If you were to get injured or become ill, your ability to work and earn a full income could be impacted. Without your usual paycheck, how long would it take for your household finances to suffer?
According to a LifeHappens.org survey, most of us would feel the pinch pretty quickly. In fact, seven out of 10 Americans could make it a single month or less, while one in four would be affected immediately. Considering that a simple broken bone can take six to eight weeks to heal, and a serious illness or injury could easily affect you for six to 12 months (or more), it’s clear that a safety net of some kind is needed for your income.
Enter short-term disability insurance (STD). This type of coverage protects a portion of your income for a short period of time, such as if you are hurt, sick, or even recovering from the birth of a child. Coverage typically lasts between six and 12 months, with benefits that begin immediately in some cases.
To help you shop around, we compared more than 10 companies to select the best short-term disability insurance policies. Factors we considered include price, availability, coverage limits, and the length of time required before benefits are available. Here is what we found.
The 4 Best Short-Term Disability Insurance of 2020
Best Overall: Mutual of Omaha
Taking the top spot for best overall short-term disability insurance coverage is Mutual of Omaha. This insurer provides up to 24 months of benefits (much longer than many other companies allow), with some policies offering coverage from the very first day of your eligible disability. Monthly benefits are available up to $5,000, and policies can be issued through age 61.
Benefit periods range from three to 24 months
Maximum monthly benefit of $5,000
Elimination periods between zero and 90 days
Generous built-in policy benefits
Losses resulting from mental or nervous disorders are excluded
Partial disability benefits only available for up to six months, regardless of overall policy length
Policies must be purchased through an agent
Mutual of Omaha has been around since 1909, when it first started offering health and accident insurance coverage. The company has an A+ (Excellent) financial strength rating from AM Best and offers insurance coverage across the country, though not all policies are available in all states.
Short-term disability coverage through Mutual of Omaha is some of the most comprehensive and benefit-rich around, which is why we chose them as the overall best provider. Coverage maxes out at $5,000 per month, with benefit periods ranging anywhere from three months to as long as 24 months. Elimination periods are available in more typical lengths (30, 60, and 90 days), but the company also offers immediate coverage with 0/7-day and 0/14-day (accident/sickness) options.
Mutual of Omaha’s STD policies are portable and can be taken with you even if you change jobs. They also come full of built-in benefits such as partial disability coverage, waiver of premium, guaranteed renewability, and rehabilitation coverage. If you want even more out of your policy, you can add a critical illness benefit, return of premium rider, or hospital confinement benefit.
Additionally, you can opt for Mutual of Omaha’s Priority Income Protection policy, which offers up to 36 months of benefits without a medical exam. With guaranteed acceptance, 30- to 90-day elimination period, and monthly coverage up to $4,000, this basic policy can offer protection no matter your occupation.
While you can quickly get a basic quote for Mutual of Omaha disability coverage online, it doesn’t allow for much customization. You’ll need to contact an agent in order to further personalize your coverage and purchase the policy. With that said, we found that a 35-year-old woman with an office job, looking for $3,000 in monthly benefits and a 90-day elimination period, could purchase coverage for about $36 a month.
Best for Quick Issue and Simple Underwriting: Assurity
If you’re searching for short-term disability income insurance that can be obtained quickly and without arduous underwriting, Assurity sets itself apart from the competition. They offer a guaranteed four-day issue for qualified applicants with minimal medical underwriting requirements.
Benefit periods from six to 24 months
Coverage available up to $3,000 per month
Many features included at no charge, with a variety of additional riders available
Quick, simple application with a four-day- guarantee on qualified applications
Full and partial disability coverage
Not available in New York
Though broad, only two occupational classes are accepted
Policies only issued through age 59
Online quotes are limited and policies can only be purchased through an agent
Assurity’s Simplified Disability Income Insurance is our top choice for those looking for a feature-rich policy with quick issue and simple underwriting. It provides between six and 24 months of coverage whether you are totally or partially disabled. Coverage is offered from $300 up to $3,000 (maxing out at 60% of your monthly income) with elimination periods of 30, 60, 90, or 180 days.
