Guaranteed Standard Issue Programs

Guaranteed standard issue programs protect your future income. You spent a lot of money and time attending medical school, but what happens if you become disabled?

You won’t have the return on investment you anticipated, leaving you without the money needed to live.

Understanding what to look for in a guaranteed standard issue program and which options are best is essential.

What Are Guaranteed Standard Issue Programs

Guaranteed standard issue programs are supplemental disability programs sponsored by an employer. The program is in addition to standard group disability insurance that typically doesn’t offer enough coverage for a high-income earner.

Most professionals need more than 60% income replacement if they become disabled, and group disability coverage usually maxes out at 60%, sometimes less.

Guaranteed standard issue programs provide guaranteed coverage without underwriting. This differs from private disability insurance, which requires underwriting and approval to get coverage. If you have previous health conditions, they could prevent you from getting coverage.

Selecting a Guaranteed Standard Issue Program

When selecting a guaranteed standard issue program, you have many factors to consider, including the following.

Research Your Options

There are a handful of companies that offer GSI programs. Look at all your options and compare them side-by-side. Look at the coverage amount and the premiums, riders, and special circumstances that apply to each.

Determine the Amount of Income Protection

GSI programs offer coverage in $5,000 increments, and since you pay the premiums, you can choose how much coverage you purchase. For example, if 60% income replacement is enough for you based on your lifestyle and savings, but your group disability plan pays less than 60% after taxes, you may supplement with a GSI plan.

You may also need much more coverage because you have a more expensive lifestyle, have a chronic health issue, or have other concerns. Again, look closely at the income protection provided and purchase the coverage that protects you the most.

Understand What Constitutes Disability

No two disability plans have the same definition of disability. Read the fine print to understand what they consider a disability and the conditions you must meet. For example, you may need to be unable to work ANY job, not just your current profession. Each policy has different requirements.

Know the Length of Benefits

Each GSI program has a different benefit period. Most medical professionals choose a policy that will last through retirement age, 65 to 67 years old, but not all policies are the same. For example, if you need a lower premium, you may choose a coverage option of 5 to 10 years, but if you’re disabled early in your career, this could backfire on you since you’d need income to get you through retirement.

Determine What Might Disqualify You for GSI

Even though GSI is through your employer and there is no underwriting, certain factors could disqualify you from getting approved. For example, if you’ve applied for private insurance through another company but were denied, most GSI companies won’t approve you.

Understand the Mental Health/Addiction Disability Benefits

Most GSI policies have a limit to the benefit period for mental health and addiction disability benefits. The average policy has a 2-year benefit period but always read the fine print if you have any concerns about these types of disabilities.

Ensure the Policy Is Guaranteed Renewable

Since the policy is through your employer, it should be guaranteed renewable, but again, read the fine print. Ensure the insurance company can’t cancel the policy for just any reason or change the policy.

Choose Your Program Features

Before choosing a plan, looking at the program features is important. Many features are additional riders that increase your premium but may help you secure the right policy. Here are some factors to consider.

Policy Portability

Since you pay the premiums for GSI programs, you can take the policy with you if you change jobs. This is unlike group disability insurance, which isn’t portable, so you can’t take the policy with you if you change jobs. But, then, there’s no insurance protection should you become disabled.

Elimination Period Requirements

Each insurance company has different elimination period requirements. This determines how long you must be disabled before they will pay benefits. For example, if they don’t pay benefits for the first six months, you must have enough money saved to get through those six months or have another plan, like a group policy, to protect you.

COLA Rider

A COLA rider protects your disability benefits from inflation. For example, if you become disabled in the first couple of years you started your career, you will need disability coverage for a long time, assuming it’s permanent. Chances are inflation will affect your earnings, but with a COLA rider, your benefits will adjust accordingly.

Income Increase Rider

If you buy a GSI policy early, you’ll likely increase your income as you advance your career. An income increase rider allows you to purchase more coverage as your income increases without repeating the entire process.

