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Best disability insurance for doctors (2024)

The best disability insurance for doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals is long-term, own occupation coverage.

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Andrew HurstSenior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance ExpertAndrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

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Anna SwartzAnna SwartzSenior Managing Editor & Auto Insurance ExpertAnna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

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Because of the high cost of medical school and the years of training that physicians invest in their careers, disability insurance is especially important for doctors. The right disability insurance policy can protect your income if you’re hurt or sick and can no longer practice medicine.

Say you’re a surgeon and you’re in a car accident that injures your right hand — disability insurance can pay out while you’re recovering, so you don’t need to rely on your savings. And if the injury is so severe that you can never work as a surgeon again, disability insurance can keep paying out for decades.

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Why doctors need disability insurance

If an unexpected accident or injury leaves you unable to work as a doctor, disability insurance means you can keep up with your expenses (including med school loan payments) without using up your savings.

Long-term disability insurance offers the most protection, and it can pay out for decades, even if you can never work as a physician again. It will cover you in case of things like:

  • An injury from an accident or fall

  • Complications from pregnancy or childbirth

  • Severe anxiety or depression

  • Cancer or another serious illness

You can use your disability benefits the same way you use your regular paycheck — so on anything you need, whether it’s mortgage or med school payments, childcare, groceries, or travel.

What is the best type of disability insurance for doctors?

The best disability insurance for doctors is a long-term, true own-occupation disability policy. 

Long-term disability insurance can pay out for years or even decades, and true own-occupation means that you’ll still get paid benefits for as long as your injury or illness keeps you from going back to practicing medicine in the same role, even if you’re able to work a different job.

Let’s say you’re a neurosurgeon and you develop a tremor that means you can no longer operate. A true own-occupation policy will still pay out even if you’re able to go back to work in a different job, like teaching or consulting.

How much disability insurance do doctors need?

You should get enough disability insurance coverage to maintain the same standard of living even if you’re suddenly unable to practice medicine. Most disability insurance companies will cover up to 80% of your income.

What is the best type of disability insurance for residents?

If you’re still in residency, we recommend a long-term own-occupation policy with a future increase rider.

Even though you haven’t reached your full earning potential yet, there are some perks to getting disability insurance while you’re in residency (or even in medical school). Buying disability coverage early means you can:

  • Protect part of your future income

  • Still pay back loans if you become disabled before finishing your program

  • Lock in coverage early when rates are better

  • Update your coverage later once you start earning more

Doctors are one of the few professions that disability insurance companies will allow to over-insure, meaning you can get more coverage than you’re making now, with the assumption that your income will increase as your career progresses.

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What if you already have disability insurance through work?

You may already get disability insurance through your job at a clinic or hospital. Employer-sponsored disability insurance, also called group insurance, is usually optional but definitely worth getting, especially since it’s often partially or fully paid for by your employer.

But you should probably still get your own personal long-term disability policy, since employer-sponsored coverage isn’t enough protection on its own.

Most work-provided disability insurance is short-term, meaning you’ll only get benefits for up to a year — a problem if your illness or injury is career-ending. It’s also tied to your current employer, while a personal disability insurance policy is yours for as long as you want it.

Group disability benefits are also usually paid for with pre-tax dollars, which means that any benefits you get later on if you have to actually file a claim will be taxed. 

→ Read more about supplemental disability insurance

Disability insurance riders for doctors

There are a few important disability insurance riders (extra coverage options) that doctors should consider.

  • Cost of living adjustment (COLA): Automatically increases your monthly benefit every year to keep up with inflation. 

  • Future increase rider: Lets you purchase more coverage up to a certain age without having to go through another medical exam — useful if you expect your income to go up significantly.

  • Non-cancelable/guaranteed premiums: Guarantees coverage and the same premiums as long as you continue to make payments on time.

  • Partial disability benefit: Pays out if you’re not fully disabled, but still lose some income because of an injury or illness.

  • Retirement protection: Replaces the regular retirement contributions you would have made while you were working.

  • Student loan rider: Sets aside extra money to continue making your med school payments while you’re disabled and can’t work.

