Monday, May 3, 2021

Disability Insurance Awareness Month Part 1

May is once again Disability Insurance Awareness Month, when the insurance industry tries to let the public know the importance of having a disability insurance policy. As I say whenever I sit with a client or talk to a group, the Holy Trinity of insurance is your life insurance, your health insurance and your disability insurance (DI). That's how important it is!

Think about it. If you are sick or hurt and are not able to work, your bills just keep coming. No one is going to let you have a free pass on your car payment, mortgage or phone bill because you are a nice person. In essence, having a DI plan in place is paycheck insurance. That's why people call DI "paycheck protection".

How does it work? Depending on your employment and how you get paid there can be variations. The more common scenario is that you buy a group plan through work or your employer pays for it or both. I have seen instances the employer pays for Long Term Disability (LTD) but the employee pays for their own Short Term Disability (STD) policy.

These types of policies usually pay up to 60-70% of your gross income. Keep in mind that if your employer is paying for your policy and you should start receiving benefits, those benefits will be taxable. This is also true if you purchase your plan through a "worksite*" insurance company and they pre-tax your premiums. 

Short term DI usually pays for the first 3, 6 or 12 months of a disability, while long term DI will start paying after those dates. The key is to make sure you have coverage seamlessly throughout the time you are out of work, which is determined by your physician. 

Also, group plans will typically cover maternity for 6 weeks (8 weeks if a caesarean is called for). Too many people will drop their DI plan when they decide that they aren't having any more children. I always encourage people to keep their policy, as it is not "baby coverage" as many seem to feel.

On the other hand, if you are self-employed or a 1099 employee, like a realtor or insurance agent, you may need to look into an individual DI plan. These are structured a bit differently in that rates will be determined based on factors like:

  • Your occupation. A welder or a roofer will pay more than a secretary because their job is more dangerous. 
  • Your health, age and tobacco usage. Just like life insurance, the insurance company wants to know if you are a good risk or not. 
  • Your income. Determining your benefit amount is dependent on how much money you earn, so the insurance carrier may ask for a copy of your tax returns. We have one company that ask for it when you file a claim. 
Another important factor is the "elimination period", which is like a deductible, but in time instead of money. If you have a 14 day elimination period, that means that the policy won't start paying out benefits until the 15th day of your illness or accident. Elimination periods can vary from 7 days to 6 months, and like the deductible on your car insurance, the higher you go, the less the policy will cost you.

Also, keep in mind that individual plans will not cover maternity.

In Part 2 of this topic we'll discuss how to determine how much coverage you need. In the meantime, please stay healthy!

*Companies that offer voluntary benefits like DI, dental, vision and other ancillary insurance products. 

Chris Castanes is the president of Surf Financial Brokers, helping people find affordable life, disability, long term care, cancer, accident and other insurance coverages in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia. He's also is a professional speaker helping sales people be more productive and efficient and has spoken to professional and civic organizations throughout the Southeast. And please subscribe to this blog!

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