An unexpected disability can financially cripple you. Let’s say that you fall and break your leg over the weekend. The injury is inconvenient and painful, sure, but perhaps most important is the fact that you’ll be unable to return to work for at least six weeks.
If the injury didn’t occur on the job, you won’t be covered by workers’ comp. While your health insurance policy will pay for your medical care, they can’t do anything for your lost wages in the coming weeks. If you typically make $2,000 a week, that’s $12,000 in missed income; does your family have the savings necessary to cover that loss?
If you had the right disability coverage, you could be protected against lost income while you’re unable to work. This coverage enables you to recover from an illness or injury without worrying as much about missed work. While some employers offer disability insurance as part of employee benefits, many people opt to buy personal policies to make sure they are always covered.
We reviewed the best disability insurance so that you know what to look for when buying coverage and how the right policy can protect you and your loved ones.
The 5 Best Disability Insurance of 2020
Best Overall: Guardian
Guardian wins our best overall disability insurance category because they offer a wide range of disability insurance options to meet your needs. They offer long- and short-term disability insurance policies in addition to both individual and supplemental coverage, with some form of coverage available in all 50 states. There is also a variety of riders that can be included in your policy for truly personalized coverage, with online quotes available for many.
Long-term, short-term, individual, and supplemental coverage options are available
Choose from a number of riders, including student loan payment protection
Supplemental disability coverage is available without a medical exam
Online quotes are available in most states and for many professions
Group disability coverage maxes out at 60% of your income
May not be the most affordable option for blue-collar employees, as Guardian tends to market services to professionals
While you may be able to get a quote online, you’ll need to work directly with a representative in order to finalize and purchase coverage
Guardian, a New York-based insurer, has roots that go all the way back to 1860, and they have been writing policies to protect employees and individuals ever since. The company offers a variety of disability insurance options across all 50 states and boasts an AM Best rating of A++ (Superior) for financial stability—the best rating available.
Through employers, Guardian offers short- and long-term disability income insurance. If you are self-employed or otherwise aren’t able to purchase coverage through your workplace—or simply want additional protection—Guardian also offers individual and supplemental disability insurance. There are many riders to choose from, such as student loan payment protection, that offer added peace of mind, which is why Guardian rises to the top of our list.
Guardian disability insurance is available to professionals, laborers, and those in either the medical or dental fields. Blue-collar workers can purchase a policy through Guardian, though the company is definitely more geared toward professionals. As always, you’ll want to be sure to shop around a bit before committing to your coverage to ensure that you’re getting the best possible price.
Coverage limits and limitations will vary depending on the type of policy you choose and whether it’s through your employer or not. However, Guardian offers long-term disability coverage with elimination periods ranging from 30 to 720 days, and with coverage lasting either two years, five years, 10 years, or up to age 65.
You may be able to get a quote online, depending on your occupation and location, but purchasing coverage will require you to contact a Guardian representative. Medical exams are not required if buying supplemental disability coverage (you’ll just need to answer three yes/no questions), but will likely be required if buying any other type of policy.
As with any insurance product, the cost for a Guardian disability policy depends on your personal factors as well as the amount of coverage requested. For a 35-year-old, female registered nurse in Virginia, however, up to $5,000 in monthly coverage could be provided through age 65 for about $290 a month.
Best Short-Term Disability Insurance: Mutual of Omaha
Short-term disability insurance policies through Mutual of Omaha offer coverage from the first day of your disability (zero-day elimination period) with a benefit period of up to 24 months. Each policy includes a number of built-in benefits that other insurers may not offer, in addition to letting you choose from several optional riders—all of which is why we chose Mutual of Omaha as best for short-term disability insurance.
Elimination period from zero to 90 days, offering you coverage from the beginning of your disability
Benefit period up to 24 months
Premiums remain level through age 67
Short-term policies are all guaranteed renewable
Waiver of premium only kicks in once you’ve been disabled for 90 days
Maximum monthly benefit of $5,000
Only available for employees who work 30+ hours per week
You’ll need to purchase coverage through an agent
In addition to robust short-term disability insurance policies, Mutual of Omaha also offers long-term disability and accident-only coverage, for groups as well as individuals. The company has been providing trusted insurance products since 1909 and holds an A+ (Superior) financial stability rating from AM Best.
Online quotes are available for those with a range of occupations, from laborers to executives. Unlike many other disability insurers, Mutual of Omaha does not seem to cater to those in the medical or dental fields, preferring instead to offer coverage to a variety of industries.
Short-term disability base policies come with many helpful benefits already built-in, giving it an edge over the competition. These include:
- partial disability benefit (a 50% disability benefit for up to six months, if you are unable to complete more than half of your usual workday)
- waiver of premium (policy premiums are waived if you’re disabled for 90 days or more)
- guaranteed renewable (your policy cannot be canceled before age 67 as long as you pay your premiums on time)
- rehabilitation benefit (get vocational rehabilitation expenses covered by Mutual of Omaha)
We found that short-term disability insurance coverage for a 35-year-old, female office professional (non-smoker) would run about $150 a month. Benefits would max out at $5,000 per month and coverage would kick in after just 30 days.
