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.
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 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.
Do doctors need disability insurance if they have group insurance?
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:
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
$255 to $766
$242 to $726
$165 to $496
Physicians, all other
$193 to $579
$223 to $668
$208 to $624
$251 to $754
Surgeons, all other
$248 to $745
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.
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:
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.
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.
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: