The income benefit you receive varies based on your specific insurance plan. The typical monthly benefit of a long-term policy covers between 40% and 60% of the policyholder’s salary.
Now is the best time to buy disability insurance
Disability insurance is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your financial interests, regardless of the type of work you do.
For physicians earning an average annual salary of over $200,000 per year, having the right disability insurance is essential.
But what does disability insurance cover? How much does it cost? Is it really worth it in the long run?
In this article, we will break down the different types of disability insurance and discuss why physicians need it. We’ll also address the benefits of private insurance over group or employer-sponsored plans.
From residents to practicing physicians, our complete guide to physicians’ disability insurance will tell you everything you need to know.
Disability insurance provides financial protection if you become unable to work due to an injury or illness. If you’re unable to work, disability insurance will pay a portion of your income to insulate you from financial hardship.
Essentially, disability insurance is income insurance that provides a safety net in the instance you can no longer generate income.
According to the CDC, one in four Americans is living with a disability. This sampling includes individuals from all age groups, but that number is still staggering.
Even more surprising is that just over one in four 20 year-olds today will become disabled before they retire. Your chances of missing a paycheck (or many paychecks) due to illness or injury are higher than you think.
For example, if you’re 35 years old, there’s a 50% chance of becoming disabled for three months or longer before you retire. That number is only reduced to a 33% chance if you’re 50.
There is a way to protect yourself and all of your hard work by taking a relatively easy step:
Investing in disability insurance.
When you purchase disability insurance, you transfer the risk of losing your ability to earn income to an insurance company. That way, if you ever become disabled, the insurance company will be responsible for covering part of your income.
Having disability insurance should be an obvious decision for any physician. It is the best way to continue to earn money regardless of your health.
As a physician, you need to be able to physically and mentally do your job.
Whether you’re a surgeon that relies upon your steady hands or a family practice physician, suffering a disability can prevent you from doing your job.
Anyone in any career can benefit from having disability insurance, but it’s especially crucial for physicians.
If you’re just starting your medical career, you may likely be struggling to pay back undergraduate student loans and medical school debt. If you’re advanced in your career, you probably have mortgage payments, car payments, and lifestyle expenses that you need to pay for.
Every one of us is at risk of suffering a disability that prevents us from working. With disability insurance, you can protect yourself and avoid sinking into financial debt or being derailed from your financial planning strategy.
Whether you’re out of work for a few weeks or a few years, having the right type of disability insurance can save you and your family from financial ruin. Your financial obligations will always exist, regardless of whether or not you are physically or mentally capable of doing your job.
By having disability insurance, you can protect yourself and your assets, even if you can’t earn a paycheck. It’s the best way to make sure that you can keep up with your car payments, pay your mortgage so you can remain in your home, and pay for other monthly expenses. You can even make sure your business cash flow is not interrupted by having a plan that covers your overhead expenses while you are not practicing and your revenue is decreased for a period of time.
For many people, disability insurance keeps the dream of sending their kids to college alive. It keeps a roof over their heads. And it keeps the option of retirement on the table.
The first step in getting disability insurance is to compare and contrast plans offered by different insurers. Once you select a plan, you’ll need to undergo a medical evaluation. Your insurer will offer you a policy and a monthly premium rate, underwrite your policy, and your insurance coverage will begin.
But what do you have to do when it’s time to collect?
The first step in collecting disability insurance is to meet the definition of disability.
Every insurance policy includes a definition of disability, and you need to meet the standards of that definition in order to be able to file a claim. Before you file a claim, consult the definition as stated in your policy to make sure that you meet the requirements.
Assuming that you meet the definition of disability included in your policy, the next step is to file a claim. You can file a claim as soon as you suffer an injury or disability.
Most insurance providers require that you provide a series of documents and reports, including medical reports, procedure or exam results that prove your injury, and evidence from your employer that your injury is preventing you from doing all or some of your job.
Depending on your policy’s definition of disability, you may be eligible to collect disability insurance benefits whether you are limited to performing a portion of your job or your current job in its entirety.
Once a claim has been filed and approved, you’ll need to endure the elimination period before you can start collecting monthly payouts.