How much is disability insurance for doctors?

Disability insurance generally costs about 1% to 3% of your annual income

Depending on the type of medicine you practice and how much you make, that means you can reasonably expect to pay anywhere from $165 to $885 a month for long-term disability coverage — although your actual rates will also depend on your age, health, and lifestyle

Disability insurance cost by medical speciality:

Medical speciality

Cost of long-term disability insurance


$276 to $828


$295 to $885


$252 to $757

Emergency medicine physicians

$259 to $777

Family medicine physicians

$197 to $590

General internal medicine physicians

$202 to $605


$223 to $669

Obstetricians and gynecologists

$247 to $741


$225 to $675

Orthopedic surgeons

$255 to $766

Pediatric surgeons

$242 to $726


$165 to $496

Physicians, all other

$193 to $579

Physicians, pathologists

$223 to $668


$208 to $624


$251 to $754

Surgeons, all other

$248 to $745

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Source: Rates are based on the most recent average salaries for physicians and surgeons, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Are graded premiums a good idea for doctors?

Graded premiums mean that you don’t have to commit to paying one set rate for your disability insurance policy. Graded premiums start low and get higher over time, while level premiums stay the same as long as you own the policy.

Graded premiums can allow residents on a tight budget to get disability insurance, but level premiums are better for people who can afford to lock them in, since disability insurance gets more expensive with age.

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Best disability insurance companies for doctors

When it comes to the best disability insurance providers, doctors should consider companies that have experience working with high earners. These companies are most likely to have useful coverage options for doctors (like riders for cost of living adjustments, future increase, and retirement protection).

Some of the best disability insurance companies for doctors are:

BBB rating

A.M. Best rating

What we like about it …




Includes a survivor benefit for your beneficiary.




Offers lifetime continuous benefits for total disabilities, even after the policy expires.

Massachusetts Mutual



Offers a future insurability rider that's good until your 60th birthday.




Offers a lump-sum payment of $62,400 in addition to regular benefits if you're presumptively disabled.

The Standard



Includes a family care benefit if you have to take time off to care for a sick loved one.

How to get disability insurance for doctors

No matter what kind of physician, surgeon, or medical professional you are, you can get disability insurance in seven simple steps:

  1. Calculate how much coverage you need Decide not only what your monthly benefits should be, but also how long your policy should pay out and the length of your elimination period (the time between when you become disabled and when you can start receiving benefits).

  2. Pick your optional riders Make sure to consider riders that protect your income as a doctor, like a cost of living adjustment, future increase, and retirement protection.

  3. Shop around and compare quotes You should get long-term disability quotes from more than one company so you find the one with the best rates for your age, income, and medical specialty.

  4. Fill out your application You will need to be ready to share your age, gender, where you live, and your medical speciality and job duties when applying for a long-term disability policy.

  5. Complete a phone interview The insurance company will ask you more about your medical history and lifestyle (like whether you’re a smoker or if you have any risky hobbies).

  6. Go through underwriting You’ll have to go through the underwriting process, which is when your disability insurance company will ask you to take a medical exam, verify your income, and get an attending physician's statement (APS) from your doctor.

  7. Sign your policy and get covered The underwriting process takes about four to six weeks, but afterwards the insurance company will send you a policy. Start your coverage by making your first payment and signing and sending back the policy.

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Frequently asked questions

What are the best disability insurance companies for resident physicians?

Resident physicians can get disability insurance from insurance companies that specialize in covering people with high incomes like Ameritas, The Standard, and Guardian. It’s best to lock-in coverage at an age when your rates will be lower if you can afford it, especially since your income will be much higher later on.

Should doctors get more disability insurance?

Doctors should get more disability insurance than someone with a lower-paying job. Since doctors are highly-specialized workers with years of training, they stand to lose a lot if they become disabled and can’t work.

Do doctors need long-term or short-term disability insurance?

Short-term disability insurance is better than no coverage, but long-term disability insurance is more valuable for doctors than short-term. That’s because long-term insurance can pay out for years after an illness or injury, while short-term coverage typically only lasts up to a year.


Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.


Anna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

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