Disability Insurance Underwriting Guide: Important Factors You Need To Know To Get Approved Today!

Updated: June 18, 2024 at 9:27 am

disability insurance underwriting

In my opinion, there is no disputing how important disability insurance is. Just go to www.gofundme.com to see the pain many people and families experience when a breadwinner is hurt or sick and can’t earn the income they need to continue their lifestyle.

Of course, the solution to many of these situations would be a comprehensive, affordable disability insurance policy. Their lives could have been so much better.

However, if you need disability insurance, you first need to understand how disability insurance underwriting works. Understanding how underwriting works is key to obtaining a disability insurance policy.

We receive phone calls from many people who are interested in disability insurance. However, they are unaware of how their background and health affect their chances of obtaining a policy. They think they can apply, and the disability insurance company approves them the next day.

Disability insurance underwriting doesn’t work like that. It involves various, complex factors.

This guide discusses the important aspects of disability insurance underwriting so you know what to expect during the application process. We will inform, clarify, and set expectations so you can get approved today.

This is a long, comprehensive guide. So, feel free to jump around sections. Here’s what we will discuss:

Let’s get right into it and discuss disability insurance underwriting.

What Is Disability Insurance Underwriting?

Underwriting is simply the process of reviewing and analyzing a specific risk before insuring or undertaking that risk.  Any type of insurance goes through underwriting – a mortgage application, auto loans, investment accounts, and, of course, insurance. The underwriter – the person skilled in analyzing the risk – reviews your situation. Specific to disability insurance underwriting, the disability insurance underwriter reviews your:

  • medical history
  • occupation
  • income
  • medication
  • driving records, felony history, and bankruptcy history
  • “fun” activities
  • and really, anything else he or she deems material to a decision

The risk, of course, that underwriters measure and analyze is the risk of a disability happening to you. If your situation falls into their underwriting guidelines, they approve you. If not, they will decline your application.

We will discuss these factors next. First, though, let me address something that needs to be said.

The best time to purchase disability insurance is right now. You are the youngest and (probably) the healthiest you will ever be. 

Additionally, once you are insured, disability insurance carriers can’t go back to their underwriting and change your plan. (Unless you have a conditionally renewable policy, which is outside the scope of the article). For example, let’s say you have a disability insurance policy. Five years later, you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. If your bipolar disorder leads to a disability claim, the company pays your benefit. Why? Because you applied and were approved before your diagnosis.

The time to purchase disability insurance is right now.

Now, let’s discuss disability insurance underwriting in more detail.

Disability Insurance Underwriting Key Factors

In our opinion, disability insurance underwriting is more stringent than other types of personal insurance, including life insurance and health insurance. Why? The underwriter and the carrier are insuring two things:

(1) your income

(2) your likelihood of disability

Additionally, the factors we introduced previously drive the underwriter’s decision.

Now, I know what you are thinking. “John, there is no way I am going to be disabled.”

As I have said previously, if you know your future, you should not be reading this article. You should play the lottery and win money.

But, you are reading this article…

Do you see what I mean?

The fact is, 1 out of 4 workers, in general, will face a disability lasting greater than 90 days. That’s 3 months. Do you have enough money to survive that? Moreover, if a disability lasted 13 months, do you have enough money to survive that timeframe? Or 2 years? 5 years? Or more?

Moreover, this statistic isn’t coming from me. It’s from the Social Security Administration.

As we have stated elsewhere in articles, this probability is worse than an unexpected death and even passing away from cancer.

If you understand how the underwriting works for disability insurance, you will be better educated and informed come time for the application.

Let’s discuss in detail these key disability insurance underwriting factors now.

Your Medical History

Your health history matters like any personal insurance (long-term care, life, supplemental health, etc.).

to show disability insurance underwritingUnlike life insurance underwriting, seemingly innocuous injuries or illnesses could affect the disability underwriter’s decision.

For example, that shoulder injury that laid you up for a couple of months won’t affect your life insurance approval decision. However, the disability insurance underwriter might exclude that shoulder and injury from coverage. Why? Because the injury prevented you from working before. Moreover, a greater possibility exists for that injury to happen again.

Disability insurance underwriters access your medical history in 4 ways (other than what is on the application). (Note: when you sign your application, you give the disability insurance company the right to access your medical and lifestyle history.)

  • the MIB
  • Milliman Intelliscript
  • a telephone call
  • your medical records

Both the MIB and Milliman Intelliscript contain medical claims data and diagnosis / treatment codes. Underwriters use this information to match up against what you say in the application.

