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Best disability insurance for doctors

When it comes to disability insurance, doctors, surgeons, and other highly-trained medical professionals have unique needs.

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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, it’s especially important for doctors to have disability insurance.

If you're a doctor, you need enough disability insurance to replace your income in case you can’t practice medicine for a long time after an illness or injury (that’s why we recommend long-term disability insurance), but different medical specialties may have different needs.

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Why disability insurance matters for doctors

Disability insurance, which ensures you’ll still have an income in the event that you’re hurt or sick and can no longer work, is uniquely valuable for doctors. 

Being a physician means you’ve spent years training for a highly specialized occupation, and disability insurance can protect that investment in case you’re suddenly unable to work, whether it’s for a few months or for the rest of your career.

Long-term disability insurance coverage can last for years, even through retirement age. With a long-term disability policy, you can continue getting paid normally in the event you’re too sick or injured to practice medicine. This also means you can stay on top of your expenses (including any medical school debt) — even if you never work as a doctor again.

What is long-term disability insurance?

Long-term disability insurance pays out longer than short-term disability insurance. Long-term disability insurance can cover you for years, even up to retirement age, while short-term disability insurance usually only lasts up to a year.

What is the best disability insurance for doctors?

The best disability insurance for doctors is a long-term policy with a true own-occupation definition of disability. True own-occupation disability insurance replaces your income if you can’t continue doing your specific job, even if you can still work in general.

Let’s say you’re a surgeon and develop a tremor that means you can no longer perform surgeries, but you are still able to teach. A true own-occupation policy means you can still get your disability benefits. An any-occupation policy would only pay out if you couldn’t work at all, in any role.

Should doctors over-insure?

If you’re a new doctor, you may be able to “over-insure,” which means getting disability insurance with a larger benefit than your current salary.

Doctors are one of the only groups of people that disability insurance companies allow to over-insure. This can be a great option for residents who expect a larger income later on.

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Do doctors need disability insurance if they have group insurance?

It’s a good idea for doctors to get individual long-term or supplemental disability insurance instead of relying on group insurance that’s provided by an employer.

For one, if your employer pays for part of your disability insurance, or you buy a policy with pre-tax dollars, your benefits will be taxed and your income will be lower if you ever need to actually use your group disability insurance.

Group disability insurance is also not the best choice for doctors because it’s usually just short-term coverage, which means benefits are likely to be paid out for only a few months. 

An employer-provided short term disability policy isn’t enough to protect your income long-term if you have a career-ending injury or illness.

Disability insurance riders for doctors

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

  • 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 later on when your income increases without having to go through another medical exam.

  • 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.

Cost of disability insurance for doctors

The cost of disability insurance for doctors depends on things like age, health,  hobbies, and specialty. Your medical specialty affects your income, which affects how much disability insurance you need.

Usually, disability insurance costs about 1% to 3% of your annual income. Depending on the type of doctor you are, you can reasonably expect to pay anywhere from $165 to $885 a month for long-term disability coverage.

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

Collapse table

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?

Doctors don’t have to commit to paying the same premiums over the course of their disability insurance policy. They can choose between disability insurance with level premiums or graded premiums.

Level premiums stay the same for as long as you own the policy, while graded premiums start low and increase over time. Graded premiums can allow residents on a tight budget to get disability insurance, but level premiums are better for those 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 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 far more valuable for doctors than short-term. That’s because the short-term insurance you get through your job will only last a few months, while long-term insurance can pay out for years after a disability.


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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