While you can quickly get a quote for short-term coverage online, you will need to connect with an agent in order to move forward with buying a policy.
Best Long-Term Disability Insurance: Breeze
Thanks to a 100% online application and underwriting process, which makes buying long-term disability coverage easier than ever, Breeze snags the top spot for best long-term disability insurance. Buying coverage can take only minutes, there are no doctor’s visits for most applicants, and individual long-term coverage starts as low as $9 a month.
Online application takes as little as 10 minutes to complete
An immediate decision—and instant coverage—is available to eligible applicants
Coverage starts at only $9 per month
Monthly premiums are waived as soon as disability coverage kicks in
Policies are non-cancelable and guaranteed renewable until age 65 or 67 (depending on your policy)
Breeze is a new company, so there isn’t much in terms of history or feedback to reference
Short-term coverage is not offered
You’ll need to put a credit card on file in order to move forward with your application
The shortest elimination period available is 30 days
Medical exams are required for some applicants
While the field of insurtech has been around for a while now, disability insurance wasn’t really part of the conversation until Breeze came into the picture in 2019. This company is putting a modern spin on individual long-term disability coverage, offering a 100% online application process and automated medical underwriting.
Applying takes about 10 minutes through a computer or mobile device, making it stand out among the competition. Many applicants will even get an immediate decision with the option for instant coverage.
Elimination periods are available for 30, 60, 90, 180, or 365 days, with benefits lasting one year, two years, five years, 10 years, or through age 65/67 (depending on your policy terms). Coverage typically maxes out at 60% of your salary, as well.
Breeze is known for being a “no medical exam” insurer, but paramedical appointments actually are required for some applicants; it just depends on how much coverage you want and how old you are. For example, if you are between the ages of 18 and 50 and looking for $4,001+ in monthly coverage, you will need to submit to a medical exam.
Though Breeze does offer some very affordable coverage options, you’ll probably pay more than the advertised $9 per month, especially if you want more coverage. For instance, a 35-year-old, female independent contractor, who works as a media professional in Virginia, would pay around $195 per month for a $5,000 monthly benefit.
Best for High-Risk Occupations: Assurity
While many other companies shy away from those in high-risk professions, Assurity offers affordable disability income insurance for professions ranging from electrician to timberman. Coverage up to $20,000 is available with elimination periods as low as zero days, depending on your policy.
Elimination period ranging from 30 to 365 days—even zero days in certain cases
Policies are guaranteed renewable
Coverage can be conditionally renewed through age 75 if still working full time
Coverage cannot be purchased online; you’ll need to speak with an agent first
Traditional medical underwriting process, which can be more involved and time-consuming
Non-cancelable rider available, but this protection is not included in the base policy
Buying disability insurance can be tricky if you work in a high-risk profession; since you are put in more dangerous situations each day at work, you pose a greater risk to the insurer. High-risk occupations could include (but are not limited to) things like construction, electrical work, timber work, machinery operations, and more.
Assurity offers long-term individual disability income insurance within a range of occupations. If you work in a high-risk field, however, you may find that Assurity is both one of your few options for coverage, as well as one of the most affordable, making it best for high-risk occupations.
Individual policies are offered with elimination periods of 30, 60, 90, 180, or 365 days, and up to $20,000 in total benefits. If you are offered short-term group disability coverage through your workplace, the elimination period could range from zero to 30 days.
The company was founded in 1890 and carries an A- (Excellent) financial strength rating from AM Best.
While many insurers have moved on to automated underwriting and data analytics, Assurity still uses a traditional medical underwriting process. Because this includes a human touch—and may involve requests for medical history and records—it can be more lengthy and time-consuming.
Though you cannot buy coverage online (and will need to speak with an agent instead), you can get a quote online that includes your selected policy options and riders. We found that a 35-year-old electrician in Virginia could get up to $3,150 in monthly benefits for about $69 a month.
Best for Non-Cancelable: The Standard
The Standard offers short- and long-term disability income insurance options with a slew of benefits, including optional non-cancelable coverage. They also offer an exclusive family care benefit (which can be used more than once) that protects you if you need to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
Both short- and long-term disability options available
Family care benefit can be utilized twice during the life of the policy
Policy features include rehabilitation and survivor benefits
Optional student loan payment rider can be added
Covers up to 70% of your income
The non-cancelable feature is an optional rider
Individual disability coverage not available in Wyoming
Elimination periods start at 60 days
Founded in 1906, The Standard has been providing insurance coverage to Americans for more than a century. The company offers a few different insurance products, including both long- and short-term coverage for groups and coverage for individuals. The Standard holds an AM Best financial strength rating of A (Excellent) and it was one of the first insurers to implement a waiver of premium on a policy.