So, if you were thinking of not disclosing a medical condition, think again. Underwriters have ways of finding out. It’s best to be honest on the application. Underwriters (and your insurance agent) don’t like surprises.

Additionally, some underwriters require a telephone call with you. The purpose of the call is to gain clarity about your occupation or something in your health history. We discuss more about the telephone call later.

Finally, if your information warrants it, underwriters will order your medical records. They will want to know the severity of any health problems you have.

Your Occupation

Your occupation matters in disability insurance underwriting.

Nearly all carriers provide occupation classes from 1 to 5 (or 6) with 5/6 being the best. In other words, the higher the number, the lower the disability risk of your occupation. Moreover, the lower the disability risk…you got it, the lower the premium, all things being equal.

For example, most companies assign a class 1 for the construction worker occupation and a class 5 for accountants. That means if you are a construction worker, you pay a higher premium than an accountant (all things being equal).

Regardless of your occupation, you should still enroll in a policy, even if you have to pay a higher premium. Why? A disability strikes anytime.

While occupational disabilities happen – and they happen all the time – they are not the #1 disability claim. As mentioned earlier, illnesses and musculoskeletal issues cause a majority of disabilities.

Some carriers upgrade your occupation to a higher class depending on your occupation and situation. For example, we work with a company that elevates the massage therapist occupation to class 5 if the therapist meets certain requirements. Nearly all other disability insurance companies classify the massage therapist as a class 2.

Finally, your average weekly hours worked matter. Disability insurance companies generally will insure an applicant who works 30 or more hours per week, which they consider “full-time.” Not many companies insure applicants who work fewer than 30 hours per week.

In other words, if you work part-time, then many companies won’t accept an application.

However, we still have options. We do work with a few companies that offer disability insurance for part-time professionals. We have helped many part-time professionals obtain disability insurance. Contact us if you have any questions.

Your Income / Salary

Of course, your income matters. The higher you make, the higher your premium. It’s that simple.

Is this a bad thing? No! Remember, we insure your income in case you can’t work due to a disability.

You can always reduce your monthly benefit if you don’t want to pay a high premium. For example, if your income allows you to have a $6,000 per month benefit, but you only want $3,000, then you can do that. The disadvantage is that, although you are paying a lower premium, you are potentially underinsured if you are disabled.

Remember, too, that you need to select the right income for disability insurance underwriting. If you are an employee, your income is your gross salary. Conversely, your income is your net income if you are a self-employed business owner. (Moreover, anything else, such as your salary draw, etc.) Your net income is your gross business sales minus your business expenses. It is your net income located on your business tax schedule. (Schedule C, Schedule E, etc.)

Underwriters may want a copy of your tax returns, W-2, or other financial information to substantiate your monthly benefit. This is called financial underwriting. The underwriters do not want to insure more salary / income than required. Remember that disability insurance companies provide monthly disability benefits in the 60% to 65% range for employees and around 70% for business owners and self-employed individuals. The actual benefit amount they will insure depends on your actual salary or income you make as well as the income limits of the disability insurance company.

Note: unearned income could affect your disability insurance application. Usually, disability insurance companies limit disability insurance coverage.

Your Prescription Drug History

When you submit your applicaiton, one of the first things the carrier does is look up your prescription drug history.

This is private information; however, the carriers have access to it through Milliman Intelliscript.

Temporary prescription drugs probably won’t matter in the application.

For example, if you took an antibiotic 2 years ago, the carrier may want to know what that was for. However, it should not matter unless it is a serious drug.

Your prescription drug usage is not a secret. Disability insurance carriers rely on electronic data. Do you think you can avoid disclosing medication? No. When you sign the application, you agree to let the carrier review your prescription drug history.

How does your prescription drug history play into disability insurance underwriting? Let’s say you have high blood pressure. However, you forgot to mention your high blood pressure on the disability insurance application. The underwriter sees your prescription drug history. She sees you are currently taking lisinopril. Next, she contacts you to find out more because you answered “no” on the application.

For your information, you don’t want the underwriter to do any more work than he or she has to. Again, it is best to be honest on the application.

Driving Records, Felony History, Bankruptcy History

Your driving records, felony history, and bankruptcy history are also risk factors in the disability insurance underwriting process.accidents and speeding tickets matter with disability insurance underwriting and could negatively impact the decision.

John. Why do these matter? They are not related to my health or occupation.

Well, they are. I think you would agree with me that a person with many speeding tickets or reckless driving citations heightens the chance of an accident, right? Moreover, an accident can lead to a disability. Companies will compensate for this increased risk through a possible rating or even a declined application.

