5 Best Disability Insurance Options for Physicians of 2023
As traditionally high earners with specialized skills and extensive training, physicians might consider purchasing disability insurance specifically catered to their occupational class. Several insurance companies offer specialized disability insurance for physicians.
In this review, we compare a few of the top options. Read on for our top picks to decide if they might be the right fit for you.
Our Top Picks for Best Disability Insurance Options for Physicians
- Best for Customizable Policies: MassMutual
- Best for Low Premium Rates: The Standard
- Best for Additional Benefit Options: Guardian
- Longest Benefit Period: Principal
- Best for Comprehensive Coverage: Ameritas
Best Disability Insurance for Physicians Reviews
- Customizable policies
- Automatic increase benefit rider
- High A.M. Best rating
- Long waiting and elimination periods
- Lower maximum monthly benefit for some higher earners
- Limited student loan protection
Why we chose it: Offering a wide range of policies from disability to life, dental, vision and annuities coverage, MassMutual is our pick for best customization.
Two of MassMutual’s highly customizable options for main physician disability insurance are Radius and Radius Choice. Both policy options can be tailored to your specific needs and preferences, including additional coverage, elimination periods and benefit periods.
With riders like Cost of Living Increase (COLA), additional mental health coverage and a catastrophic disability rider for total loss of the ability to work, you can configure MassMutual's plans to fit your specialty, career stage and earnings.
Physicians typically expect to increase their earnings as they advance in their careers, and a static disability insurance plan doesn’t reflect this natural earnings growth. MassMutual’s automatic increase benefit rider offers a simple percentage increase that physicians can regularly renew.
Financial stability from your insurance company is important so you can feel confident your claims will be paid in full and on time. MassMutual currently holds a Superior A++ rating from A.M. Best, a financial strength rating bureau. This rating, developed from a thorough third-party financial audit and review, signals that MassMutual’s current financial performance and future earnings forecast are strong. If you're nervous about investing in an insurance policy, you can feel comfortable knowing MassMutual will be able to support you during your time of need.
MassMutual’s cons include longer-than-average elimination and waiting periods. For example, MassMutual requires a 60-day waiting period to begin benefits, while others in the industry offer a 30-day period.
In addition, there are some limitations to the benefits they provide, like a monthly benefit cap of $20,000 (which may be lower than what some higher-paid physicians are accustomed to earning) and limited benefits to help physicians pay off their student loans.
- Available in all 50 states
- Wide variety of no-cost riders
- Portable from job to job
- Own-occupation rider only available for additional purchase
- Low age for future increase options
- Limited elimination periods
Why we chose it: The Standard has a long and consistent history of providing comprehensive disability insurance at an affordable price, making it our pick for the best low premium rates.
As with other disability insurance providers, The Standard's premium rates can vary significantly depending on age, gender, occupation, risk factors and optional add-ons and riders. The Standard offers basic disability insurance for physicians, with coverage for partial and total loss of the ability to work in either your own occupation or any other.
It also offers a wide variety of no-cost riders that some competitors may charge for, including rehabilitative care, family support and survivor benefits. In addition to the riders, The Standard provides an automatic increase in benefit to mirror potential growth in income.
The Standard’s individual disability insurance policies are fully portable, which means you can carry them from job to job. For physicians hoping to jump to a new medical group or even start their own practice, this is very helpful. You can maintain the coverage you want regardless of who employs you.
The Standard boasts a Superior rating from A.M. Best and an A rating from Standard and Poor’s, making it a strong financial player in the industry. This financial security helps support its lower premium rates, as it is more prepared to absorb risk and offer financially attractive packages to its policyholders.
Despite the wide product offerings, The Standard has a few notable limitations. Its own-occupation rider is not included in a basic disability policy, so you must purchase it as an add-on. This means that if you lose your ability to practice but can still get a job in another field, you can't access the benefits of your physician disability insurance.
While some companies offer add-ons to extend coverage past age 70, The Standard’s add-on age is 60. Similarly, limited elimination periods can mean a less flexible and customizable policy.
Still, online reviewers say that for the wide breadth of their policies, The Standard is a good choice for the price.
- Higher maximum coverage
- Extensive additional benefit options
- Hospice care benefit
- Higher cost
- Longer wait times for underwriting
- Some customer service concerns
Why we chose it: Guardian offers comprehensive disability insurance plans with an extensive selection of benefit options that can fit most physician’s needs.
With a generous own-occupation rider, you can collect full benefits if you can’t practice, even if you're gainfully employed in another profession. You can also collect full benefits even if you're still practicing, as long as it’s in a limited capacity because of an identified disability.
