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Introduction to Disability Insurance

Disability insurance coverage is used to replace income in the event of total or in some cases partial disability. The cause may be accident or illness. The definition of "disability" for the purposes of insurance would include the inability to perform the duties of one's occupation.

Disability insurance typically provides disability income benefits that begin at the end of a specified waiting period and that continue until the claimant returns to work, is deceased, or becomes eligible for pension benefits.

Variations in policies are the waiting or elimination periods and length of coverage. A waiting period is the amount of time the claimant must wait before benefits begin and is analagous to a deductable. Typical waiting periods include 30 days, 3 months, 6 months and 1 year. The length of coverage can vary from 2 years, 5 years, to age 65 or in some cases lifetime.

Age, occupation, waiting period, coverage amounts and coverage length all contribute to the determination of policy costs.


Quality Companies

Before considering any insurance plan it is important to investigate the insurance company. It makes sense that a company without adequate reserves to pay claims should be avoided. As a minimum standard consider selecting only insurance companies that have at least one of the top 3 ratings for financial strength, or claims paying ability.

Insurance company ratings including the ability to pay are available are available from the following organizations:

Duff & Phelps
Standard and Poors
A. M. Best
Weiss Research


Application Process

Never cancel existing coverage until you have verified that the replacing policy has been issued. Always print/photocopy your applications and any form bearing your signature. It is a good practice to keep these copies for seven years after canceling a policy.

Application forms are frequently returned for lack of complete information. Complete the forms thoroughly and if some question doesn't apply write "Not Applicable". Make sure you know what you are applying for by obtaining a complete written proposal first.


Benefit and Premium Payments

Disability policies are designed to replace income lost as a result of injury so it is important to understand how benefits are paid in terms of consistency, regularity and amount. For many of us, a long waiting period or a missed payment can be a financial hardship. Understand completely the insurance company procedures in times of short and long term disability.

Make certain that the insurance company receives your premium on time. Know what your grace period is. Coverage can be canceled if premiums are not paid on time. It is possible reinstate coverage if this occurs, but if you need it badly you will most likely be denied.

Ask for all options of paying your premium (monthly, Electronic Funds Transfer, quarterly, semi, annual, and annual) in order that you may evaluate your options carefully. Some payment methods may allow you to obtain discounts (annual, EFT).

 

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