A felony history matters as well. Generally speaking, a felony history indicates unstable situations. If you have a felony or misdemeanor, is that an automatic decline? No. However, underwriters will look at:

  • when the felony occurred
  • nature of the felony
  • if you are currently on parole or probation
  • your situation since then

Generally speaking, for severe felonies, no underwriter will approve an application for an individual disability insurance policy. You will have to obtain a policy through a guaranteed issue process (like for small business owners (Link) or a group employer).

Your bankruptcy history also matters, and if any entity subjects you to a lien.

Your “Fun” Activities

All work and no play burns you out, right? We all need extracurricular activities. They recharge us. However, some activities are deemed too risky by insurance carriers. They include, but are not limited to:

  • skydiving
  • hang-gliding
  • motor-vehicle racing
  • scuba diving (beyond 100 ft usually)
  • rock climbing
  • mountaineering
  • anything else like this

Depending on the frequency and degree of participation, the carrier will excludeto show how hazardous activities affect disability insurance underwriting your activity from the policy or decline your application altogether. In other words, if you like to rock climb, any disabling injury from rock climbing is not covered.

However, don’t worry here. We have insured MANY professionals who engage in hazardous extracurricular activities. We tell them upfront about the exclusion (see what I wrote earlier).

Sounds good, John, you say. But, what if I join after the policy is issued?

Good question. You are likely covered 100%. However, the carrier will probably investigate before paying a benefit. It wants to see if you participated before the application and lied. Trust me; carriers have ways of finding out. If this is the case, the carrier will deny any disability benefit claim.

However, if not, then no worries.

To summarize: the disability insurance company will likely exclude any current hazardous activities from coverage at the time of application. Any NEW activities performed AFTER the policy is in place are likely covered.

Again, the moral of the story: be honest on your application.

Anything Else?

Could mean a lot of things.

One lately, in particular, is the recreational use of marijuana. While many states have approved the use of recreational marijuana, it is not approved at the federal level. Knowing this, and the risk behind it, carriers usually consider marijuana use as tobacco (i.e. smoker status) and apply a rating, depending on the use.

They will even decline your application for excessive use.

Moreover, while in some cases, your application can go through non-medical underwriting, the carrier may require a urine sample to test your level of THC.

Additionally, carriers will look up your credit and any bankruptcy history. If you have a history of bankruptcies or severe credit issues, carriers will decline the application.

Tests The Carriers May Want to Confirm Your Health

While underwriters can get a good idea of your health through your MIB and Milliman Intelliscript reports, they also may require testing or medical exams.

A common medical exam that carriers may require is the paramedical exam. A paramedical exam is like a mini-medical examination or physical. It provides additional information that goes beyond the MIB and Milliman Intelliscript.

An examiner will come to your residence or work, if you prefer. (Note: some exam companies have locations where you can make an office visit appointment.) The examiner will conduct the following:

  • measure your height and weight
  • take your pulse
  • take a blood pressure reading
  • ask you the health and medical questions again
  • obtain a blood sample
  • obtain a urine sample

Underwriters may do this because:

  • the monthly disability coverage applied for exceeds non-medical underwriting requirements
  • they see something in your background information that needs clarity

It is nothing to worry about if the underwriter requires a paramedical exam. As long as you disclosed any pre-existing conditions, then there should be no surprises to your insurance agent or the underwriter. (Remember, underwriters don’t like surprises!)

The Phone Call

Many underwriters nowadays require a telephone interview with an applicant rather than ordering medical records or a paramedical exam.

In my experience, underwriters will ask for a phone interview if:

  • you have medication in your prescription drug history which has a dual purpose
  • the underwriter needs clarity on a current or prior medical / health condition
  • something doesn’t jive with what you said on the application versus what is indicated on the MIB, prescription drug history, or other reports
  • clarity on your occupational job duties

The telephone interview is nothing to stress out about. Usually, a 3rd party service trained in telephone underwriting conducts these interviews. The phone call can take 10 minutes or less.

The telephone interview is an important part of the underwriting process. However, if you are honest and transparent on the application, you can probably avoid the need for a telephone call.

How Pre-Existing Conditions Affect Disability Insurance Underwriting

Let’s discuss pre-existing conditions and the role they play in the disability insurance underwriting decision.

Generally speaking, if you have been diagnosed or treated for any health condition, the carrier excludes said health condition from coverage.

So, for example, if you are taking Wellbutrin for depression, the carriers will exclude mental or nervous disorders from coverage.

What, John?! That is wrong! 

I understand. But, from the carrier’s perspective, it is not.

Think for a moment. If you were a disability insurance carrier, would you cover pre-existing conditions on someone?