Guardian’s base features and optional add-ons include an unlimited mental health benefit in most states, benefits specifically for serious illnesses like cancer or heart attacks, and occupational rehabilitation. We like that it offers an optional rider for hospice coverage, which others in the industry don't usually offer.
Guardian’s monthly coverage maxes out at $30,000, which is higher than most in the market and might appeal to those physicians in higher-paying positions, such as surgeons, cardiologists and oncologists.
These extensive rider options and offerings come with trade-offs, however. For Guardian, that means longer application and underwriting times. Customer reviews have noted that the wait time for their disability applications to be processed and payments delivered are longer than average, both for individual and group coverage. Guardian does not allow you to complete a physician disability quote online, which can also add to the wait time.
Reviewers online have said that this timeliness issue extends to customer service. Some have noted long wait times to answer questions or respond to claim filings. Reviewers have also noted higher-than-average costs for monthly premiums.
Despite these issues with customer service and costs, for the higher-paid physician looking for all-inclusive disability insurance from a stable company, Guardian is a promising option.
- High maximum monthly coverage
- Early-career benefits, especially for female physicians
- Fast underwriting
- Two-year limit for mental disorders
- Lump-sum option for serious illness benefit
- Some state limitations
Why we chose it: With a wide spectrum of benefit periods ranging from two to five years and all the way up to age 70, a physician can maintain a reasonable policy throughout a decades-long career with Principal Financial Group.
Catastrophic illness and injury can occur at any time and point during your professional career. For physicians, many of whom practice past the regular retirement age, this can mean a significant interruption to an otherwise long and lucrative career. Principal Financial's physician disability insurance is an optimal coverage option in these cases, due to its long benefit period.
Principal offers several attractive features for the young physician just starting out their career, including discounts for doctors at the resident and fellowship levels where current income might be low but future earning potential is high.
Principal also offers a non-cancellable or automatic renewal guarantee, which means your policy cannot be canceled as long as you pay your premiums.
Principal seems to be bucking the trend set by some disability insurance companies, which offer higher premiums to female physicians. Some of Principal's policies are gender-neutral or unisex, eliminating a potential barrier for young female doctors. A best-in-class monthly pay rate of up to $35,000 also makes Principal an attractive choice.
The cons for Principal Insurance’s physician disability mostly center around known policy limitations. Mental health coverage only extends for two years, for example, and some riders cannot be applied in some states.
For some benefits, like the serious illness benefit, you can only make payments as a lump sum and not as an annuity. This can be limiting for physicians who want choices on how their payouts are structured.
Online reviewers praise Principal for its fast and friendly customer service, quick underwriting and claim turnaround times and competitive rates.
- COBRA premium benefit
- Surgical transplant coverage
- Additional company policies available
- Lower A.M. Best rating
- Limited options for some medical specialties
- Mental health coverage limitations
Why we chose it: Physicians looking for a strong comprehensive coverage package might consider Ameritas as their carrier of choice, since it offers the option to claim total own-occupation disability, which means you'll be awarded the full benefit even if you take a different career path after an illness or injury.
Like other large multi-product insurance corporations, Ameritas offers a wide variety of additional riders and coverage options.
We like that the company includes a premium benefit specifically for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) coverage. This prolongs employer-provided medical, dental and vision insurance coverage for employees and their families while they're out of work.
Ameritas also offers coverage for less traditional disability cases. Should you have to take disability as a result of a surgical transplant or plastic surgery gone wrong, for example, you can file a claim with Ameritas and receive benefits. Similarly, because Ameritas offers insurance beyond disability, you can purchase insurance for other needs, including life, dental and vision coverage.
Ameritas’s cons center around its financial ratings, as well as some coverage limitations. While an A rating from A.M. Best is certainly respectable, many other companies boast higher ratings.
From a coverage perspective, there are a few limitations you may want to consider in your decision process. Mental health benefits cannot extend beyond 24 months, which can be limiting for those suffering from long-term mental health disorders.
Also, Ameritas policies may not be attractive for some medical specialties. Dentists, for example, might find a more competitive policy somewhere with a stronger own-occupation rider.
Other disability insurance for physicians we considered
- Strong financial ratings
- Survivor benefits
- Good for small medical practices
- 60-day elimination period
- Focus on white-collar roles
- More conservative underwriting
Constellation Insurance, formerly Ohio National, is a longstanding insurance carrier offering multiple policy options.