Renewability is guaranteed through age 67 and conditional up to age 71, and a waiver of premium is included at no additional charge. Optional coverages include a critical illness benefit rider, return of premium rider, and retroactive injury benefit rider. In order to add these options—and purchase the policy that suits you best—you’ll need to consult a local Assurity agent, as coverage cannot be purchased online.
The Simplified Disability Income Insurance policy is only offered to two occupation classes, which include professional/office occupations (such as pharmacists, accountants, sales clerks, biologists, and more) as well as skilled and unskilled manual occupations (like electricians, plumbers, farmers, mechanics, custodians, crane operators, and the like). While these categories are pretty broad, the acceptance of only two classes may be limiting to some applicants.
This particular Assurity policy is touted as a quick, simple product. They offer a four-day issue guarantee for qualified applicants and medical underwriting is limited to a medical history/prescription drug check and a potential telephone interview (ages 30+ requesting $2,000+ in monthly coverage). Only in certain cases will a physician’s statement be requested.
Assurity has been providing trusted coverage since 1890 and they currently hold an A- (Excellent) financial strength rating from AM Best.
Best for Long Coverage Period: State Farm
While many other short-term disability insurance companies limit your coverage to as few as three or six months, State Farm offers short-term disability policies with three-year benefit periods. This earns them our nod for the best company if you are looking for a longer coverage period.
Coverage is offered in one- and three-year benefit periods
Benefits range from $300 to $3,000
Simple application process
Available in 47 states
Quotes and policies only available through an agent
No normal childbirth or pregnancy coverage
No coverage for complications from cosmetic surgery
Founded in 1922, State Farm first set down roots in the auto insurance world. The company has since expanded, now offering a variety of insurance options to customers across the country, including short-term disability coverage.
State Farm currently holds an A++ (Superior) financial strength rating from AM Best, the highest rating available. Their short-term disability insurance policies are offered in 47 states (excluding Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island). They also boast a simple application process that provides you with coverage faster than ever.
Short-term disability insurance through State Farm provides between $300 and $3,000 in monthly coverage, depending on your occupation and current income, and elimination periods are 30, 60, or 90 days. Benefit periods are streamlined with either one- or three-year options available, but the latter earns them our review's top spot if you’re looking for longer coverage.
There are some important exclusions to keep in mind with State Farm; for instance, pregnancy and childbirth are not considered covered situations. However, if you have a pregnancy- or childbirth-related complication (that is diagnosed by a physician), you may be eligible for coverage. Additionally, while some policies will cover you for complications stemming from cosmetic procedures, this is not the case with State Farm (the exception being if it is a reconstructive surgery following a trauma, disease, or infection).
You cannot purchase a policy, or even get a quote for coverage, through the State Farm website. Instead, you’ll need to contact a local agent if you want to learn more about the riders and available options in your area or build a personalized policy.
Best for Self-Employed: LifePreserve
The individually owned policies from LifePreserve make it simple for business owners and other self-employed individuals to purchase short-term disability coverage. This makes LifePreserve our top choice if you need to buy short-term disability coverage but are unable to go through an employer or buy from a group plan.
You can get a quote online in about five minutes
Flexible coverage limits from $300 to $2,000
All Income Protection Plans have a 14-day elimination period
An income drop of only 20% is required for benefits to kick in
Policies are underwritten by Principal
Coverage limits may not be enough for high-earners
Benefits are only provided for up to six months
You’re required to work at least 20 hours a month for any one employer
Not available everywhere
Common conditions are excluded from coverage
If you’re looking for simple income protection coverage that can be purchased in minutes online, without needing to go through an employer or buy into a group plan, LifePreserve has earned our top spot among the self-employed. Policies from LifePreserve are underwritten by Principal Life Insurance Company, a trusted name since 1879 that carries an A+ financial strength rating from AM Best.
Coverage is available in 44 states (California, Florida, Montana, North Dakota, New York, and Wyoming excluded) to working individuals between 18 and 59 years old. All LifePreserve Income Protection plans include a 14-day waiting (elimination) period with up to six months of benefits. Renewals are guaranteed through age 65, and policies offer between $300 and $2,000 in monthly benefits, depending on your income.
As long as you work 20 or more hours for any one employer, you are eligible for a disability insurance plan through LifePreserve. They make it easy to get a quote and submit an application even if you’re a business owner or self-employed, which isn’t the case with all insurers. If you are a freelancer who works only a few hours a month with each client, however, you may not be able to purchase coverage.