Probably not, unless you want to charge a lot of money and you would have to.

No one would pay those premiums, and you’d be out of business.

Additionally, if you have a chronic condition that is managed well with your physician team, do you think that condition will cause a disability?


The right answer is you don’t know. A million ways a disability happens. It’s not just from your pre-existing condition. Yet, we tend to only focus on the pre-existing condition.

However, let’s think about pre-existing conditions in more detail. Let’s say you have chronic back problems. Your doctor manages your back problems well, and you work just fine.

I bet the chances of a cancer diagnosis, injury, or another type of illness have an equal, or even better chance, of a disability rather than your managed illness or back problems.

See what I am saying?

Again, anything can happen anytime and a million ways exist for a disability to happen.

If you want to protect your family and loved ones, which is the main purpose of disability insurance, you will simply have to get around the pre-existing condition situation.

You can read more in our pre-existing conditions guide and contact us if you have questions.

Disability Insurance Underwriting Fails And Pitfallslist disability insurance underwriting fails

We have helped many white, blue, and gray-collar professionals obtain disability insurance.

We have seen almost every underwriting scenario and situation.

We’ve encountered many fails and pitfalls. You need to be aware of these. These probably won’t lead to an application decline. However, they will lead to adjusted benefits and/or exclusions.

If these scenarios apply to you, that’s no need to ignore disability insurance. Just be aware of these possible exclusions and limitations.

You Get Paid Under-The-Table

Carriers insure income. We addressed income earlier. If you get paid under the table, you are out of luck.

To obtain disability insurance, you must show earned income through a W-2 or positive net income through your tax returns.

If you make no money or get paid under the table, I’m sorry. You don’t report it, so the money isn’t insurable.

It’s no problem, John, you say. I just won’t provide the information.

Well, think again.

Let’s say you get paid under the table. You trick the carrier, and they issue a policy.

A year later, you get in an accident. You file a disability claim, and the carrier requests your income tax return or proof of salary.


If this happens, you may be out of luck.

Moreover, they may even cancel or rescind your policy.

If you are serious about disability insurance – and you should be – the remedy is simple: Record your income properly.

You Go To The Chiropractor

Seems benign, right? You routinely go to the chiropractor for a spine adjustment. It also feels good. There’s nothing wrong with your back, of course. You also go for wellness.

That’s not how carriers see it.

Every application has a question like this:

“In the past 5 years, have you ever consulted another healthcare provider, chiropractor, therapist, counselor, psychiatrist, or psychologist?”

Here is the carrier’s point of view: Chiropractors are doctors, right? Why would you go? For fun? Nah…

Carriers say there must be a problem with your back.

In other words, you have a back and spine issue. Most carriers simply apply a back and spine exclusion to your policy.

However, you don’t see it that way. You go to the chiropractor because it keeps your back strong. You feel it prevents a back disability from happening.

So, first, let’s just say, in general, that chiropractor visits lead to a back and spine exclusion.

However, a few carriers have taken a more lenient approach to chiropractic visits.

If you only go a few times a year, just for “maintenance” and no documented back issues, a few carriers won’t exclude coverage.

However, if you go a lot, let’s say more than 6 times per year, carriers will exclude your back and spine from coverage.

That is just how it works. Think about it. If you go about 12 times a year, that is 1 time per month. That is a lot. Anyone would think you have a back or spine issue, even if you like going and the adjustment feels good.

Contact us, let us know your occupation, and we can help.

You Have Documented Depression Or Anxiety

This is a tricky area. We receive many phone calls from folks who take first-line medication for depression and/or anxiety. The pandemic hasn’t helped, either, with a significant increase in depression and anxiety in young adults.

We are always upfront. What I tell them is that nearly all the carriers limit your benefit to a 90-day waiting period / elimination period and a maximum 5-year benefit period.

Additionally, they place an exclusion. Any disabilities arising from any emotional or nervous disorder aren’t covered. This includes substance and drug abuse.

Usually, the carriers don’t budge.

Why is that? That doesn’t seem fair…

Same here. I understand. I have spoken to nearly all of them about it. Rather than try to explain here their reasons (as it gets really detailed), contact us, and I am happy to discuss.

But, John. I am prescribed anxiety medication to help me sleep only.

Doesn’t matter. If you are taking anxiety medication to help you sleep, then you have anxiety. That’s the way carriers see it. If it’s hard for you to fall asleep, and you need medication to help you with that, then that is anxiety and an exclusion.

This is another example of stringent disability insurance underwriting. With life insurance, a first-line medication for controlled anxiety and/or depression is no big deal. However, remember, carriers are insuring your chance of disability.