With an A+ rating from A.M. Best and an A rating from the Better Business Bureau, Constellation is a financially strong organization. We also like that it offers survivor benefits, which is helpful for one-income families. Additionally, Constellation offers business insurance, which could be useful for individual practitioners or small medical practices who bundle their disability and business insurance under one provider.
Constellation might not be the best choice for a family on a budget, however, with a minimum 60-day elimination period and lower-than-average claims payouts.
- Nation's second-largest insurance company
- A.M. Best's highest rating
- Impressive policy offerings
- Lack of online transparency
- Some reported higher costs
- No weekend claim reporting by phone
A multi-product company, Northwestern Mutual provides an impressive array of insurance coverages, including life, disability, long-term care and annuities. Its high rating from A.M. Best means it is unparalleled in financial security and longevity, and this long-standing positive reputation in the market means it's able to offer some truly impressive policy riders and benefits.
However, a lack of information available online and no phone-based claim reporting means Northwestern Mutual still has some improvements to make.
Mutual of Omaha
- Terminal illness benefit
- Hospital confinement indemnity benefit
- Online quotes
- Basic partial disability
- Low policy issue age
- Lack of options for group coverage
Mutual of Omaha offers a terminal illness benefit covering 12 months of support if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, as well as a hospital confinement indemnity benefit for extended inpatient hospital stays. A somewhat unique feature is Mutual of Omaha’s online quoting tool. While this tool does not issue a binding quote, it can help you get a basic idea of the coverage available to you at different premium rates.
Mutual of Omaha is a better choice for individual policies, as it does not offer many options for employer-sponsored group coverage.
Disability Insurance for Physicians Guide
To properly evaluate physician disability insurance, you must first understand what insurance is and what criteria you should consider in choosing your provider.
What is disability insurance?
Disability insurance provides financial support for people who can't work in their chosen field or with their chosen employer due to illness or injury. This form of insurance can be purchased as individual policies, or it may be subsidized by employers. Disability insurance is a preventative measure, giving you a backup plan in the event that you are unable to work.
There are two main types of disability insurance:
- Short-term disability insurance: usually covers less than six weeks of time off work.
- Long-term disability insurance: covers periods longer than six weeks, but for varying lengths of time depending on the policy.
Policies vary depending on occupation type, risk factors, length of coverage, specific riders and other criteria. Policies are usually tailored to the individual purchaser, with premiums and deductibles determined during the buying process.
How does disability insurance work?
Like other types of insurance, the process of collecting disability insurance starts when you file a claim in response to an illness or injury that interrupts your ability to work. Many factors may affect how quickly your chosen provider evaluates your claim, including the type of illness or injury, physician assessment and recommendation, previously selected coverage and predicted length of absence. You file short- and long-term disability claims separately, although short-term support can lead to long-term disability coverage for more severe conditions.
Following a required waiting period previously determined by your insurance company, you can then begin to collect insurance payments. These payments continue until you are physically and mentally ready to return to work or your benefits lapse. Many factors affect how long your insurance benefits will continue, including occupational rehabilitation considerations, physician recommendations and company policies.
Types of disability insurance coverage for physicians
As with other occupations, doctors can choose from a wide selection of insurance plans with varying waiting periods, lengths of coverage and protections. But other factors can inform the type of insurance physicians need.
For example, even though many practicing physicians earn high salaries, that’s not always the case. Additionally, most physicians carry loans from their education and training that can vary greatly in amount.
Further, physicians who own their own practice also have business costs and malpractice insurance to consider. These overhead costs mean it’s important to have a financial safety net in the event of a sudden injury or illness that renders them unable to work.
For physicians, there are a few different classifications of disability insurance to consider.
Disability insurance may include own-occupation disability coverage, or protection for not being able to perform the role you had before your illness or accident. True own-occupation disability means that coverage is in place for the occupation you were trained for, even if you can work in another role.
For example, you might be physically and mentally able to work a desk job, but not continue in the medical job you previously had due to physical impairments that keep you from standing for long periods of time. True own-occupation coverage protects high earners accustomed to a certain income like physicians.
In comparison to true own-occupation disability insurance, any-occupation coverage extends beyond the specific role a person held or had the potential to hold before they needed disability insurance.
Any-occupation coverage activates if the insurance company determines you are unable to physically or mentally hold any job that is reasonably suited to you. This means you may not qualify for coverage if you can no longer work as a physician but are still able to work elsewhere.
What does "reasonably suited" mean? A reasonably suited job is a role that fits your education, training, age or past experience. For example, it would be unreasonable to ask a teacher to instead work as a police officer, or an advertising executive to serve as a doctor. Insurance companies determine reasonably suited jobs as part of the disability claims process.