Every policy has an elimination period. This is the waiting period between the date of your injury and the date that you can start collecting benefits. It is not determined by when you file your claim, though it is recommended that you file your claim as early as possible to account for any delays that may occur in the approval process.
If your elimination period is 60 days, you can start collecting benefits on day 61. You will continue to receive your monthly benefit payout until you are able to return to work or reach the end of your coverage period, whichever comes first.
We’ve been in the financial services industry for more than ten years. Over this time, we’ve made a few observations. One is that, while we each have our own unique goals and things that are important to us, generally speaking, we all tend to want the same things.
Whether it’s the desire to pay off debt or to travel regularly, we all want to be able to afford the things we need. And for most people, that means enjoying memorable experiences with family and friends.
At Physicians Thrive, we give presentations to physicians across the country to educate them in areas that they don’t get much time to focus on.
At the end of our presentations, the questions range from student loan repayment options to reducing taxes to investing and retirement planning. All of these questions are predicated on the assumption that the person asking will continue earning a steady income.
As a physician, your most significant financial asset is your earning potential. You’ve spent countless hours crafting your knowledge and skills and preparing to transition into practice. And you assume those years of hard work will lead to years of above-average income.
But what if your income stopped, or was reduced due to illness or injury?
Your monthly disability benefits can be used to pay for any and all expenses you have. This includes your mortgage, utilities, loan payments, and personal expenses.
There are no restrictions on how you can spend your benefits — you can use them to pay for anything you want, just as you would with your regular income.
If you own your own practice or are a partner in a business, you can use your benefits to pay for business expenses.
However, there is a better way to do so.
Business Overhead Expense insurance is also available, specifically for business owners who own all or part of a business. Unlike disability income insurance, BOE insurance can only be used to pay for business expenses. By having both policies, you can enjoy even added protection.
Physicians who own their own business should use BOE benefits to continue to keep their business running smoothly and disability insurance benefits as income replacement for lost wages.
Long-term disability insurance covers disabilities that last longer than a few months.
The exact length is determined by the available options provided by the insurer, but it is often a minimum of three months.
Depending on the policy, benefits are paid out until you can work again, reach retirement age, or reach the expiration of a predetermined term.
Long-term disability insurance tends to have a longer elimination period. The elimination period is the waiting period between your injury or illness and the date that you can start receiving benefit payments. This period can range anywhere from one month all the way up to longer periods of two years.
The benefit you receive varies based on your specific insurance plan. The typical monthly benefit of a long-term policy covers between 40% and 60% of the policyholder’s gross salary.
According to the Social Security Administration, more than one in four Americans will face disability at some point in their career. If you’re the sole breadwinner for your family, as many physicians are, it is vital to protect your income with long-term disability insurance.
Short-term disability coverage is for disabilities that last up to a few months. The payout is typically higher than long-term disability and is usually around 60% to 70% of the policyholder’s salary.
The elimination period is relatively short with short-term policies. In some cases, it may be as little as two weeks.
A short-term disability will likely have less of a financial impact than a long-term disability. Yet many professionals find that the peace of mind that comes with short-term disability insurance is worth the investment.
Short-term disability insurance can be held in conjunction with a long-term policy. If you have both, you can enjoy the benefits of your short-term policy first, then start collecting your long-term benefits.
Because short-term policies tend to have shorter elimination periods, this is a great way to replace your income while you’re waiting out the elimination period of your long-term policy. By having both policies, you can also select a longer elimination period for your long-term policy, which will reduce the amount you pay in monthly premiums.
Social Security Disability Insurance is funded by taxpayers and controlled by the Social Security Administration. SSDI is typically very difficult to qualify for because of their stringent definition of disability.
The benefit amount with SSDI is significantly lower than a physician’s typical salary. The average monthly benefit in January 2019 was just $1,234 per month, and the maximum was $2,861.
Could your family afford your current lifestyle on less than $3,000 per month?
For most families, especially high-income households, the answer is no.
And while a benefit of even $1,234 per month could help cover some of your expenses, the definition of disability under SSDI is not beneficial to most physicians.
This is an extremely difficult threshold to meet, regardless of your line of work or current employment situation.
For these reasons and others, physicians should not rely on SSDI to protect their income should they become ill, injured, or disabled.
