A Physician’s Guide to the Top Disability Insurance Companies

Physicians need disability insurance. Without it, a single illness or injury could significantly impact your financial security and your way of life.

Unfortunately, your employer’s group policy, employee benefits, and Social Security likely won’t be enough.

This article explains how to select a provider and the best disability insurance plan for you. Not only do we list our top picks for the best plans for physicians, but we’ll also discuss what to look for when choosing coverage.

Our disability insurance experts can help you find the best plan for you. Contact Physicians Thrive today to connect with one of our specialists.

What’s the Best Disability Insurance Plan for a Physician?

The best policy for you depends on your specific needs, but here are our picks for the companies offering the best disability insurance coverage:

  • MassMutual
  • Ameritas
  • Guardian
  • Principal
  • The Standard

We will discuss why these are our top picks for disability insurance later on in this article. But first, it’s important to discuss definitions of disability so that you know what to look for when choosing coverage. These definitions had a big impact on our choices above, so make sure to read the next section.

What to Look For in a Disability Insurance Policy

What to look for in a disability insurance policy

On average, most long-term disability policies pay between 40% – 60% of the policyholder’s gross salary until they can return to work, reach retirement age, or reach a predetermined end of the benefit period.

With so many plans, benefits, and riders available to you, it’s essential that physicians pick a disability insurance plan that covers a range of possibilities.

This is why disability insurance policies include a variety of terms and provisions that we’ll discuss ahead. In fact, there are four key factors to consider before selecting a provider.

It is vital to understand how these four elements of a disability policy will affect your coverage and your ability to collect benefits.

Definition of Disability

Every disability insurance policy includes a definition of disability. This is the way in which the insurers define what being disabled means.

To collect insurance benefits on your disability claim, you’ll need to prove that you are disabled. In other words, you’ll need to meet their definition of what disability is.

True Own-Occupation

True own-occupation is the preferred definition, as it’s the easiest to meet and the easiest to qualify for. Under this definition, you will be eligible to collect benefits if you can’t do some, all, or part of your current medical specialty.

With a true own-occupation policy, you can collect benefits even if you are able to work in some other job. As long as you can’t do the duties of your existing job, you can collect payouts.

Learn more about true own-occupation insurance in our Own-Occupation Disability Insurance Guide.

Any Occupation

Under the any-occupation definition, you need to have a critical illness or be so severely disabled that you are unable to work in any job whatsoever.

This is a hard standard to meet, and it is not preferable for physicians or high-income earners.


Because if your injury allows you to work in any job, even a low-paying job, you won’t be able to collect policy benefits.

Elimination Period

The elimination period is the time period between the day you become disabled and the day that you can start collecting benefits. Insurance providers offer elimination periods that range from as little as 30 days to as many as 720 days.

For example, the shorter the elimination period, the sooner you’ll be able to collect. However, the longer the waiting period is, you stand to benefit from lowering the cost of the policy since you won’t start receiving income until a later time.

Built-in Benefits

Accordingly, many insurance providers offer built-in benefits in the disability insurance cost. Before selecting your policy, be sure to compare the built-in benefits so you can get the most value for your money.

Some companies provide a presumptive total disability benefit. That means they will waive your elimination period if you lose limbs, sight, or hearing.

Furthermore, some companies offer a built-in COBRA benefit where they’ll cover your COBRA expenses for a period of time.

Other companies offer premium waivers where you won’t have to pay your premiums as long as you’re collecting benefits.

Every provider we are profiling today offers valuable built-in benefits.

Optional Riders

All insurance companies allow you to add optional riders to your policy. Every rider you add will increase your monthly premium, but they are well worth it. Riders are a way to get even more value out of your policy and be able to collect larger benefits or different benefits, depending on your needs.

Some of the most popular riders include:

  • COLA rider (cost of living adjustment) – automatically increases your monthly benefit based on inflation
  • FIO (future increase option) – allows you to increase your disability coverage as your salary increases over the years
  • Student loan repayment rider – covers student loan payments if you’re still paying off school debt at the time of your disability or injury

These riders, and others, provide additional benefits that help many physicians in the event of loss of income.

Related: What Is a Residual Disability Rider?

The Best Disability Insurance Companies

Dozens of insurance companies provide individual disability insurance. Mutual of Omaha, and Assurity are a few common options.

However, they do not do what the companies known as “The Big 5″ disability insurance companies do:

  • MassMutual
  • Ameritas
  • Guardian
  • Principal
  • The Standard

They’re recognized as the top providers for one main reason:

The Big 5 are the only providers that offer a true own-occupation definition of disability.

Moreover, that’s what most physicians are looking for.

Keep reading for an overview of the Big 5 providers and what they can offer you.

Get a free disability insurance quote today! It’s easy!

1. MassMutual

First, MassMutual has been in business since 1851. As one of the nation’s leading insurance providers, they have excellent financial ratings with both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s.

MassMutual The definition of disability is that of true own-occupation. This offers you the best option for eligibility if you become unable to do some, part, or all of your current job. Note that their definition of disability does not include the word “specialty” when defining your occupation.

They also offer a comprehensive and customizable disability income insurance plan called Radius Choice.

With a Radius Choice policy, you can enjoy a variety of built-in benefits, including:

  • The presumptive total disability benefit
  • The recurring disability benefit waives your elimination period if you file a claim related to a previous disability

MassMutual also allows policy owners to add a variety of riders, including:

  • The COLA rider
  • The FIO
  • The student loan rider
  • An extended partial disability benefit to collect partial benefits if you are able to work part-time

The Radius Choice policy is underwritten such that it includes many built-in benefits and offers optional riders so you can customize a plan that’s right for you and your loved ones.