As an aside, we have helped many people maneuver this situation and still have disability insurance. Please see our topic on removing exclusions below for more details.

You Smoke or Use Marijuana

As of this writing, getting life insurance with marijuana use is no big deal.

However, this is not the case with disability insurance.

I can write an entire blog about disability insurance and marijuana use.

Many disability insurance carriers will decline an application from someone who uses marijuana.

Sure, it might be legal in your state. But, it is not on a federal level.

This is an evolving scenario. I predict carriers will be more lenient with people who use marijuana. However, currently, there are a few carriers that will insure people who use marijuana. But, at tobacco use rates.

John. That’s OK, you say. I will just hide the information.

Think again. If you file a disability claim, and the carrier finds out you are a marijuana user, likely the claim is denied.

Listen, we have helped people who use marijuana obtain disability insurance. We can help you, too. Just contact us.

You Withhold Important Information

I am seeing this pitfall often nowadays.

If you work with me, I usually will send you a pre-qualifying questionnaire. I need to know your health and lifestyle history to properly educate you on the underwriting expectations.

Additionally, if you have health or lifestyle conditions, I can contact underwriters and find out what they think about your situation before you officially apply. That way, we know what to expect beforehand. It saves everyone a lot of time and effort, especially if underwriters would ultimately decline your application. Wouldn’t you want to know expectations beforehand if the underwriters would have declined your application anyway?

Which unfortunately happens. I have had clients withhold important medical information from me and the underwriters. In other words, they did not disclose significant medical history on the application. We go through the entire underwriting process, and they are declined. Remember that I said that underwriters don’t like surprises? If I had known about these situations, I could have pre-qualified the applicant, spoken to underwriters about insurability, and possibly could have gotten them some coverage.

Can Carriers Remove Exclusions In Disability Insurance Underwriting?

The short answer. Yes!

However, it is not that easy.

Moreover, the ability to remove exclusions depends on the situation. It’s possible, though.

Here’s a real story. A doctor prescribed a client of ours anxiety medication during her college years. Our client felt anxious about school, etc. So, the doctor prescribes medication.

She’s out of school now and contacted us about disability insurance.

Of course, we explained how carriers underwrite people diagnosed with anxiety. In her case, however, she and her doctor felt that it was a one-time situation. Our client hadn’t taken the medication for a while, either.

In her case, the carrier placed the 90-day/5-year benefit period with the exclusion. However, the disability insurance company agreed to review this exclusion in 2 years. If the client did not have the prescription filled during this timeframe, has no symptoms, and is under her doctor’s care, then the company would remove the exclusion.

So, yes. Exclusions can be removed. However, you will need to show the reason behind the exclusion, which is no longer an issue.

Some exclusions probably could never be removed. These are moderate to serious illnesses like bipolar disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, alcoholism, etc.

Why A Modified Policy Is Better Than No Policy

As stringent as disability insurance underwriting is, we have been able to help people with moderate to serious health conditions. We have helped people with bipolar depression, moderate anxiety, previous cancer diagnosis, and more.

When you work with us, and you have a unique situation, we contact the underwriters directly and discuss your situation. We don’t give them your name or anything like that, so your personal information is safe.

However, you may be thinking,“@$^# this! I’m not going to go through this!”

Well, you may be doing a disservice.

Remember, who is behind this disability insurance? Well, it is you. And then your family, and then your life.

If you are disabled, and can’t work, how will you pay your bills?

Well, will you tap into retirement savings – and destroy your future?

Will you sell your home – and destroy your future?

Will you rack up debt – and destroy your future?

Do you see what I am getting at? There is no good alternative except for taking a modified or rated policy that will still pay a percentage of your income. The peace of mind is invaluable.

Yes, there is John, you say. I will just invest!

So, FYI, I am a CFP® Professional, and I know how hard it is for people to save. Be honest with yourself, will you? I doubt it.

Just look at this example.

The Math – How Savings Doesn’t Work

Even if you dedicated yourself, the savings amount is insurmountable.

For example, let’s say you are eligible for a $5,000 monthly benefit, 5-year benefit period. You make $90,000 per year. You are age 45. The premium is $132 per month.

However, because of health conditions, the carrier rates you, and your premium is now $210 per month for the same $5,000 benefit. Is it a good deal? Absolutely! Let’s put some math behind it.

In that 5-year benefit period, you are insuring up to $300,000 of income ($5,000 per month X 12 months X 5 years). That’s a lot. Think about how your life changes having that safety net.

