Short-term disability insurance pays a portion of your income if you can't earn a living due to an accident or illness that didn't happen at work. If you are hurt on the job, workers’ compensation should pay your medical bills and also provide income. If you have an illness such as cancer or heart disease, or you are injured outside of work, short-term disability insurance can replace up to 70% of your base pay for up to one year.
Workers have choices between short-term coverage they can get through their job and a private policy. A handful of states mandate that most employers provide coverage for full-time workers. States that require it include New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Rhode Island. If you don’t live in one of these states, it’s smart to shop around for disability coverage.
We looked at nearly two dozen providers based on policies, pricing, features, and ratings to select some of the best ones.
Best Overall : Northwestern Mutual
Northwestern Mutual has high ratings and has been around for a long time. It provides short-term disability, life insurance, and more. Rated A++ by AM Best and earning high marks from the other financial rating organizations, the company has been around since 1857.
Northwestern Mutual’s strength lies in how long it's been around, how strong it is financially, and what options it has to cover people. These factors earned it our top spot for the best short-term disability insurance for people and companies alike. The company offers policies at a few price points. Each one offers its own set of options, benefits, and coverage levels. For a lower price, you can get a policy with benefits that won’t change over time. You can also upgrade your policy to allow for a 6% inflation increase each year.
Because the firm is owned by insured people rather than investors, insured people may also receive money back based on their policies. The company retains 96% of its clients. This is just one measure that shows how happy people are with its service.
Northwestern Mutual does not give out quotes online. Instead, they want people to contact the company to hear what options they have for short-term disability.
Runner-Up, Best Overall : Ameritas Life Insurance
In business since 1887 and rated A by AM Best, Ameritas is trusted due to how long it has been around. These factors, coupled with its wide variety of policies and riders, are what earned it second place among short-term disability companies we looked at.
Ameritas Life Insurance offers policies you can tailor to your needs. The riders you can get include cost-of-living raises, bumps in pay based on your income, and a catastrophic disability rider to help pay for living costs if you cannot care for yourself. The company also covers people for something known as “own occupation." This means you can make a claim if you can’t work in your field, even if you could still hold other jobs.
Features of this policy include health care cost reimbursement, shorter elimination times for newly insured members in good health, and COBRA payment reimbursement if you no longer are covered for health care due to losing your job as a result of being hurt or sick.
The company’s DInamic Fundamental policy provides low-cost insurance for workers who work 30+ hours a week in low-risk jobs. You can get a quote online, but it’s still a good idea to speak with an agent to explore your options.
Most Affordable : Aflac
Aflac has one of the most low-cost, short-term plans if you become sick or hurt and can't work. Weekly costs are around $8. That's less than the price of a movie ticket. Newer to the scene than some other short-term providers, Aflac was founded in 1955. It holds an A+ rating from AM Best and shows strong long-term fiscal stability.
Aflac has also been accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1958 and holds an A+ rating. It received 3.5 out of five stars from Consumer Affairs client reviews.
The terms for Aflac are shorter than some of the other firms on this list. Its policy pays benefits for six weeks. You can get renewed up to age 75. The value rider adds another $1,000 in payouts for every five years in a row that the policy is in force.
Aflac also makes it easy to process claims online. The time it takes to get paid for a covered event is just one to seven days. This makes Aflac both low cost and simple to use. These factors, coupled with happy customers, are what earned it our ranking as most affordable on our list of best options for people who can't work due to being hurt or sick.
Best Service : MassMutual
While MassMutual failed to stack up to other firms on this list in some areas, one area where it gave even Northwestern Mutual a run for its money is in customer service. Its service is stellar, and the firm has earned a four-star review average at Consumer Affairs. Clients are saying that claims are hassle free and their premiums are low cost. In our review, MassMutual has been chosen as having the best service among competitors.
The firm has a B- rating with the BBB due to some client issues that have not been resolved as of yet. It has had fewer BBB complaints than many other insurance firms. There have been 54 complaints closed in the past three years and only 16 in the past 12 months. With an A++ rating from AM Best, and in business since 1851, MassMutual is also reputable and secure.
MassMutual offers income policies if you are sick or hurt and can't work that allow you to choose a rider so your coverage will increase as your income goes up. The disability income calculator on its website makes it easy to figure out how large a policy you may need. You can’t get a quote online, but the robust and useful website can help you explore your options before you speak to someone who works there.
