companies in the country, with top-notch financial strength ratings and generally positive customer reviews.

MassMutual’s Radius Choice policy is designed for physicians and other high-income earners. While the base policy only pays out if you’re unable to perform any job, you can add an own-occupation rider.

In our research, we found the policy to be highly customizable. There are twelve riders to choose from, including an automatic benefit increase rider that lets you renew annually without a health exam, increasing your disability benefits by 3% each year.

The disability insurance plan also comes with an optional Maximum Benefit Policy Endorsement which removes the usual 2-year limit on disabilities related to mental disorders.

MassMutual issues policies to applicants aged 18-64 in most states, with benefit periods ranging from 2-10 years, up to age 70.

One of MassMutual’s only downsides is its lengthy waiting period. While some disability policies have a 30-day waiting period, MassMutuals’ minimum waiting period is 60 days.

Pros

  • Exceptional financial strength
  • May pay dividends
  • Free automatic increase benefit

Cons

  • Benefits max out at $20k per month
  • Long 60-day waiting period

3. Ameritas

  • BBB Rating: A+
  • AM Best Rating: A

Ameritas is another leading insurance carrier that boasts excellent financial strength and customer service ratings.

You can sign up for a DInamic Cornerstone policy in three steps when you contact one of Ameritas’ insurance agents.

First, you choose your plan’s limits and rates. Then, you can select your definition of disability, which includes a true own-occupation option. Once you decide on the type of policy you need, you can customize it with a series of riders.

That includes a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) rider, a future increase option, and a residual disability rider.

The standard policy includes some unique coverages, like a COBRA premium benefit to help you maintain your employer-sponsored health insurance policy, and instant coverage for disabilities resulting from surgical transplants.

Similar to MassMutual, Ameritas’ monthly benefits are capped at $20,000, which can be inadequate for some higher-earning specialties.

Pros

  • Solid financial strength
  • 4% automatic increase rider
  • No waiting period for transplants

Cons

  • Lower coverage limit of $20,000
  • Limited mental health coverage

4. The Standard

  • BBB Rating: A+
  • AM Best Rating: A

The Standard is our top pick if you’re looking for an affordable disability insurance policy with free riders.

The Platinum Advantage provides a unique free rider, the Family Care Benefit, which pays out if you have to take time off to care for a disabled parent, child, or spouse. The coverage kicks in if your hours decrease by 20% or more and you lose at least 20% of your income.

The policy has several additional complementary riders, including a guaranteed renewable rider, a rehab benefit, automatic benefit increases, and a survivor benefit that pays out up to three times your policy’s monthly benefit to your beneficiary if you pass away while insured.

You can also add an optional residual disability rider and a student loan rider. The Standard’s individual disability insurance coverage is also portable, so you can maintain coverage even if you switch employers.

While the policy has plenty of free disability benefits, you are required to pay extra for own-occupation coverage. This is a must if you are limited from practicing in your medical specialty but still want to practice in a different role. Keep in mind that some of The Standard’s competitors offer this level of coverage without requiring an add-on.

Pros

  • Streamlined claims process
  • Family care benefit
  • Online coverage calculator

Cons

  • Not available in California or New York
  • Can’t extend coverage beyond age 60

5. Principal

  • BBB Rating: A+
  • AM Best Rating: A+

Principal is another reputable and longstanding insurer, with a history dating back to 1909 and a host of positive customer reviews.

While most of its competitors require you to speak to their representatives to compare coverage options and rates, Principal makes it easier than most to compare disability insurance quotes.

Once you enter a few basic details about yourself and your budget, Principal provides instant quotes for various levels of coverage, letting you download your results. When we walked through the quote process, we were provided with Basic Protection, Moderate Protection, and Comprehensive Protection options.

You can also choose from riders such as Residual Disability and Recovery, a Future Benefit Increase Rider, and a 3% Cost of Living Adjustment Rider. And Principal’s policies are non-cancelable, meaning your coverage will stay intact as long as you keep up with payments.

At most, Principal offers $35,000 in monthly policy benefits. Policy benefit periods can range anywhere from two years to age 70, which is a longer period than most insurers offer.

We also like that Principal doesn’t discriminate based on sex when it comes to pricing. While many companies assign higher premiums to women during the underwriting process, Principal’s pricing is fair across the board.

Principal is a solid option whether you’re looking for a primary policy or want to supplement your workplace coverage, with a streamlined application and underwriting process.

Pros

  • Competitive pricing
  • Free online quotes
  • High benefit amount limits

Cons

  • 2-year cap on mental health coverage
  • Rider availability varies by state

What Is Disability Insurance?

Disability insurance is a type of insurance policy that protects professionals from future income loss if they’re disabled and unable to work.

The policy’s benefits can help cover the costs of medical bills, equipment, treatments, and everyday living expenses.

You can purchase an individual disability insurance policy through a private insurer, opt into a workplace disability group plan, or get a limited amount of coverage through the Social Security System.

How Does Disability Insurance Work?

When you apply for disability income insurance, an underwriter will assess your risk using your medical history, income, and job duties. The company uses this information to determine how much disability insurance you need and establish what your insurance premiums will be.

Once your policy is in force, you pay regular premiums to keep the coverage active. If you suffer an illness or injury that prohibits you from working, you can file a claim with your insurance company.

When you enroll in a policy, your insurer will determine your waiting period, which is the amount of time between filing a claim and receiving benefits. With most long-term disability policies, you can start receiving disability insurance benefits 90 days after filing a claim.

The timing of when your funds are paid out is referred to as the elimination period. The elimination period for long-term disability can be anywhere between 30 and 360 days.