Popular, Reputable Programs

Finding GSI programs can feel overwhelming, so I’ve rounded up some of the most reputable programs to help you find the right options.

Kaplan Financial

Kaplan Financial offers a GSI disability insurance program to residents and fellows at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science and Kaiser Permanente. The program offers up to $7,500 in monthly income without underwriting or $15,000 with financial underwriting.

Kaplan Financial’s GSI program includes the following benefits:

  • 90-day elimination period
  • Benefits up to age 67
  • True own occupation
  • Future increase rider
  • Partial disability rider with a 15% loss of income trigger
  • 24-month benefit for mental or nervous system disabilities
  • Catastrophic Benefit rider up to $8,000


Guardian offers a GSI program open to fellows and residents. The program offers up to $7,500 in compensation with no underwriting and the following benefits:

  • True own occupation
  • Benefits to age 67
  • 90-day elimination period
  • Future Increase rider up to $15,000
  • Catastrophic benefit rider
  • Partial benefit rider
  • 24-month benefit for mental or nervous system disabilities


Standard offers a unique GSI program that helps families in unique situations, such as employees who need to take time off for a disabled relative. The Platinum Advantage GSI program includes the following:

  • Benefit period through age 67
  • Own occupation
  • Rehabilitation benefits to cover the cost of rehabilitation to go back to work
  • Survivor benefit pays a survivor three times the monthly amount if the insured dies, while benefits are payable
  • Transplant surgery disability benefit pays for a disability caused by transplant surgery
  • Catastrophic disability pays a higher benefit if you cannot perform two or more basic living skills because of your disability
  • ICOLA adjusts the payout based on the consumer price index
  • Residual disability pays a partial benefit if you’re disabled but can work some hours

The Pros and Cons of Guaranteed Standard Issue Insurance Programs

Like any insurance policy, guaranteed standard-issue insurance programs have pros and cons. Understanding the good and bad can help determine if it’s right for you.


  • Unisex pricing – Many GSI programs have unisex pricing, which saves women a lot of money since women’s disability insurance rates can be as much as 40% more than men’s.
  • No underwriting – The lack of underwriting makes it easy for anyone to get approved, even someone with pre-existing conditions. If you’re worried about getting approved, just be sure you apply for a GSI before a private policy.
  • Portability – Taking your GSI no matter where you work is essential. You don’t have to worry about getting new policies or passing underwriting as long as you continue paying your premiums.
  • Own-occupation coverage – Most GSI policies pay for your disability if you cannot work your specific position rather than only if you can’t work any position.


  • Maximum coverage – Most policies max out coverage at $10,000 a month. For some medical professionals, that may not be enough to cover their living expenses.
  • High premiums – Because the coverage is guaranteed, the premiums can be higher than underwritten policies. Healthy males usually have the most to lose with GSI premiums.
  • Elimination periods – If you have a pre-existing condition, there may be a longer elimination period for that condition.


GSIs help bridge the gap between disability insurance and your cost of living. Here are some common questions you may have.

What Is the Difference Between GSI vs. Group vs. Individual Policies?

Guaranteed standard-issue programs are supplemental insurance policies when your group disability insurance isn’t enough. For most medical professionals, group coverage doesn’t cover the cost of living or their standard way of life.

Anyone can get an individual policy. However, they are usually much costlier, and you must pass underwriting to get approved. In addition, because they are privately underwritten, individual policies may have more requirements and restrictions.

When Is the Best Time to Get GSI Insurance?

Getting GSI policies early in your career is best, usually as soon as you start your residency or fellowship. The premiums will be the lowest, and you’ll protect yourself the most. If you were to become disabled early in your career, you’d lose millions of dollars in income throughout your working years.

Can I Be Turned Down by a GSI Program?

A GSI program can turn you down if you’ve previously applied for private disability insurance and were turned down.

The Bottom Line

Choosing a GSI program is a big decision. It’s an investment in your future and protects you should the worst happen. Guaranteed standard issue programs usually have affordable premiums; almost everyone can get approved with guaranteed coverage.