What Is the Elimination Period for an Insurance Policy?

Insurance elimination periods explained

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An insurance elimination period is the time after coverage begins until the insurance company will start paying benefits. During the elimination period, you are responsible for paying medical expenses. Carefully consider all options for an elimination period and how they may affect the cost of health care services you may encounter. Learn about insurance policy elimination periods, how they work, and what this means for your potential benefits and out-of-pocket costs under long-term care or types of coverage.

What Is the Elimination Period?

The elimination period is the time between when coverage begins and the insurance company will begin paying benefits. Elimination periods vary, but are commonly 30 to 180 days, though some may be longer. It is a term commonly used in disability and long-term care insurance. 

The elimination period is important to you because during this period, you are responsible for the cost of any medical services you receive. Another way to think of an elimination period is the waiting time or a deductible period before insurance coverage begins. It is comparable with an auto insurance deductible, but the elimination period is measured by time rather than by a dollar amount.

It is possible to purchase a policy with no elimination period, but not all insurance companies offer policies with this option. 

Types of Elimination Periods

Elimination periods are most often seen with long-term care, short-term disability, and long-term disability insurance. Below you’ll find a few examples of these types of elimination periods offered by different insurance companies:

Long-Term Care Insurance Elimination Periods

The long-term care insurance policy through Mutual of Omaha offers elimination period options of 90, 180, or 365 calendar days. The elimination period begins on the first day you are chronically ill and you receive medical services. 

Short-Term Disability Insurance Elimination Periods

Aflac offers a short-term disability policy elimination period. Aflac’s short-term disability insurance plan offers its policyholders a choice of elimination periods of 14 or 30 days. 

Long-Term Disability Insurance Elimination Periods

MetLife offers a group long-term disability insurance policy with elimination period options of 90 or 180 days. If you have long-term disability insurance through MetLife via your employer, the employer chooses the elimination period.

Depending on the terms of your policy, you may only have to meet the elimination period once during the policy period. Other policies apply a second elimination period during the policy if you’ve gone a period of time without needing care. 

How Elimination Periods Work 

The way an insurance elimination period works depends on the type of insurance policy it applies to: long-term care, short-term disability, or long-term disability.

  • Long-term care insurance: Whatever elimination period you choose is the amount of time you will be responsible for paying for long-term care costs. For example, with a 90-day elimination period, if you entered a nursing home, you would have to pay for all care you receive for the first 90 days.
  • Short-term disability and long-term disability insurance: Short-term and long-term disability payments also begin after your elimination period is over. The elimination period runs concurrently with any accrued time off, sick leave, or other types of compensatory leave pay. Your “leave” must be exhausted before short-term disability payments begin.

You may be able to lower the cost of your insurance policy by choosing a longer elimination period. However, you should keep in mind that you will have to pay medical expenses for a longer period before coverage begins.

Out-of-pocket costs are an important consideration when purchasing insurance. Remember that the longer the elimination period is, the cheaper the cost of your insurance policy. You’ll have to determine whether the savings of a longer elimination period is worth the increased out-of-pocket expenses you’ll have to pay.

Do All Insurance Policies Have Elimination Periods?

Most insurance policies have elimination periods, though some may not. Elimination periods are most commonly found in long-term care, short-term disability, and long-term disability insurance policies. In other policies, the elimination period is the deductible. If you’re unsure whether you have an elimination period, check your policy or call your insurer.

Key Takeaways

  • The elimination period is the time between when insurance coverage begins and when the company begins paying benefits.
  • The length of elimination periods and the way they work vary based on the type of policy: long-term care, short-term disability, or long-term disability.
  • The longer the elimination period, the lower the cost of your policy, but that also means the longer you’ll have to pay out of pocket for any medical services you receive.

Article Sources

  1. Texas Department of Insurance. "A Shopper's Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance." Accessed June 12, 2020.

  2. Mutual of Omaha. "MutualCare Secure Solution." Accessed June 12, 2020.

  3. Aflac. "Short Term Disability Aflac." Accessed June 12, 2020.

  4. MetLife. "MetLife Disability FAQs." Accessed June 12, 2020.