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7 Best Disability Insurance Companies of 2023 (Short-Term & Long-Term)

Data from LIMRA’s 2021 Insurance Barometer shows that roughly 3 in 5 American households have some form of life insurance.

In other words, there’s a good chance you have — at minimum — a term life insurance policy and therefore have some experience choosing a life insurance policy that fits your financial needs and life goals.

It’s far less likely you have experience searching for another type of insurance you probably need. That would be disability insurance, a vital income replacement solution for workers unable to work productively due to serious injury or illness.

Best Disability Insurance Companies

Obtaining a disability insurance policy isn’t all that different from obtaining a life insurance policy. And many of the best life insurance companies also write disability insurance policies, so you’ll see plenty of familiar names along the way.

Always shop for insurance using an aggregator like Policygenius. But the following disability insurance providers, in particular, are among the best for U.S.-based workers. Each excels in a different way, and our best overall pick provides the greatest value for the widest number of users.

Best Overall: Breeze Financial & Insurance Services Group

Breeze is the best overall disability insurance provider because it’s affordable, flexible, and free from the red tape that the insurance industry is famous for.

Specific selling points include:

  • A mix of  short- and long-term disability solutions that are all about convenience and affordability
  • A 100% online application process cuts traditional salespeople out of the equation
  • Super-affordable premiums starting at $9 per month for young, healthy workers seeking long-term coverage — significantly less than many mainline insurers charge
  • A transparent underwriting process that walks applicants through the entire scope of coverage
  • Policies that can accommodate a range of nontraditional situations, including solopreneurs and small-business owners with complex insurance needs.

And Breeze offers low-risk applicants an instant approval option that waives the usual medical underwriting requirement. That means no invasive medical exams or time-consuming labs required.

Sign Up With Breeze

Best for Part-Time Workers: Northwestern Mutual

Northwestern Mutual specializes in long-term disability plans with variable-length elimination periods that bridge the coverage gap between what employer-sponsored disability plans pay and policyholders’ pre-disability income.

These plans come in an unusually wide variety of configurations. These include nontraditional products and add-ons for part-time workers, who are often excluded from the disability insurance market. Northwestern Mutual also offers disability insurance coverage for stay-at-home parents whose emotional labor is serially undervalued.

Additional features:

  • A++ (Superior) financial strength rating from AM Best — the highest possible score
  • A+ customer satisfaction rating from the Better Business Bureau
  • Find coverage through a financial advisor
  • Affordable premiums below the national average

Sign up With Northwestern Mutual

Best for Salary and Retirement Income Protection: MassMutual

MassMutual’s customizable disability insurance products come with optional riders you won’t find everywhere else. 

One highlight: a retirement savings protection rider that earmarks some income for your retirement plan, keeping your long-term investment strategy on track when you’re temporarily unable to work. 

Another MassMutual rider pegs benefit growth to salary growth, adding protection as your career advances and the prospect of a long disability grows more costly. That provides critical protection for earned income as well.

Additional features:

  • Customize your policy to protect between 45% and 65% of your pre-disability income
  • Purchase your policy through a knowledgeable agent
  • A++ (Superior) financial strength rating from AM Best
  • Competitive premiums

Sign Up With MassMutual

Best for Self-Employed Coverage: Guardian Life Insurance Company of America

Guardian Life Insurance Company of America offers short- and long-term disability insurance for self-employed individuals, group plans for employers, and supplemental policies for workers looking to add to their employer-sponsored coverage.

Because its policies are only available through licensed insurance brokers or employers themselves, Guardian requires all would-be policyholders to go through a middleman and definitely caters to small-business owners and executives looking to retain employees with attractive disability coverage.

But it’s a solid choice for self-employed workers with variable income, a group that tends to be perceived as high-risk (and is therefore underserved) by most disability insurance providers.

Additional features:

  • A++ (Superior) financial strength rating from AM Best
  • A+ customer satisfaction rating from BBB
  • Use affordable supplemental disability insurance policies to add coverage to an employer-sponsored plan
  • Find affordable individual coverage through an agent

Sign up With Guardian Life

Best for Portable Coverage: Principal Financial Group

Like Guardian Life’s, Principal Financial Group’s disability insurance offering is gated. In this case, it’s available only to clients of Principal Financial Group advisors and those willing to establish an advisory relationship (even if temporary) to obtain disability coverage.

On the bright side, Principal has a key selling point: All of its policies are written for individuals, not employers, and are therefore portable, meaning they remain in force when you change jobs.

And because Principal clients’ relationships extend well beyond disability insurance, they can sometimes qualify for lower premiums than those available through one-off individual policy transactions. Of course, the most critical factor in any pricing decision is the perceived risk of disability.

Additional features:

  • A+ customer satisfaction rating from the BBB
  • Use Principal Financial’s handy disability insurance calculator to find out how much coverage you need

Sign Up With Principal

Best for Coverage After Age 65: Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company

Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company offers the potential — though not the guarantee — of coverage up to age 75, as long as you continue to work full-time and pay premiums. 

Mutual of Omaha does reserve the right to cancel your policy after age 67. But its golden-years coverage is still unusual — and welcome.

Additional features:

  • High coverage limits — up to $12,000 per month for well-compensated employees
  • Buy through a licensed agent
  • A+ (Superior) financial strength rating from AM Best
  • A+ customer satisfaction rating from the BBB

Sign Up With Mutual of Omaha

Best for “Any Occupation” Coverage: Assurity

Assurity is a flexible option for workers with longer-term disability income insurance needs. 

It really stands out for its commitment to “any occupation” coverage. What this means is that even if you’re able to perform some duties in a role or profession other than the one you held before your disability, you can remain out of the workforce (and earning benefits) until you’re once more able to do the job you were trained for.

That’s a much more generous standard than “own occupation,” which many insurers prefer for understandable reasons.

Additional features:

  • Long-term disability coverage periods starting at one year and continuing up until retirement age
  • Customizable benefit amounts for partial disability — great for those transitioning back to the workforce
  • Total disability coverage if you’re unable to work at all
  • A+ customer satisfaction rating from the BBB

Sign Up With Assurity

Methodology: How We Select the Best Companies for Disability Insurance

We use several key factors to evaluate insurance companies and choose the best disability insurance providers around. Each relates in some way to the overall cost, usefulness, benefits, or flexibility of coverage — all important considerations for people seeking dependable income replacement.

Policy Types Available

The term “disability insurance” is often used as shorthand for long-term disability insurance, which is really important for people who aren’t able to work for years at a time. But short-term disability insurance is important as well for people recovering from temporary illnesses or injuries — or managing life events like the birth of a child.

Policy Premiums

It’s not rocket science: insurance premiums are better when they’re lower. While every insurer is different and straight premium comparisons aren’t always apples-to-apples, we generally prefer disability insurers that charge less for comparable coverage.

Coverage Types and Limits

This factor covers two important questions about disability insurance:

  • How much coverage can you get, measured as a percentage of your pre-disability pay?
  • When can you file a disability insurance claim?

The most critical consideration here is whether your policy covers “own occupation” disability or “any occupation” disability. The former is more generous because you can file a claim when you’re unable to work in your own occupation. With “any occupation” disability, you can only file a claim if you’re unable to work in any productive capacity, which typically requires a more profound disability. 

Waiting Periods 

This relates to another critical question: how long must you wait before your benefits come? Long-term disability policies can have waiting policies as long as one to two years, which is a long time to go without income if you’re not able to replace it through other means. This is why an employer-sponsored short-term disability policy is a great compliment to a privately sourced long-term policy.

How Long Policies Remain Effective

For long-term disability, “indefinitely” — meaning until an agreed-upon age at which you would have retired — is the best answer, though you’ll pay higher premiums in exchange. Short-term policies typically last no more than six months.

Financial Strength Ratings

How likely is your insurer to pay out on your claim? If you have to think about this for very long, you might want to consider another provider. The best way to assess the likelihood of paid — or unpaid — claims is to use financial strength ratings from impartial third-party agencies.

Disability Insurance FAQs

You have questions about disability insurance and disability insurance providers. We have answers.

What’s the Difference Between Short-Term Disability and Long-Term Disability?

There are two main types of disability insurance coverage: short-term disability and long-term disability. All of the companies on this list offer long-term disability coverage and some offer short-term disability insurance.

The biggest difference between these two types of disability insurance is right there in the name. Short-term policies last for months, while long-term policies last for years or decades.

The typical maximum duration for short-term disability insurance is six months. That is, you receive benefit payments for no more than six months after filing a claim.

Long-term disability insurance policies last at least two years. Those with finite terms can last five or 10 years. Those with indefinite terms typically pay benefits until you reach retirement age. The longer your long-term disability policy’s term, the higher its premium.

How Long Do You Have to Wait for Disability Insurance Benefits?

All disability insurance policies have a waiting period. This is the time between when your claim is approved and when you begin receiving benefits.

Waiting periods for short-term disability tend to be relatively short, typically no more than four weeks. Waiting periods for long-term disability are longer — up to a year is common. The shorter the waiting period, the higher your premium.

Does Disability Insurance Pay Out If You Die?

Disability insurance isn’t life insurance. It’s designed to pay benefits while the policyholder is alive but unable to work productively.

However, many disability insurance policies offer survivor benefits for policyholders’ spouses or other eligible survivors. These are short-term benefits, typically paid for no more than three months after the policyholder’s death.

If you want to provide a longer-term or more robust payout for your survivors, consider a life insurance policy or annuity (or both). Many of the disability insurers on this list (or their close affiliates) offer such products.

How Do You Know If You Can Trust a Disability Insurance Company?

Take anonymous online reviews with a grain of salt. Instead, look to trusted third parties — preferably those specializing in insurance company evaluations — to assess each insurer you’re considering working with.

In particular, consider:

  • The financial strength ratings put out by rating agencies like A.M. Best, which measure insurers’ financial stability and overall capacity to make promised benefit payouts
  • Customer satisfaction ratings from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a leading evaluator of general business quality
  • Overall suitability based on each company’s product mix, strengths, weaknesses, and markets served

How to Choose the Best Disability Insurance Company

When evaluating disability insurance companies and policies, pay close attention to policy and firm specifics like:

  • The length of the elimination period (the waiting period before benefits kick in) for short-term policies and long-term policies (as they’re often different)
  • The length of the benefit period itself (which is usually longer for long-term policies)
  • The monthly benefit amount
  • Actual disability insurance costs (monthly premiums)
  • Whether the policy offers “any occupation” or “own occupation” coverage (or both)
  • Whether the policy offers annual cost of living adjustments to keep pace with inflation (and if so, how much)
  • Whether the company offers individual disability insurance policies, group disability policies, or both
  • The disability claim filing process, which can vary significantly by insurer

The best disability company for your needs checks as many of these boxes as possible. 

Keep in mind that the best provider for you might not be the best provider for your neighbor. Don’t give too much weight to anecdotal feedback that may or may not apply in your situation. 

Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

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