The obvious non-math answer is: if you were disabled tomorrow, do you have $300,000 dedicated (not your home or retirement) to support you? The answer I know is “no”. (This is why it makes sense to take a modified policy). But on with the analysis…


Do you know how long it will take to insure your income by investing? At $132 per month and a conservative 5% annual return (why would you put risk if you need this money), it will take you 47 years to save $300,000 at $132 per month!!!

Do you think you will do better by saving $210 per month?


It will take you only 38 years.

And, what will you do if you are disabled with no policy?

Just for your knowledge, let’s say you dedicated to saving $300,000 in 10 years as a disability fund. So age 55 through your retirement age, you have some protection in case of disability. At a 5% annual return, you will need to save almost $2,000 per month! That is $24,000 per year and probably 1/3 of your take-home pay. Yikes!

Let’s say you only have that $210 to save, well, you need an annual return (over 10 years) of 40% each year. That is just not going to happen unless you are extremely speculative with your money.

The math doesn’t work. Taking a modified policy is the right choice.

Back To Accepting A Modified Policy

This is the reason why you need to take a modified policy. You don’t know when you will be disabled. Additionally, it takes a very long time to save that money, if you even can.

Here is a succinct illustration, which shows your options if you accept or do not accept a modified disability insurance policy. All points to accept.

if someone is declined for disability insurance, it makes sense to accept any counteroffer

What If I Am Declined For Disability Insurance?

What if you go through the underwriting process, and you are still declined for disability insurance? You still have options. (Note: we really don’t let our clients go through all that first. If you have moderate to serious medical conditions, we tell you and/or contact the underwriters for eligibility.)

However, if you are declined for disability insurance or seeking other options, let us know. We have helped people with alternative options for disability insurance. Although these options are not ideal, they will provide some benefits.

These options include critical illness insurance and hospital indemnity insurance. Additionally, we do offer guaranteed issue disability insurance based on your situation.

If you are a business owner, we do have guaranteed issue disability insurance options.

Now You Know How Disability Insurance Underwriting Works So You Can Get Approved Today!

We hope this article explained the disability insurance underwriting process better and how to get approved today!

Although the underwriting is more stringent, there is nothing to worry about or fear. We help you along the way.

Now that you are aware of disability underwriting, are you ready to take the next step? Contact us or use the form below if you would like our assistance in helping you find the right disability insurance policy. As we mentioned earlier, we have helped many individuals, even those with health conditions, obtain important disability insurance. As with everything we do, we always have your best interests.

Learn More

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Best Disability Insurance Options For Massage Therapists | Here’s What You Need To Know!

Updated: April 12, 2024 at 9:38 am

disability insurance for massage therapistsI think you’ll agree with me that massage therapists probably don’t think about disability insurance.

But, they should.

Why? Well, your work is hands on…literally. You truly make a difference in your client’s lives. Moreover, you particularly enjoy how you help your customers feel better, de-stress, or recover from chronic pain!  You rely on your skilled knowledge as well as your physical ability to get the job done.

What if you could no longer do that job? Have you ever thought about what would happen if you became sick, ill, injured, and disabled? How would you pay the bills if you could not work?

A disability quickly affects your plans and the lifestyle you worked so hard for.

In this article, we discuss the following. Feel free to jump around as needed:

Let’s jump in and discuss why you need disability insurance.

Why Massage Therapists Need Disability Insurance?

I get it.

You don’t think about disability insurance. Life is too busy.

You won’t get sick or hurt, either. That happens to someone else, right? (More on that in a minute.)

Your clients are very important, too. You need to focus on them, keep them happy, grow your business, and make money.

However, there is a group of people who are more important. Who can be more important than my customers, you think? They pay my income.

True. They do, but they don’t love you as your family loves you. By far, if you have a family, your spouse and children rely on you more than you think. They love you more than anything.

In other words:

If you and your family will struggle to pay the bills (e.g. your mortgage, groceries, healthcare, electricity, etc.) if you get sick or hurt and can’t work, then you need disability insurance.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that. If you need more reasons, see our article on the 5 reasons you need disability insurance.

What Is Disability Insurance For Massage Therapists

What is disability insurance for massage therapists?

It is a type of insurance that pays you a monthly benefit amount if you can’t work as a massage therapist due to an illness or injury.

Simple. If you are sick or injured and can’t work, then you receive a benefit. This benefit helps pay your bills as you recover or go through treatments.

Sounds good, John, but I have health insurance. That will pay for everything.

I hear that from a lot of professionals. They think health insurance will pay for their income loss.

Health insurance pays for your medical expenses (and even then, it won’t pay for everything). So, how do you pay for your living expenses such as your mortgage, utilities, internet, groceries, those medical expenses that your health insurance DOESN’T pay for, etc?

Disability insurance helps pay for all that.

Sometimes you will hear disability insurance as disability income insurance. It all means the same thing as this insurance protects your income

What Is Your Plan B?

I speak to professionals about disability insurance every day. When I ask them:

 If you got hurt yesterday, how would you pay your bills today? 

I hear crickets.

As I like to ask, what is your “Plan B”?

Disability insurance is your Plan B. If you get sick or hurt (which happens very often) and can’t work without disability insurance, then you’ll have to answer some tough questions.

  • Would you and your family be able to continue your standard of living without your income?
  • What would you have to change?
  • Would your spouse have to work or work more?
  • Would you need to sell your home to make ends meet? Who could be flexible with the children?
  • Would you have the money to hire someone to take care of the kids?

The tough questions can go on and on.

A disability can destroy your dreams. They don’t have to, though. With disability insurance, you have peace of mind knowing that you have a plan – and income – in place should the unexpected happen.

Yes, But A Disability Won’t Happen To Me

You think it won’t. However, the probability of having a long-term disability is anywhere between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 workers.

Contrast this to unexpected death, say from a motor vehicle accident, which is 1 in 93. Even dying from cancer has better odds: 1 in 7.

But, John, I’m not going to get sick, hurt, or be in a wheelchair, you say. I hear that response a lot. If you can tell the future, then you would be a very rich person, right?

I am not intending to be condescending or facetious. However, I am showing the silliness of this common response

In all seriousness, when we think of disability, we think of someone bound in a wheelchair, right? Not true and far from it.

According to the Council For Disability Awareness, 90% of disabilities are from illnesses (like cancer) and musculoskeletal issues (like lower back pain) than from accidents. That means an illness or condition, such as cancer or a heart condition, has a higher probability of disabling you than a skiing accident.

Moreover, many massage therapists develop hand, wrist, arm, back, or shoulder problems over time. These chronic musculoskeletal issues are disabilities! Even carpal tunnel syndrome is a disability if it prevents you from doing your job as a massage therapist.

Ok, John, but I have workers compensation. I don’t need to worry about money. That’s great, I say. Did you know that 5% of disabling conditions are work-related? That means workers compensation does not cover the other 95% of disabling injuries. That makes sense since 90% of disabilities are from illnesses.

Again, what is your income plan if you can’t work?

The Types Of Disability Insurance For Massage Therapists

Now that I have your attention, there are 4 types of disability insurance available to massage therapists:

  • short-term disability insurance
  • long-term disability insurance
  • business overhead disability insurance
  • accident-only disability insurance

Many people ask us about the difference between short-term disability insurance and long-term disability insurance. Here’s the difference.

Short-term disability insurance, as it sounds, is designed for a disability of a short period. Let’s say you break your hand. Well, it’ll be hard to work as a massage therapist with a broken hand, right? So, that is a disability – you can’t do your job as a massage therapist. How long does a broken hand heal? Two to 3 weeks? Once you’ve met the waiting period, you’ll be eligible for benefits and receive some disability benefits.

Long-term becomes the life-saver for those disabilities that last longer than 3 months. Cancer… a catastrophic injury…ALS…Diabetes…back issues…you name it.

Most families can get by financially when one member has a short-term disability. Sure, it might be tough, but families can get by. However, it’s a long-term disability that can financially ruin families. A family can potentially face severe financial risks if a breadwinner does not have adequate long-term disability insurance.

Two Additional Disability Insurance Plans For Massage Therapists

Many massage therapists are small business owners or 1099 independent contractors. It’s a good idea for massage therapists to insure their business expenses as well.

Business overhead disability insurance insures your business expenses. So, if you are a self-employed massage therapist, then you can insure your rent, licenses, taxes, etc. This type of insurance is ideal and premiums are tax-deductible as well.

Finally, there is accident-only disability insurance. Think of this as a “last resort” disability insurance. It will only pay a benefit if you are disabled due to an accident. The better insurance companies offer coverage for both on and off-the-job injuries. Usually, carriers don’t ask health questions. Most accident-only disability insurance is affordable. The reason is that, as we indicated earlier, most disabilities are not caused by accidents.

In this article, we focus on long-term disability insurance. However, you can contact us for any questions about short-term disability, business overhead, or accident-only disability insurance.

Is Short-Term Disability Insurance For Massage Therapists Worth It?

We receive many inquiries from massage therapists wanting short-term disability insurance coverage.

Honestly, though, you don’t need it. That might shock you. However, those who say you do, you should question their intention. We feel that short-term disability insurance isn’t worth the money.