Generally speaking, the longer the elimination period for your policy is, the lower the premiums will be. Your policy payouts will typically continue until you’re able to return to work or your policy expires.

Types of Disability Insurance

Before you purchase a disability policy, it’s important to understand the different types of coverage you have at your disposal.

Here are a few different types of coverage to keep in mind:

Short-Term vs Long-Term Disability

  • Short-Term Disability: Short-term disability insurance replaces 50-100% of your income on a temporary basis. It usually has a waiting period of 0-14 days and may provide coverage for a period lasting anywhere from several weeks to 12 months.
  • Long-Term Disability: Long-term disability insurance can provide anywhere from a couple of years of coverage up to retirement, replacing your income if your disability leaves you unable to work for an extended period of time. The waiting period is usually at least 90 days long.

Partial vs Total Disability

  • Partial Disability: This coverage may pay a partial benefit if you are limited from performing some, but not all, parts of your job. For example, you might qualify for partial disability if you suffer a knee injury that requires you to stay sedentary.
  • Total Disability: Total disability applies when an illness or injury leaves you unable to execute any of your job duties. Being paralyzed and unable to operate as a surgeon would qualify as a total disability.

Group vs Individual Disability Insurance

  • Group Disability: Employers often offer group disability insurance policies to employees. for little or no cost. Your group policy will pay out a portion of your salary if you’re disabled and can’t work.
  • Individual Disability: While group coverage is a great starting point, it doesn’t usually offer enough income protection for most doctors. Individual policies from private insurers can provide supplemental coverage to ensure you’re adequately protected if the unexpected happens.

Any Occupation vs Own-Occupation Coverage

  • Any Occupation Disability: Any-occupation disability insurance only pays out if you are deemed unable to perform any job that you’re equipped for based on your education or experience.
  • True Own-Occupation Disability: The own-occupation definition of insurance applies to your specific role. It pays out when you’re unable to carry on in your current role, even if you’re able to get another job. Own-occupation coverage is a good fit for doctors who are used to enjoying a high income.

What Riders Are Available for Physicians’ Disability Insurance?

When you buy disability insurance, it’s also important to consider adding optional riders to enhance your coverage.

Here are a few common disability policy add-ons for physicians and dentists:

  • Partial/Residual Disability Rider: This rider is a wise addition to most physicians’ disability policies. It allows you to receive a payout even if you can still work, but not to the extent you could prior to your disability. For example, if you’re diagnosed with an illness that limits the number of hours you can work per week, this rider would allow you to receive a payout while working a reduced schedule.
  • Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) Rider: Also referred to as an Inflation rider, this rider adjusts the payout for your policy based on the Consumer Price Index or rate of inflation. In some cases, the rider uses a fixed flat percentage increase rather than an index.
  • Future Increase Option Rider: This rider gives you the option to purchase additional coverage as your finances change. If you’re still in your residency program or fellowship, or you’re an attending physician early in your career, this rider can be well worth the cost. With the purchase option rider, you can increase your coverage annually or when you experience a major life event.
  • Student Loan Rider: A student loan rider can help cover some or all of your student loan debt if you are totally disabled. If you’re partially disabled, you can apply for a deferment or forbearance and make payments at a later time.

How to Secure the Best Disability Insurance for Physicians

Once you establish your coverage needs, it’s important to choose a reliable insurer that has the disability policy you need.

While the cost of coverage shouldn’t be your only consideration, it should be on the list. The best way to find the most affordable insurance carrier for your disability policy is to get free quotes from each company you’re considering.

It’s also important to look into each company’s reputation. Check customer reviews and BBB ratings to assess the company’s claims process and overall customer experience.

You should also look at financial strength ratings from credit rating agencies like AM Best to ensure the company is financially stable.

Frequently Asked Questions

What will most disability income insurance plans pay?

Most group disability income plans pay up to 60% of your monthly income. Meanwhile, individual long-term disability plans may pay around 50 to 80% of your income. You can combine multiple disability plans to provide adequate income replacement.

Why is disability insurance the most overlooked form of coverage?

People tend to overlook disability insurance because they think they have adequate coverage through Social Security or their workplace plan. A lot of individuals also focus on shielding their families with life insurance but fail to plan for unexpected injuries and illnesses.

Why are most disability claims denied?

Here are some of the most common reasons disability claims get denied:

  • Insufficient medical documentation
  • Failure to meet the policy’s disability definition
  • Falsified information
  • Disability-related to an excluded condition
  • Late application

What affects the cost of disability insurance?

Disability insurance costs can vary based on your age, specialty, gender, health history, policy amount, riders, length of coverage, waiting period, and the type of policy you choose.

Our Methodology

To present you with the list of the best disability insurance for physicians, we thoroughly evaluated each insurance company using the metrics below:

  • Disability definition: To make the list, each disability insurance company has to offer true own-occupation coverage as an option.
  • Add-ons: We also factored the riders each company offers into our evaluation, considering how customizable each carrier’s policies are.
  • Cost: Cost is a key consideration in any major financial purchase. As such, we compared sample quotes from the providers in our analysis.
  • Terms: Additionally, we considered the terms of each policy, looking into their benefit limits, benefit periods, and elimination periods.
  • Customer experience: To gauge customer experience, we explored each company’s online tools and resources, quotes process, underwriting timeline, and claims process. We also examined customer reviews and ratings from the BBB.
  • Financial strength: Last, we rely on credit ratings from AM Best to ensure that each insurer we recommend is financially solvent and capable of paying out policy benefits.