Disability insurance through The Standard has elimination periods ranging from zero to seven days for short-term coverage, and 60 to 360 days for long-term. Short-term disability coverage is available for up to one year. Long-term benefit periods are either two years, five years, 10 years, or through age 65 (or 67, depending on your policy terms).
While the non-cancelable feature is an exceptional added rider, there are many benefits that are included with The Standard’s disability policies at no charge. These include the Family Care Benefit (if you work 20% fewer hours, resulting in a 20% or more loss in income, due to caring for a family member), and the rehabilitation benefit (covering eligible rehabilitation expenses so you can return to work sooner). The Standard’s commitment to keeping you covered regardless of life events helps it win the non-cancelable category.
You can easily get an estimated quote for coverage through The Standard’s website. However, if you are ready to purchase coverage, you’ll need to speak with one of their agents directly. A medical exam may also be required in order to finalize your policy.
What Is Disability Insurance?
If you are injured or get sick and cannot work, disability income insurance can help with monthly benefits to cover things like groceries, car payments, and even the mortgage. Unlike workers’ compensation insurance, disability insurance covers illnesses and injuries that are not work-related.
Disability insurance coverage can be short- or long-term and can be purchased through the workplace or individually. If something happens and you have to use this coverage down the line, benefits received would be considered tax-free.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Disability Insurance
When many people think of the word “disabled,” they think of a lifelong or debilitating condition, perhaps even one that would prevent you from ever working again. However, an unexpected disability can come in many forms and is often temporary in nature.
Short-term disability insurance is intended to provide coverage for those temporary illnesses, injuries, and conditions that would keep you out of work—or from working at your usual pace—for a brief while, but aren’t permanent. Short-term disability insurance can also protect your income while you’re waiting for long-term coverage to kick in if a condition is more permanent in nature.
While short-term disability benefits can last up to two years, many only cover you for three to six months. Examples of conditions that could be covered by a short-term disability insurance policy include:
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Injuries such as a broken leg or back
- Joint problems
- Mental health or nervous system issues
- Organ donation
Short-term benefits often have waiting periods of 14 days or less before they kick in, depending on the policy, though some don’t have a waiting period at all.
Then there is long-term disability insurance. This coverage is designed to help replace your income for a greater period of time if your injury, illness, or condition is longer-lasting.
These policies have a longer elimination period—ranging from one month to two years before coverage will kick in—but benefits typically last somewhere between two and 10 years. Depending on the policy you purchase, coverage may even be available through retirement age (65 to 67).
Depending on the policy, your long-term disability insurance could cover things like:
- Injuries stemming from a fall, car accident, etc.
- Musculoskeletal diseases
- Mental health issues
What Is Not Covered by Disability Insurance?
Disability insurance coverage has its limitations and does not cover every situation. For instance, disability insurance will not cover long-term care needs; for that, you’d need to buy a long-term care insurance policy.
Disability insurance also won’t typically cover your actual medical care, even if the illness or injury qualifies you for disability coverage. Instead, you would call on your existing health insurance policy when it came to paying said medical bills.
If you have pre-existing conditions, you may have trouble getting approved for disability insurance. This is especially true when shopping for short-term individual policies. Pre-existing exclusions include things like pregnancy, chronic illness, or even diabetes.
What Is the Best Type of Disability Insurance?
The best type of disability insurance is the one that best meets your personal needs. Policies are offered to individuals or as group plans through an employer. Coverage options are either short- or long-term, and both are valuable depending on whether your illness or injury is temporary or not.
If you already have a group, long-term policy through your workplace, it might be wise to add supplemental or individual short-term coverage on your own. This will help bridge the gap between when your disability occurs and when your existing coverage kicks in, and may also offer other benefits such as student loan repayment protection.
How Do I Choose Disability Insurance?
There are many factors to consider when choosing a disability insurer. If your employer offers a group short- or long-term disability insurance option, that may be an affordable option to consider. Of course, you can also purchase individual and/or supplemental coverage on top of that, to further protect yourself and your income.
When choosing a disability insurance policy, you’ll want to look at the elimination period options, benefit coverages offered, available riders, and whether the policy is non-cancelable. In some cases, you might also want to consider whether a medical exam will be required and if you can buy coverage online or if you’ll need to chat with an agent.
What Does Disability Insurance Cost?
As with any insurance policy, the cost for disability insurance policies will vary widely based on the type of coverage purchased, benefits selected, your age, your income, your occupational risk class, and even the elimination period chosen.
In our research, we found that $5,000 in monthly disability insurance coverage for a 35-year-old female could run anywhere from $95 to $290 per month. Your own experience—based on your own preferences and personal details—may differ.
How We Chose the Best Disability Insurance
We compared more than 15 disability insurers before picking the best for each category. In doing so, we compared not only the products offered but also pricing, the ease of getting a quote and then buying coverage, options for benefits, and how quickly coverage would kick in (elimination period).
Of course, it was also important to choose insurers with a strong history of claims satisfaction, trusted coverage, and financial stability. We looked at data from the NAIC, BBB, and AM Best in that analysis.