With LifePreserve, your disability insurance coverage can kick in as soon as you experience a covered income drop of only 20%. That means that you can earn up to 80% of your typical income and still take advantage of your policy’s benefits.
If you are purchasing short-term disability insurance to protect your income after a pregnancy or childbirth, you’ll want to look elsewhere; unless there are complications for which you require a physician’s care, LifePreserve will not offer standard postpartum coverage. Income loss due to certain mental and nervous system conditions is also excluded.
It’s simple to get a quote online, which takes about five minutes. Medical questions are basic and include things like tobacco use, recently missed work, scheduled/recommended medical procedures, declined or revised life insurance coverage, and current disability status.
If you are happy with your quote, you can purchase the coverage with only a few clicks. We found that for a 35-year-old female copywriter in Virginia, who is a non-smoker with no notable medical history, $2,000 in coverage would cost about $65 a month.
What Is Short-Term Disability Insurance?
If you are injured or become ill and are unable to earn your usual income, short-term disability insurance can help protect you financially. This coverage starts after a specific period of disability (called a waiting period, or elimination period) and pays you a percentage of your income each month.
Short-term disability income insurance is intended to cover temporary disabilities, such as recovery from childbirth or the healing of a broken bone. It can also be used to provide interim coverage while you wait for your employer’s long-term disability coverage to kick in, which may have a much longer elimination period.
You’ll typically find that short-term disability insurance covers a period of around three months to two years, depending on the provider and policy chosen. If you need more coverage than that, you should consider purchasing long-term disability income insurance.
Should You Get Short-Term Disability?
No one expects to become disabled, but the truth is that one in four working Americans will be disabled at some point before they reach retirement age. That could mean a total disability (where you are unable to work at all) or a partial disability (where you simply can’t work as much or as often) and could be due to anything from an unexpected illness to recovery from a car accident.
No matter what your injury or illness looks like, though, short-term disability insurance should be a consideration if you don’t already have six to 12 months worth of expenses saved in an emergency fund. If you would be unable to cover your mortgage, car payment, or buy groceries without your usual income—especially for half a year or more—short-term disability may be worth the cost.
What Does Short-Term Disability Insurance Exclude?
As the name implies, short-term disability income insurance is intended to provide coverage for a brief period of time, usually two years or less. It will replace a percentage of your income, up to the maximum benefit of your policy, once you meet the required waiting period.
Pre-existing conditions are not covered by short-term disability insurance in many cases; when they are, it’s usually only after 12 months or more has passed since the policy went into effect. Short-term disability coverage also won’t provide medical care or long-term care.
What Is the Difference Between Short-Term Disability and FMLA?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a helpful regulation that allows employees to take leave if they are ill, injured, or need to care for a family member, without fear of losing their job in the process. FMLA is not paid leave, however, and only protects your position at your place of work for up to 12 weeks.
On the other hand, short-term disability insurance does provide paid coverage if you need to take leave due to an injury or illness. The exact financial coverage and benefit period that your short-term disability coverage will offer depends on the exact policy you purchase.
What Does Short-Term Disability Insurance Cost?
As with most insurance products, the cost of short-term disability income insurance will depend on your personal factors. Your occupation and its included hazards will be considered, as will your medical history, age, and things like tobacco use.
Your cost for short-term disability insurance will also be affected by the exact policy you choose. The shorter the elimination period, the higher the benefits, and the longer the benefit period, the more you can expect to pay.
With that said, we requested multiple short-term disability insurance quotes and found that, on average, a 35-year-old female office worker could expect to pay around $50 a month for $3,000 in monthly income protection coverage.
How We Chose the Best Short-Term Disability Insurance
To determine the best short-term disability income insurance, we looked at all of the companies offering individual policies. While many insurers offer short-term coverage, it’s typically through the workplace in the form of group policies; these policies are often forfeited if you leave that job, and the terms of coverage can vary greatly depending on your employer and what they are willing to provide/cover.
When comparing insurance companies for this list, we looked at the availability of individual policies, coverage limits, and benefit periods offered. We also compared consumer reviews, financial strength ratings, and the ease of obtaining coverage.