More on the various types of disability insurance here.
Disability insurance can be complicated. Before you choose a policy, make sure you understand the basic components, including the definition of disability and the differences between group policies and individual policies.
Every disability policy includes a definition of disability. The most common definitions are as true own-occupation and any occupation.
As a physician, it is crucial that your policy has the true own-occupation definition.
True-own occupation disability insurance protects you in the event you’re not able to do the duties of your own occupation. You can receive coverage even though you may be able to work in another area of medicine or a different career altogether.
Under this definition, if you’re not able to do the duties of your primary occupation, you will be eligible to receive a paycheck from the insurance company. You can receive benefits even if you’re earning an income from working in another specialty or profession.
This is important for physicians because while your injury may prevent you from specific duties, such as seeing patients or performing surgery, you may still be able to earn a portion of your income by working part-time doing research, focusing on administrative tasks, or teaching.
Without the true own-occupation definition, you will not be able to collect benefits if you are still able to do some of the functions of your job. With the true own-occupation definition, your “own occupation” is the current job that you were working while you became disabled or the job you held most recently prior to your disability.
The any occupation definition is much harder to meet. Under this definition, you must suffer a total disability and be injured or disabled in such a severe manner that you are unable to do any type of work at all. If you can work, even part time in a job that pays significantly less than you were earning, you will not be able to collect your monthly benefits.
The second most important feature to have is what’s called residual disability coverage. This feature provides protection in the event you become partially disabled but are still able to work in your primary specialty.
Residual disability coverage eliminates the “all or nothing” assumption regarding disability insurance. It does so by providing a partial benefit to you in the event you have a 15 or 20% reduction of income due to illness or injury. In order to qualify, you’ll need to be under the care of a physician.
For instance, if you have a disability that only allows you to work limited hours, residual disability insurance will cover part of your losses.
You’ll also need to determine if you want a group insurance policy or an individual plan. There are several distinctions between the two, and it is important to understand those differences before settling on one specific policy.
Group policies offer lower insurance premiums because they cover a large group of physicians. The more physicians enrolled in the policy, the more buying power you’ll have against the insurance company, and the less you’ll need to pay in premiums.
However, those lower payments also mean you’ll have less flexibility in the parameters of the policy itself. It is important to be aware of the many deficiencies in group disability insurance.
Group policies are typically offered by employers as part of a benefits package. Depending on the type of group policy your employer chooses, you may be limited as to your elimination period, coverage amount, coverage period, and optional riders. For this reason, it is best for physicians to choose an individual insurance policy.
In many cases, group disability insurance policies do not allow you to choose the true own-occupation definition. Without this definition, your policy won’t offer much protection, if any at all.
In addition to having limitations, group policies offered by your employer will end if you find a new employer. You cannot take employer group policies with you to a new employer.
Group policies are an attractive option for one key reason: they are significantly less expensive than individual policies. Physicians interested in a group policy that they can take with them from employer to employer may want to consider AMA disability insurance. The AMA offers a group policy specifically for physicians, yet most physicians agree that there are much better policies to choose from.
For more information about group policies, check out this post about AMA disability insurance.
At Physicians Thrive, we always recommend that physicians seek an individual disability insurance policy.
With an individual policy, you’ll pay higher premiums, but you’ll have more flexibility in terms of what the policy covers. You can change the terms of your policy when you need to. You can customize your plan with optional riders for additional coverage.
One of the best advantages of having an individual policy is that you can keep it regardless of where you work. This allows for a lifetime of continuity of coverage as well as the peace of mind knowing that you’ll always be protected.
Group coverage usually doesn’t offer that level of flexibility.
There are dozens of individual policies available in the insurance market. For guidance and advice on choosing the best policy, contact Physicians Thrive for more details.
Many employers provide disability insurance, but it usually isn’t enough to get you through tough financial times.
And here’s why:
If you quit or get fired from your job, you will lose your employer-sponsored disability insurance coverage. It’s the same as health insurance – regardless of how good your coverage may be, when you leave the job, the coverage ends.
So even if your employer provides disability insurance as a part of your benefits package, it’s best to have your own additional coverage that you can take with you from job to job.
With your own disability insurance, you can have maximum control of your monthly premiums and monthly benefits. You can also take advantage of riders that your employer’s policy may not cover.
Now is the best time to buy disability insurance.
Laying the groundwork toward financial health starts with disability insurance. At Physicians Thrive, we’re here to help find the plan that best fits your needs.
Fill out the form below and a member of our team will get in touch with you shortly.
Now that you understand the importance of disability insurance as a physician, you’re probably wondering where to get it.
We always suggest shopping around with different providers to ensure you are getting the best deal possible. If you have a trusted insurance agent or broker, contact them to see if they offer an assortment of disability insurance plans.
Alternatively, you can request a quote below, and we’ll provide multiple quotes from all of the top-tier companies.
You can’t wait until you need disability insurance to get it. By that time, it may be too late. To secure your financial assets, and protect yourself and your family, enroll in a disability insurance plan now.
The younger and healthier you are when you enroll, the less you’ll pay. Young, healthy physicians always pay less than older physicians or those who already have a medical condition.
But those aren’t the only factors that determine how much you’ll pay in monthly premiums. Your medical specialty also plays an important role. Doctors in certain specialties, specifically those with more hazardous or strenuous jobs, should expect to pay more.
Protect yourself early on to get the best rates and deals. With many insurance companies, you can even sign up for disability insurance as soon as you become an M4. This can work to your advantage because you can get the more preferable rates of an internal medicine specialty than what a critical care or invasive cardiologist would receive since their duties are more strenuous.
How much insurance you should buy depends on how much money you need to pay for your day-to-day living expenses and monthly bills. The lower your cost of living, the less coverage you’ll need to buy and the less you’ll need to spend each month in premiums.
Young, healthy physicians in their 30s can expect to pay about 2-6% of the monthly benefit. In other words, if you want a $10,000 per month payout, you’ll need to spend between $200 and $600 per month.
In general, most physicians spend 1% to 4% of their annual income on disability insurance.
More about how much disability insurance you need here.
There are a variety of factors that determine the cost of disability insurance. You can control some of these factors, such as your coverage amount and riders. Yet other factors, such as your gender, age, and health condition, are beyond your control.
Your gender and age are key factors in determining your insurability and how much you’ll pay in premiums. The older you are, the more you can expect to pay. In addition, women almost always pay more. This is due to the fact that women tend to file more claims and tend to be disabled for longer periods of time than men.
Your specialty is also a factor in determining how much you’ll pay for disability insurance. All insurance companies undergo a process for risk assessment, and some specialties, such as anesthesiologists, neurosurgeons, and ER physicians, are considered to be higher risk. This is due, in part, to the fact that these specialties include many manual duties and interventional procedures.
Disability insurance rates and policies vary from state to state, so where you live is also a factor. You can expect to pay more in states that have more insurance regulations as well as in states where physician salaries are higher.
All insurers will require you to undergo a medical examination. Pre-existing conditions and poor health conditions will increase the cost of your monthly premiums. Your medical history will always be taken into consideration before your policy is underwritten.
If you’re trying to keep your insurance premiums low, one of the things you can control is your coverage amount. The more you want to receive in benefits, the more you’ll pay each month. If you have a spouse that works or have significant savings or an emergency fund, you can reduce your monthly premiums by opting for less coverage.
Every rider you add will increase your monthly premium. Before you sign up for a disability insurance policy, determine which riders you need and know how they will affect your monthly payments. Oftentimes, the extra you’ll pay up front is well worth the return should you ever become disabled.
Your elimination period will also affect your monthly payments. The shorter the waiting period, the more it will cost you. If you have other sources of monthly income or a spouse that works, you can save money by choosing a longer elimination period.
The benefit period is the amount of time that you will be eligible to collect benefits. Benefit periods typically range from two years all the way to retirement age. The longer the benefit period, the more you’ll pay in monthly premiums.
Disability insurance policies include complex and sometimes confusing language. Before you decide which policy you want, there are a few things you’ll need to understand.
There’s no point in paying for disability insurance if it doesn’t provide benefits when you need them. Before you sign up for a policy, pay special attention to how it defines disability. You want the true own-occupation definition. With this definition, you can collect benefits as long as you cannot perform some of the duties of your specialty. You can also work in another job and still collect benefits.
Do not settle for a policy that has the any occupation definition. This definition has much more stringent terms and it is much harder to qualify to receive benefits.
It’s important to know whether the costs and monthly premiums are fixed at a specific rate or if they are variable. Variable costs may cost less per month to start but can increase over time.
Fixed costs make it easier to stick to your financial goals and budgets, as well as ensure that you won’t face exorbitant premiums in the future.
The waiting period is the time between the day you become disabled, and the day that you are eligible to start collecting benefits.
The longer the waiting period, the lower your premiums will be, but the longer it will take to start collecting monthly benefits.
Another thing to be aware of is how your paycheck from the insurance company or disability benefit is taxed.
If your employer pays for the disability insurance, which is usually the case, any benefit you receive is 100% taxable as ordinary income. This means that if you have a $10,000/month benefit, after you pay taxes, you may only actually be getting a benefit worth $6,500/month.
For this reason and many others, individual disability policies are usually the way to go when it comes to getting the coverage you need.
Disability benefits received from an individual insurance policy are tax-free. This provides dollar for dollar protection on any coverage you have through an individual policy.
Protecting your lifetime earnings potential is essential when it comes to financial planning.
We’ve highlighted a few of the things you need to be aware of regarding disability insurance for physicians, but there are many more.
If you have any questions or would like to go over the other things to know, connect with us and we can provide more information.
One important thing to know about your disability insurance policy is how long you have to file a claim. Many insurance companies have a 20-30 day time frame to file that starts on the date you suffered the disability.
No matter what policy you have, make sure you are well aware of the timeframe for filing.
In order to submit a disability claim, you’ll need to make sure you meet the definition of disability as outlined in your policy.
If you suffer an emergency or disability and are unclear about the terms of your policy, contact your insurer immediately.
Most insurance companies offer the option to add riders to your disability insurance policy. Riders provide you with additional benefits and extra measures of security, above and beyond your standard disability insurance payouts.
For every rider you add, you can expect to pay a little bit more in premiums each month, but many physicians find it worth the extra dollars. It all depends on what you need.
Some of the most common riders you can add include:
With this rider, you can earn benefits even if you’re not fully disabled.
If you suffer a partial disability and are able to work in a limited capacity, the residual disability rider helps to close the gap between how much you earned before your disability and how much you earn after your disability. The residual disability rider is a great way to protect yourself if and when you suffer a reduction or loss of earnings.
From the loss of speech, hearing or sight to the loss of the use of your hands and feet, this rider protects you in case of the worst circumstances. It also protects you if you can’t do day-to-day activities, such as bathing, eating, dressing, and using the restroom. This will provide an additional benefit on top of your regular monthly benefit.
With a retirement rider, your insurance company will put a percentage of your premium into a monthly retirement account.
This portion of your premium will go into a trust that will pay out once you are in retirement. It is a great way to continue to contribute to a retirement savings account, even when your income is reduced and you are only collecting disability benefits. With this rider, you can protect another key component of your earnings: the option to save for your retirement even when you are not earning income.
The COLA rider ensures that your benefit amount will increase in accordance with the rate of inflation.
This rider is extremely important, especially if you take out a policy when you’re young. As the Consumer Price Index increases with years, so will your monthly disability insurance benefit. This rider is a way to ensure that your benefit will grow as your earnings grow over the years.
If you become disabled or suffer a serious illness while you’re still paying off student loans, this rider can help you repay your debts.
If, for example, you buy a 15-year student loan rider and become disabled ten years in, you’ll receive enough to cover student loan repayments for the remaining five years.
If you initiate your disability plan while you’re still paying off student loan debt, this is an important rider to have. With the student loan rider, you won’t have to use a portion of your disability benefits to pay off those loans. Without it, you’ll need to pay those loans back from your income replacement benefits.
This rider affords you the option to increase benefits without having to undergo any health evaluations. Therefore you are guaranteed to be insurable at the time of increase so you don’t need to worry about being approved. You’ll only have to show your income has grown and is eligible for the increase.