Partial disability insurance provides coverage should you be unable to perform some parts of your previous occupation, even if you can still do other parts of the job, or earn the same income due to partial disability.
Partial disability is defined by the insurance company and, in some cases, by the state where the policy is issued. Your doctor can also determine your need for partial versus full disability payments. Once you submit a claim, medical professionals employed by the insurance company evaluate your claim and help decide your award.
Some common examples of partial disabilities include partial vision or hearing loss, an injury to one knee, ankle, wrist or arm (but not both) or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Residual disability rider
Residual disability riders are similar to partial disability benefits. This rider may be added to an insurance policy that doesn’t offer partial benefits. It is designed to protect you from income and occupation loss due to some of the illnesses and injuries listed above. Essentially, a residual disability rider provides income protection in the event that you cannot work at your full capacity.
Supplemental disability coverage
Disability coverage is designed to help the ill or injured financially withstand a catastrophic and often long-term event, but some insurance does not provide the full support policyholders need to maintain their required or desired quality of life.
Supplemental disability coverage is an extra policy designed to fill in the gaps in disability coverage; you may purchase and pay premiums on more than one disability plan to ensure you are adequately covered. This is common for those who rely on Social Security benefits for primary disability payouts or those who want to supplement employer-sponsored disability plans with their own policies.
Disability Insurance for Physicians FAQ
What disabilities qualify for disability insurance?
Short-term disability insurance covers illnesses, injuries and conditions that are either temporary or can be resolved in a short amount of time. This can include broken bones, arthritis and illnesses that require extended time off, like pneumonia or mononucleosis. Some surgeries are mild enough to qualify for short-term disability to give you adequate recovery time. Short-term disability can also cover mental illness, like anxiety or depression, as well as recovery from giving birth.Long-term disability insurance covers illnesses and injuries that are severe or long-lasting enough to require an extended or even permanent absence from work. This can include chronic conditions like debilitating back or leg pain and life-threatening conditions like heart attacks or strokes. Some cancers are covered under long-term disability insurance, as are most severe accidental injuries.
Does disability insurance require a medical exam?
Like life insurance, some disability insurance policies may require a medical exam to determine eligibility. This medical exam helps underwriters forecast how much your future claims may cost the company and helps them determine your premium as well as your deductible.During a disability insurance medical exam, you'll undergo a physical checkup from a doctor and routine blood work. You will also answer questions about your medical history, health habits, genetics and current occupation.
What factors determine disability insurance rates?
Disability insurance policies are not one-size-fits-all. Underwriters consider a few key pieces of information to develop policy limits and premiums, including:
- Occupation: What you do for work and its risk level will be one key factor in your rates. For instance, if you are more likely to have an on-the-job injury, your rates will likely be higher than average.
- Benefit and elimination periods: Shorter periods between your application and when your benefits start will increase your rates. Similarly, shorter periods between when you are paid by the insurance company after receiving care will lead to higher rates.
- Health and wellness history and projections: If you have a history of illness, such as cancer or heart disease or are you genetically predisposed to developing an illness that would impact your chosen occupation, your insurance premiums will increase. Additionally, certain health risks, like being overweight or smoking, will also cost you more.
- Company policies: Each insurance company's offerings differ slightly and affect policy premium rates.
How can a physician apply for disability insurance?
Physicians can apply for disability insurance in a few different ways, and it's important not to delay.
If you are employed by a hospital, practice, school or company that offers employer-sponsored disability insurance, you can choose to participate. Employer-sponsored disability insurance may come with extra perks, like shorter waiting periods, longer benefit periods and even application benefits like waived medical exams and quick disability quotes.
When you start the disability insurance enrollment process, you'll need to have an idea of your budget, coverage available in your state and what kind of coverage is important for you. From there, you'll work with your chosen company to identify and negotiate your policy. You might have to complete a physical or have bloodwork done to help the underwriters determine your rate.
How We Chose the Best Disability Insurance for Physicians
To choose the best disability insurance for physicians, we looked at policy provisions, add-on riders, benefit limitations, elimination and benefit payment periods, available bundling and discounts and benefits that would best support this unique occupational class.
We also considered each company's financial strength, reputation for customer service, application and underwriting processes, process for purchasing policies online and availability and transparency of information.
Summary of Money’s Best Disability Insurance For Physicians
- Best for Customizable Policies: MassMutual
- Best for Low Premium Rates: The Standard
- Best for Additional Benefit Options: Guardian
- Longest Benefit Period: Principal
- Best for Comprehensive Coverage: Ameritas