Best for Self-Employed : Breeze
Being able to replace income if they become hurt or sick and can't work can be crucial for people who freelance and other people who work on their own since they don't have a safety net for income. Breeze is a new firm founded in 2019 that provides policies that are helpful to this niche group of clients. Breeze grants policies through Assurity Life Insurance Company, which has an AM Best rating of A-.
People who work on their own can use Breeze to get covered for short-term income payments online. It only takes 10 minutes to apply. The waiting time for payment to kick in could be as short as two weeks, and Breeze will pay a covered freelancer’s income for up to six months. For these reasons and more, we chose Breeze as best for people working for themselves in our short-term disability company review.
Breeze’s underwriter, Assurity, is accredited by the BBB since 1992. It has an A+ rating with just one complaint in the past 12 months.
Best for Coverage Options : Mutual of Omaha
Mutual of Omaha has been around since 1909. Rated A+ by AM Best, this company has good fiscal standing. It has been accredited by the BBB since 1940. It has an A+ rating, making it one of the few short-term disability firms accredited by the BBB.
Mutual of Omaha offers short-term disability insurance. The time from getting sick or hurt to being eligible for payment can be as short as zero days. Your benefits may kick in right away when you file a claim. You can opt to be covered from three months to two years, making it one of the more robust options around. Premiums also remain level as long as you are insured, but coverage ends at age 67.
Mutual of Omaha’s base policy gives you a partial benefit if you can’t perform your own job and full benefits if you can’t work at all. You can choose from a few riders that will cover you for certain illness, hospitalization, and health care costs.
What Is Short-Term Disability Insurance?
Short-term disability will pay part of your income if you can't work either in your own career or any job, depending on the policy you choose. People may buy short-term disability if they aren't covered through their job and don’t have savings they can tap into if they can't work.
In some cases, short-term disability can be a good thing for people who make a lot of money and would rather not tap into their funds if they can't work for a short time.
Short- vs. Long-Term Disability Insurance
Short-term disability insurance most often will kick in when about two weeks have gone by after you have been hurt or fallen sick. It lasts for up to six months, but if you still can't work, long-term covers people who can't work for longer spans of time. This coverage doesn’t kick in until short-term benefits run out. Most of the time this is around three to six months. It can provide people with money to replace their incomes for spans of time lasting many years.
What Does Short-Term Disability Insurance Include?
While short-term disability can replace part of your income for a while, in most cases that time doesn't start the same day that you file a claim. Instead, most insurers have spans of time, called elimination periods, between when you file a claim and when they begin paying you for your lost income. Most short-term policies have a waiting time of two weeks, although some companies may have no elimination period for some claims.
Along with this upfront period, most short-term benefits last for three to six months, and then they run out. Some firms will cover you for as long as two years. Some policies may also have extra riders you can add to help pay for medical expenses. You could also add a rider that states you would be paid a lump sum if you became very ill with a disease like cancer and needed more money right away. Clients can also often choose own-occupation policies, which allow you to file a claim if you can’t work in your current career.
What Does Short-Term Disability Insurance Exclude?
Along with elimination periods and time spans after benefits end, short-term disability may exclude getting hurt in the workplace. That's because these events should be covered by state workers’ compensation. Some policies may also not cover people for things like:
- Pre-existing issues.
- Time off to care for a child.
- Being pregnant.
- Having a baby.
What Are the Common Costs of Short-Term Disability?
Short-term disability quotes may start as low as $8 per week or $32 per month. The state you live in, your age, your health, and your career can dictate how much your premiums will cost. Your levels of coverage and added riders also affect costs. Whether your short-term disability benefits are taxable depends on who pays the premiums: you or who you work for.
Is Short-Term Disability Insurance Worth It?
For many people, still getting paid even if they can't work because they are hurt or sick is worth it. The Council for Disability Awareness says that 25% of all people age 20 and older will need time off work for being sick or hurt for 90 or more days by the time they reach age 67.
If you don’t have savings set aside for unplanned events, being covered ensures that you’ll be safe if you lose your paycheck due to being sick or hurt. Instead of paying to be covered, people could choose to set aside money in case they get hurt and can’t work. The truth is, you’d have to set aside quite a bit of money each month in order to match what you could get for just $32 per month in policy payments.
How We Chose the Best Short-Term Disability Insurance Companies
We looked at more than 20 companies to find the best short-term disability firms in the areas that matter. We looked at each one based on product options, cost, riders, and offers, as well as ratings for fiscal strength and client service.