Though there is usually a maximum amount attached, this allows you to increase benefits to keep pace with your income and for life events such as when you get married, have a child, etc.
Paying for the future increase option, or FIO, is critical for young physicians, as it protects future income you have not even earned yet. Without it, should you decide to increase your coverage, you’ll need to undergo a new medical evaluation and have a new policy underwritten based on your current health conditions.
Age and health are factors that contribute to your monthly premium. The older and less healthy you are, the more you’ll pay. Having this rider in place guarantees you the option to increase coverage without having to increase your monthly rates based on declining health and age.
Under some policies, this rider is referred to as the future purchase option.
The best approach is to get insurance through an independent agent, and better yet, a broker.
But how do you go about finding one?
Start by asking colleagues and professional groups for recommendations. Narrow your choices down to two or three and research those agents or brokers to find the one that’s best for you.
Regardless of the agent or broker you choose, you’ll need to apply for the insurance policy and undergo a medical examination. If you’re approved for disability insurance, the company will underwrite a policy and give you an offer. If you accept the offer, your policy will go into effect, and you’ll begin making payments so coverage can begin.
Physicians Thrive only works with the top own-occupation disability insurance providers.
It’s important to note that we don’t work for these companies. We recommend the best value option that meets our clients’ needs. It really depends on our client’s goal. Sometimes price is more important, but for others having the best contract is the priority.
Physicians Thrive works with physicians nationwide. Our advisors work independently as fiduciaries. They do not work with any one insurance company, so you’ll always get unbiased personal guidance.
For no extra cost to you, our advisors advocate for you for the life of your insurance policy. In case you need to increase your coverage, file a claim, or have questions about your policy at any time, we are here for you.
We are not tied to one insurance company. Instead, we have evaluated the leading companies and plans for their ability to adequately protect the unique needs of doctors.
We offer only those disability insurance plans we have deemed worthy of our endorsement. Since we can show you quotes across all companies, we are able to save you time and help you find options that fit your needs.
For over 30 years, our team of experts has served thousands of physicians at over 400 medical centers, hospitals, and medical schools. This includes doctors at over 1,000 residency and fellowship programs, encompassing all specialties. To date, we have prepared more than 52,000 quotes for physicians nationwide.
There are dozens of different insurance products and insurance providers in the market. At Physicians Thrive, we suggest that physicians choose a policy with one of the top providers. These are the best disability insurance companies, based on their coverage options and the fact that they offer the true own-occupation definition of disability:
Visit the Physicians Thrive blog to discover more provider reviews on disability insurance and life insurance companies (such as our review of Northwestern Mutual).
Our experts present all the options — not just the ones we want you to choose — so the freedom to choose the best policy is always at your discretion.
Plus, your insurance will follow you wherever the job market takes you.
When Physicians Thrive finds the lowest rate, you’ll know immediately so you can jump on exceptional insurance discounts.
Our experts work with top disability insurance companies to get as many quotes as possible.
As a client, you’ll never have to shop around—you can simply choose the option that works for you.
While injuries and disabilities are unpredictable, bills and financial obligations are not.
As a physician, it’s essential that you take the appropriate steps in protecting yourself from financial hardship. Don’t wait until it’s too late to take out a disability insurance policy. No matter how early you are in your career, the time to do so is now.
Research different insurance policies. Compare benefits and premiums. Consider optional riders, know the definition of disability, and understand the elimination periods.
Ready to protect yourself with disability insurance?
Get free disability insurance quotes now.
About the author
Now is the best time to buy disability insurance
Across the country, we’ve served thousands of physicians to ensure they receive the compensation they deserve and are not legally confined by and an unfair contract.
Laying the groundwork toward financial health starts with disability insurance. At Physicians Thrive, we’re here to help find the plan that best fits your needs.
Physicians Thrive has decades of experience helping doctors get the best coverage possible.
Our experts present all the options—not just the ones we want you to choose—so the freedom to choose the best policy for you is always at your discretion. Plus, your insurance will follow wherever the job market takes you.
When Physicians Thrive finds the lowest rate, you’ll know immediately so you can jump on exceptional insurance discounts.
Our experts work with top disability insurance companies to get as many quotes as possible so our clients never have to shop around—simply choose the option that works for you.