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If you were to get injured or become ill, how long could you go without your usual paycheck? According to the 2020 Insurance Barometer Study by LIMRA and Life Happens, 63% of Americans couldn't make it six months before financial hardship set in, and 14% would be affected immediately. A serious illness or injury could affect you for six to twelve months or more, and short-term disability (STD) insurance can provide the safety net you need.
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 as soon as 14 days after disability onset.
To help you shop around, we compared more than 10 companies to select the best short-term disability insurance policies. Factors considered include price, availability, coverage limits, and the length of time required before benefits are available. Here is what we found.
Best Overall : Mutual of Omaha
Benefit periods range from six months to 10 years
Maximum monthly benefit of $20,000
Generous built-in policy benefits
No-exam underwriting available for some applicants
Coverage for mental or nervous disorders is limited without purchasing an additional rider
Partial disability benefits cost extra
Must contact an agent to apply
Taking the top spot for best overall short-term disability insurance coverage is Mutual of Omaha. This insurer provides up to 10 years of benefits (much longer than many other companies allow), with some policies offering coverage as soon as 30 days after your eligible disability. Monthly benefits are available up to $20,000, and policies can be issued through age 61.
Mutual of Omaha has been around since 1909 and has an A+ (Superior) financial strength rating from AM Best. It 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. Policies come full of built-in benefits, such as a survivor benefit, waiver of premium benefit, guaranteed renewability, rehabilitation coverage, and up to six weeks of leave for maternity. Elimination periods are available in lengths of 30, 60, and 90 days. Longer elimination periods of 180, 365, and 730 days are also available.
Mutual of Omaha’s STD policies are portable and can be taken with you even if you change jobs. If you want even more out of your policy, you can add riders such as return of premium, mental or nervous and substance abuse extension, cost-of-living adjustment, and more.
Best for Financial Stability : State Farm
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
Maximum benefit up to $3,000 per month
Besides Mutual of Omaha, State Farm is the only provider to offer short-term disability benefit periods as long as three years. Short-term disability insurance through State Farm provides between $300 and $3,000 in monthly coverage, depending on your occupation and current income.
Founded in 1922, 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 (not available in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island). They also boast a simple application process that provides you with fast coverage.
There are some important exclusions to keep in mind with State Farm; for instance, there’s limited coverage for mental or nervous disorders, and no coverage for complications stemming from cosmetic procedures, unlike some other providers. State Farm doesn’t offer optional riders either.
You cannot purchase a policy or get a quote for coverage online through the State Farm website. Instead, you’ll need to contact a local agent for a quote and policy details.
Best for Shortest Elimination Period : Haven
14-day elimination period available
100% digital application process
Affordable premiums starting at less than $10
Policies issued by MassMutual, an A++ (Superior) rated insurer
Maximum issue age is 55
Maximum benefit period of 12 months
Not available in all states
Haven offers the shortest elimination period of the companies we reviewed that offer STD insurance to individuals. You can choose an elimination period of 14 days, 30 days, or 60 days and a benefit period of three, six, or 12 months. Policies are guaranteed renewable until age 65, and policies are generally affordable.
Plus, you can get a quote and apply directly from Haven’s website for an instant coverage decision. We also appreciate the information, ease of use, and transparency the Haven website provides. Though Haven is a young company, policies are backed by MassMutual, which has an A++ (Superior) financial strength rating from AM Best, which is the highest possible.
There are some limitations to Haven’s policy, however. The maximum benefit period is one year and the maximum monthly benefit is $5,000 or 60% of your income, so higher income individuals may be better served by Mutual of Omaha. What’s more, you’ll need to go with another company if you’re over 55 or live in CA, DE, FL, MT, ND, NY, SD, or WY.
Best for Family Medical Leave : Breeze
Family medical leave covered for up to 3 months
No medical exams or income verification required
Childbirth benefit available
Can choose accident & illness or accident-only policy
Get a quote and apply online
No option to choose your elimination period
Not available in California or New York
If you add Breeze’s family care rider, which is a low-cost endorsement, you can get coverage for up to 3 months in unpaid leave for regular childbirth, adoption, or the care of a family member. That said, 1099 workers are only eligible for the childbirth benefit. Most other individual short-term disability providers we reviewed exclude normal pregnancy, although Mutual of Omaha provides up to six weeks of benefits. You can also get a quote and apply for a policy with Breeze entirely online.
Breeze only offers up to $1,000 in weekly benefits, so higher income individuals may want to choose another company. And Breeze’s premiums are more costly than Haven’s for comparable coverage, but you have the option to get an accident-only policy from Breeze at a fraction of the cost. You can’t choose your elimination period. However, you can select a 13-week benefit period, which comes with a 14-day elimination period; or a 26-week, one-year, or two-year benefit period, which comes with a 30-day elimination period.
Breeze policies are underwritten by Assurity, which has an A- (Excellent) financial strength rating with AM Best. Policies are currently not available in New York or California.
Mutual of Omaha will be the best option for people who need a high monthly coverage amount, appreciate a host of built-in benefits, and don’t mind working with an agent to apply. Those seeking quick coverage, an entirely online experience, and coverage no longer than two years should get quotes from Haven and Breeze. Breeze further distinguishes itself by offering benefits for family medical leave, including childbirth, but you may pay more for a policy relative to Haven.
State Farm is highly-rated and offers a second option for a longer benefit period than Breeze or Haven, but has the lowest monthly benefit cap of the insurers we reviewed. Keep in mind that a comprehensive income protection plan should include a long-term disability policy as well.
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 the healing of a broken leg. It can also be used to provide interim coverage while you wait for your 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, consider purchasing long-term disability income insurance as well.
Should You Get Short-Term Disability?
No one expects to become disabled, but the truth is that one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will be disabled for at least a year 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 to a mental health issue.
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 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, short-term disability may be worth the cost.
Keep in mind that long-term disability insurance, while more expensive, is a better value for the coverage it provides. And, while many people can save enough to cover six months of expenses, few would be able to cover a lifetime of income loss. In that sense, long-term disability coverage is more important and more valuable. If you have a long-term disability policy and sufficient savings to cover you in the short term, you can forego short-term disability insurance. But for many families, it makes sense to have both.
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 typically covered by short-term disability insurance, and when they are, it’s usually only after 12 months or more have 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 tobacco use.
Your cost for short-term disability insurance will also be impacted 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.
For example, a 35-year-old woman in retail sales might pay $68 per month for a 12-month $3,000 monthly benefit with a 30-day elimination period.
How We Chose the Best Short-Term Disability Insurance
To determine the best short-term disability income insurance, we considered some of the largest providers of individual disability insurance, plus newcomers such as Haven and Breeze. 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.
We compared companies based on:
- the availability of individual policies
- coverage limits
- elimination periods
- no-exam options
- built-in and optional benefits
- benefit periods offered
- the ease of obtaining coverage
- financial strength rating
- consumer reviews
Stable companies that offer the most generous benefits and policy options plus provide a streamlined customer experience tended to do best in our review.