Nurses are essential when we get sick or hurt, but what happens when they’re the ones suffering from an illness or injury? High incomes, medical school debt and hospitals without group disability plans mean it’s important for nurses to shop for their own long-term disability insurance.
But what is the best long-term disability policy for registered nurses (RNs)? No matter your title — nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, nurse practitioner or anything else — here’s what you need to keep in mind when looking for a disability insurance.
Why nurses need disability insurance
Long-term disability insurance is important for many people, but it’s especially important for occupations that a) have a high financial barrier to entry, and b) have high incomes that are important to protect. Nurses fit both of these bills.
RNs have to go through several years of education, earning either a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma from an approved nursing program, and then receive a nursing license by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). The cost of becoming an RN depends on which path you take. According to CostHelper, an ADN education can range from $30,000 to $100,000 at a public school, while a BSN can cost as much as $200,000. The NCLEX-RN is $200, and state license fees can be another $200.
Like education, a nurse’s exact income depends on the path he or she takes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2016 median pay of registered nurses was $68,450. Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) like Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners, on the other hand, had a 2016 median pay of $107,460, while licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) made a median income of $44,090.
Nurses are also particularly susceptible to becoming disabled. Even though most disabilities are caused by illness rather than injury, according to a 2015 NPR report:
… there are more than 35,000 back and other injuries among nursing employees every year, severe enough that they have to miss work.
Nursing assistants and orderlies each suffer roughly three times the rate of back and other musculoskeletal injuries as construction laborers.
In terms of sheer number of these injuries, BLS data show that nursing assistants are injured more than any other occupation, followed by warehouse workers, truckers, stock clerks and registered nurses.
That’s why it’s so important for nurses to get long-term disability insurance to protect their income, and to make sure they get the most affordable and appropriate coverage possible.
Best disability insurance companies for nurses
Looking for the best disability insurance rates? Here are some sample quotes for an RN in a clinical setting.
|Company||30 years old||40 years old||50 years old|
|Ameritas*||$236.50/mo | $2,743.60/yr||$384.50/mo | $4,464.40/yr||$606.06/mo | $7,040.80/yr|
|Assurity**||$121.90/mo | $1,447.20/yr||$211.45/mo | $2,430.35/yr||$281.55/mo | $3,236.39/yr|
|Guardian||$201.50/mo | $2,418.00/yr||$308.62/mo | $3,703.50/yr||$468.00/mo | $5,616.00/yr|
|Principal||$179.24/mo | $2,048.50/yr||$259.13/mo | $2,961.50/yr||$386.93/mo | $4,422.00/yr|
|The Standard||$155.80/mo | $1,780.55/yr||$264.18/mo | $3,019.13/yr||$441.85/mo | $5,049.71/yr|
|MassMutual***||$180.18/mo | $2,104.18/yr||$286.49/mo | $3,333.08/yr||$475.07/mo | $5,513.13/yr|
|Mutual of Omaha****||$199.81/mo | $2,283.57/yr||$301.47/mo | $3,445.24/yr||$462.91/mo | $5,290.28/yr|
*Own-occupation (not working); residual benefits not available
**Non-cancelable not available
***Maximum future increase option $4,950
****To age 67 only, non-cancelable not available
These long-term disability rates are for a $5,000/month benefit up to age 65 for a male non-smoker in New York. Your maximum coverage amount will depend on your gross income and any other group or individual plans you have in place. It assumes a policy with a 90-day elimination period and own-occupation, partial benefit, future purchase, non-cancelable and automatic increase benefit features.
What nurses need to know about disability insurance
Getting the right policy features is crucial
When you receive disability benefits depends on your policy. A true own-occupation policy will pay out if you can’t do your specific job, even if you’re able to do other work. To save money, you may choose a modified own occupation policy, allowing you to receive the benefit if you can’t do your own job and you’re not working anywhere else. (For more information on different occupation definitions, see our explainer here.)
It’s also common for nurses to use a Social Security Offset rider to help lower their policy costs. It provides private coverage while you apply for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), and if you end up not qualifying for SSDI. If you do qualify, the insurance company deducts your SSDI benefits from your private benefits.
You can buy while you’re still in school
Just because you have to go through several years of nursing school doesn’t mean you have to wait until you graduate before you can apply for disability insurance. You can buy coverage while you’re still in school to lock in lower rates and insure your future income potential.
Your position affects your rates
In short, RNs can get better rates than non-registered nurses. Coverage can be more expensive for LPNs, Certified Nurse Aids, Vocational Nurses, Home Health Nurses, Clinical Nurse Specialists and Midwifes. Nurse practitioners may be able to get better rates.
Where you work also might impact your policy price. Working in an emergency room clinic or nursing home can raise your rates.
Some exclusions may apply
Insurance companies may exclude some disabilities, meaning the benefit won’t be paid out for them. That shouldn’t keep anyone from applying — exclusions are commonplace and help keep prices down for policyholders — but it’s something to note. For nurses, carriers may require an exclusion on mental nervous disorders. Other carriers may require a Social Security Offset rider. It’s important for nurses to have disability insurance protection, and to keep these special considerations in mind when applying.
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.