Supplemental disability insurance

Buy supplemental disability insurance to add and increase benefits where your existing disability policy is lacking.

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Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is an insurance editor and licensed Life, Health, and Disability agent at Policygenius in New York City. Her work has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Jetty, and J.D. Power.

Updated September 13, 2021|3 min read

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There are several ways to get disability insurance, and many people have a policy that’s subsidized by their employer. However, policies offered at little or no cost through work or the government have restrictions and don’t offer enough benefits to make ends meet if you become disabled.

Supplemental disability insurance is a standalone policy you can buy to fill gaps in your existing disability coverage. You can use it to supplement a state disability insurance plan, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), or group disability insurance through your employer. You can buy a supplemental policy from a private insurance company and customize your benefits to fit your needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Supplemental disability is disability insurance you buy to complement coverage you already have

  • Government- and employer-provided disability benefits often limit your benefit payments or how long you can receive payments

  • The best way to supplement your income protection is a standalone long-term disability insurance policy

Do you need supplemental disability insurance?

You should consider supplementing your current disability insurance policy if you:

  • Have a policy with a short benefit period: The benefit period is how long you can receive disability payments. Policygenius experts recommend a benefit period of at least five years.

  • Need higher benefit payments: If your current policy doesn’t pay enough each month for you to cover necessities, supplemental coverage will provide a boost.

  • Only have disability coverage through work: Group disability is affordable and easy to get, but if you leave your job you lose that protection. 

  • Want more comprehensive coverage: If you have any-occupation coverage, you only qualify for benefits if you can’t work any job. Getting own-occupation coverage only allows you to collect benefits if you can’t work in your current field.

The best way to get comprehensive supplemental income protection is to buy a private long-term disability (LTD) policy. A personal LTD policy can be customized to offer benefits where your current plan is lacking and stays with you when you change jobs.

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How much supplemental disability insurance do you need?

How much supplemental coverage you need depends on your existing disability insurance. First, find out how much coverage you get from your current plan. Most people who need supplemental disability insurance have one of the following plans: 

  • Group disability insurance: Many employer plans cover up to 60% of your income, but that 60% payment is taxed if your company covers any of your premiums. [1]

  • SSDI: SSDI benefits are difficult to qualify for and come with a five-month waiting period. The average monthly benefit was $1,234 in 2019, [2] far less than most people need.

  • State disability insurance: California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico all have state-sponsored disability insurance. [3] The benefits available vary by location.

Tally up your monthly expenses and compare the total to your current disability benefits. The gap between the two numbers is how much supplemental disability insurance you need. Also look at the length of your benefit period and when your payments will start and consider whether you need supplemental insurance to cover that time. 

How much does supplemental disability insurance cost?

Disability insurance typically costs 1-3% of your annual salary. The price of your supplemental disability coverage will depend on:

  • How much additional coverage you buy

  • Your age and gender

  • Your health

  • Your location

  • Your occupation

You’ll save some money by buying only the amount of coverage you need to complement your existing disability plan instead of relying entirely on a private plan for income protection. This comes at the risk of losing your current coverage, especially if you’re supplementing group insurance.

→ Learn more about how insurers set disability insurance rates

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Our experts can help you make sure you find the perfect disability insurance policy.

How to get supplemental disability insurance

To buy supplemental disability insurance, you’ll just need to buy a private disability policy. 

  1. Calculate how much coverage you need, when you want payments to start, and how long you want benefits to last.

  2. Consider adding riders to customize your policy.

  3. Compare quotes from different insurance companies.

  4. Fill out an application.

  5. Go through underwriting, which will include a phone interview and medical exam.

  6. Accept and sign your policy.

On your application, you’ll need to disclose the details of your existing disability policy. You’ll be asked for the policy’s coverage amount, benefit period, and the elimination period (how long you need to be disabled before you start receiving benefits). The amount of supplemental coverage you can buy depends on the benefits you already have.

You may be able to buy supplemental coverage through your employer (also known as voluntary disability coverage), but make sure you get to keep the coverage if you leave your job before considering the option.

→ Learn more about how to buy disability insurance

Supplemental disability insurance riders

You can add features, called riders, to your supplemental insurance. A few common riders include:

  • Future purchase: A future purchase rider allows you to increase your coverage in the future with no additional underwriting if you lose your group disability coverage. 

  • Own-occupation: An own-occupation rider means you qualify for coverage if you can’t do the duties of just your job. It makes it easier to qualify for benefits.

  • Waiver of premium: Waives your premium payments as long as you’re disabled. This rider is often included in policies at no extra cost. 

It’s ideal for everyone to have a disability insurance policy that covers all of their needs, but buying private insurance to supplement a policy is an alternative worth considering. If you already have a disability plan but it’s missing some benefits, getting a supplemental disability plan will ensure you’re protecting your income. 

Frequently asked questions

How does supplemental disability insurance work?

Supplemental disability is a private disability policy you can buy to fill any gaps in your employer- or government-provided disability insurance.

Is supplemental disability insurance worth it?

A supplemental policy is worth considering if your existing insurance has limited benefits, so your income is fully protected if you become disabled.

How much additional coverage should I buy?

Calculate your monthly expenses and subtract the amount you’ll receive from your current disability plan. The amount remaining is how much you need to supplement.