Underwriting is common when it comes to insurance. It’s the process companies go through to set your premium rates. Disability insurance is no different. And since the disability benefit — the amount of money you receive monthly — is based off your income, the underwriting process verifies your health and your income.
But does underwriting for disability insurance require a medical exam like it does for other types of insurance? It can, depending on your age, your health and the disability coverage amount you’re applying for.
Long-term disability insurance underwriting
Just like with life insurance, the disability underwriting process is done so insurance companies can assess their risk and figure out how likely you are to become disabled (or die, in the case of life insurance) while you have a policy. They also want to make sure you’re getting the right level of coverage.
Disability insurance medical underwriting
There are a few ways insurance companies check on your health.
Most carriers have a mandatory phone interview where they ask about your medical history. They’ll ask questions like, “In the last five years have you been treated for arthritis?”
They also check your prescription history and your profile at the Medical Information Bureau (MIB). (Not that MIB.) The MIB compiles data from previous insurance applications so insurers can verify information and combat fraud.
If carriers have specific conditions they need more information about, they request notes from your physician, called an APS (Attending Physician Statement). An APS is a summary of your medical history from your doctor’s point of view that lets the insurance company dig a little deeper and make sure they have all the health information they need to make an informed decision.
Finally, the underwriter might require a medical exam. Medical exams are more commonly used for life insurance underwriting. For disability insurance, they have a similar process where a registered nurse checks your height, weight and blood pressure, and collects urine and blood samples. (Since they collect blood its best to fast and take your test in the morning.)
While taking the medical exam adds a little time to the underwriting process, it’s not really a hassle. The medical exam companies are very accommodating, and come to your home or office to administer the exam.
Pro tip: If you’re applying for life and disability insurance at the same time, you can use the same medical exam for both rather than draw blood twice. Bundle your insurance and save yourself some needle pricks.
You won’t always have to take the medical exam — as we’ll see in a bit, there are ways around it.
Disability insurance financial underwriting
Financial underwriting requirements are based off the type of job you have, and it’s even easier than the medical underwriting process. Salaried employees are asked for a recent pay stub or a W-2, while self-employed individuals are often asked for a year or two of tax returns.
This is all done to make sure you’re not over- or underinsured and you have coverage appropriate for your income replacement needs. Depending on the benefit amount you apply for, financial requirements are sometimes waived.
Disability insurance simplified underwriting
As mentioned, medical and financial underwriting can get shortened depending on the coverage you’re looking for. Most carriers have a simplified underwriting process based on your age and the benefit amount you're applying for.
Some popular disability insurance companies that offer simplified underwriting without a medical exam are:
- Principal - Policies under $6,000 a month, applicant under age 50
- Standard - Policies under $6,000 a month, applicant under age 45
- Guardian - Policies under $3,000, applicants up to age 40
- Ameritas - Policies under $2,500
Carriers have different requirements — for example, Principal requires medical exams for every applicant over age 50. Every company reserves the right to order a medical exam even if you fall under those guidelines. Requirements also vary by state. Talk to a licensed agent to get the right policy for your financial and health situation.
At the end of the day, underwriting is important for disability insurance companies and customers. Sometimes there’s a medical exam involved, but that shouldn’t put you off from applying. Even if you need to take the exam, it’s quick and painless — and worth the time to protect your income.
Disclosure: Policygenius offers insurance policies from many of the nation's top insurers, who pay us a commission for our services. However, all editorial choices are made independently.