2. Ameritas

Second, Ameritas, founded in 1887, is one of the nation’s leading insurers. In addition to disability, they offer a variety of insurance products and retirement planning services for Americans in every occupation.

With an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and Standard & Poor’s, you can trust Ameritas to provide protection when you need it most.

Physicians especially benefit from a Foundation disability insurance policy from Ameritas.

Built-in benefits include:

  • The COBRA premium benefit pays up to $1,000 per month towards your COBRA premium so you can maintain your current health insurance plan.
  • The good health benefit reduces your elimination by two days for every year that you don’t receive benefits.
  • The surgical transplant benefit waives your elimination period if you suffer a disability as a result of organ donation.

The Ameritas plan is fully customizable with multiple riders, such as:

  • The COLA rider
  • The FIO
  • The automatic increase rider automatically increases your benefit by 4% each year up to five years

With Ameritas, you can take advantage of a variety of built-in benefits, a range of optional riders, and the true own-occupation definition of disability.

3. Guardian Life Insurance Company of America

Third, Guardian issued their first insurance policy in 1860, and the company continues to be a reliable option for both disability and life insurance policies.

This provider has an A+ rating with the BBB and receives AA+ and A++ ratings from Standard & Poor’s and A.M. Best, respectively.

Guardian offers:

  • Short-term disability
  • Long-term disability
  • Individual disability income insurance
  • Group coverage
  • Supplemental disability insurance policies
  • Hospice care benefit that waives the elimination period if you need hospice care

Whether you’re looking for your first policy or wish to supplement employer group plan coverage, the variety of choices makes it ideal for physicians.

Furthermore, like all of the Big 5 companies, Guardian offers a true own-occupation definition of disability. They allow you to choose an elimination period between 30 and 720 days. Also, they provide policyholders with several built-in benefits.

Optional riders under a long-term disability policy include:

  • The COLA rider
  • The FIO
  • The student loan repayment rider

Built-in benefits allow for a waiver of your premium once a claim is approved.

With the addition of optional riders, Guardian makes it easy to customize the exact policy you’re looking for.

4. Principal

Fourth, Principal has been a leading insurance provider for over 140 years. For instance, they provide a variety of different insurance policies and financial services for individuals, investors, and businesses.

They have an A+ rating with the BBB and an A1 rating with Moody’s Investor Service. Also, the company is financially sound and stable, making it a safe choice for anyone looking for disability insurance.

Furthermore, Principal offers a true own-occupation definition of disability. However, it is called the regular occupation rider, and some physicians take issue with this.

This is because it does not say their underwriting considers your specialty as your own occupation. Yet, the company says it pays claims as though it does.

Accordingly, you can choose elimination periods between 30 and 365 days and enjoy non-cancelable and guaranteed renewable policies up to age 65.

Now, you can customize a Principal insurance policy with optional riders, and every plan includes built-in policy features.

Built-in features include:

  • A death benefit
  • A recurring disability benefit
  • A waiver of premium benefit

Optional riders include:

  • The catastrophic disability rider
  • The COLA rider
  • The short-term residual disability benefit rider (STRDB)
  • The benefit update rider allows you to increase benefits every three years

Additionally, with the STRDB, you can collect benefits even if you can still work but lose 20% or another portion of your income pre-disability.

Moreover, this rider is much different than what other companies offer for FIO. Beware that it requires you to increase, and you have to follow their exact process; otherwise, you forfeit your future insurability.

5. The Standard

Fifth, is the Standard, with an A rating from A.M Best and an A+ from the BBB,

In addition, the Standard is one of the largest insurance providers in the United States. Founded in 1906 as the Oregon Life Insurance Company, they have been a reliable and trusted provider of life insurance, disability insurance, and other financial services for over 100 years.

Furthermore, the Standard’s disability insurance, Platinum Advantage, offers a true own-occupation definition of disability and elimination periods that range from 30 to 365 days.

The Platinum Advantage plan and individual policies come with many built-in benefits, like:

  • A rehabilitation benefit to help you get back to work
  • A family care benefit that can supplement your living expenses when you need to care for an ill family member

Additionally, the Standard lets you customize your plan with important riders, including:

  • COLA
  • The catastrophic disability rider
  • Benefit increase rider
  • The premium waiver benefit
  • The student loan rider

Therefore, with a variety of built-in features, the Standard also includes optional riders so that you can customize the perfect long-term policy for your needs.

Learn more about disability insurance in our Full Guide to Disability Insurance.

Find a Reliable Agent to Help You Select Disability Insurance

Physician disability insurance agents
Now, consider that your employer’s group disability plan is likely not enough to support you in the event you develop an injury or medical condition that impairs your ability to work. Nonetheless, don’t forget that employer disability plans rarely ever pay full disability benefits. This is because their criteria to have a claim become payable is very steep compared to an individual policy.

Moreover, the best way to find top-quality disability insurance is to enlist the services of insurance agent specialists who will compare policies and quotes for you.

Therefore, if you’re ready to protect your finances with disability insurance, contact Physicians Thrive for guidance on how to proceed.

Physicians Thrive can also help you select life insurance. Learn more here!

Overall, the key takeaway is this:

As a high-income earner, it’s important to have a disability insurance policy that offers a true own-occupation definition of disability.

The “Big 5” companies that offer this are:

  • MassMutual
  • Ameritas
  • Guardian
  • Principal
  • Standard

Furthermore, there’s no reason to pay insurance premiums unless you are able to collect your monthly benefit amount when you need it.

And this is about more than peace of mind.

Remember, Physicians Thrive can guide you toward a policy that will give you the long-term disability insurance coverage you need and deserve.

In conclusion, see our Disability Insurance Guide for more information, and contact us to help you find a policy that meets your individual needs.

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