What, you ask? Why do you say that?

Here’s why.

Short-Term Disability Insurance Can Be A Waste Of Money

You will never hear this from most agents. But, I am not like most agents. to show illustration of a short-term disability insurance quote for massage therapists

Short-term disability insurance can be a waste of money. I mean a lot. Just look at this real quote for a Massage Therapist. This quote is based on a $65,000 net income for a 40-year-old woman. Are you ready to spend $100 to $200 per month on short-term disability insurance?

(Note: this is a 0/7 day waiting period and a 3-month benefit period.)

There’s a reason short-term disability insurance costs so much. There are a lot more short-term claims. Spending a couple hundred a month on short-term disability insurance is common. I am talking about individual coverage. Policies through your employer, if you are an employee and offered,  likely cost a lot less. Those can make more sense, but not individual coverage.

Second, short-term disability insurance covers disabilities for a short-term, maybe a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Then, you are done.

A Better Option For Short-Term Disability Insurance For Massage Therapists

However, there’s another favorable option that covers massage therapists. Do you know what that is?

If you said, emergency savings, you are right.

Saving a few months of expenses proves advantageous. Do you see why? You won’t spend needlessly on short-term disability insurance premiums. You already have the money for your short-term needs. It’s more important to have long-term disability insurance as those long-term disability situations place more financial pressure on families.

What about pregnancy? We described in our article that you could spend more on premiums than receive as a benefit. Yet, these other agents won’t discuss that or these alternatives. They’ll confirm you need it because you think you need it.

If you want some insurance for childbirth, pregnancy, or maternity leave, we discuss affordable options as well. We have helped many massage therapists obtain pregnancy or maternity leave insurance.

If you can obtain short-term disability insurance through your employer, then it could make financial sense. Otherwise, having an emergency fund for these short-term situations is the right solution.

Disability Insurance Underwriting For Massage Therapists

Hopefully, we have made a great case for disability insurance. Not only is your livelihood at stake, but also your family’s.

After you apply, your application goes right to the underwriting department. The underwriting department reviews your application and approves the premium and coverage.

Disability insurance underwriting can be more involved than, say, life insurance underwriting. For disability insurance, there are 4 key areas for premiums and approval:

  • Age
  • Income/Salary
  • Occupation
  • Health Conditions

Your age and income are straightforward. The older you are, the more expensive the policy will be. The higher your income, the higher the benefit, and the higher the premium. Don’t worry about the actual premium. I’ll discuss that more when we talk about premiums below, and how we are different than other agencies.

In case you were not aware, your income is your W-2 gross salary if you are an employee. Your income is your net income if you are self-employed. So, if your W-2 salary is $60,000, that is the number used for underwriting.

Net income is off your Schedule C on your tax return (or whatever you use for your business filing). If you are self-employed, your net income is the number that the disability insurance companies insure. It is your gross sales less business expenses. Without getting into the weeds, your net income as a self-employed massage therapist is essentially the same as a W-2 employee’s gross salary. (Related: see our article on using the right income for disability insurance.)

Disability insurance companies like to look at the last 2 years or 3 years and average out. So, having the last 2 or 3 years of salary on hand is handy for the application process.

Your occupation is straightforward, but we will discuss this later.

First, let’s talk about health conditions next.

Health Conditions Matter With Disability Insurance Underwriting

Disability insurance underwriting is much different compared to life insurance underwriting. Remember, the insurance company is insuring your potential disability (not chance of death, as with life insurance). So, disability insurance underwriters look at your previous and current health conditions much differently.

Essentially, disability insurance companies won’t cover any previous or current health conditions. In other words, the insurance company excludes coverage.

Of course, there are exceptions.

For example, carriers may cover a low-maintenance health condition, such as hypertension or cholesterol, as long as there are no additional complications.

Carriers also cover previous injuries as long as there are no pins, rods, or other structures supporting the injured body part.

However, carriers exclude anxiety and depression, even if under a low-maintenance regimen, from coverage.

Same with going to a chiropractor for “maintenance” on your back. A chiropractor is a Doctor. If you go to one, underwriters see that as an existing problem. So, they exclude coverage on your back and spine. (Note: we have been able to secure disability coverage, including back and spine coverage, for professionals who do visit a chiropractor. It’s a case-by-case basis and important to contact us so we can discuss your situation.)

If you have more serious health conditions, the carrier could place a rating on your policy. A rating is an extra premium the carrier charges for an increased disability risk. Moreover, the carrier may limit options such as limited waiting periods or reduced benefit periods.

Having an exclusion or a rating is not a reason to ignore a disability insurance policy. There are nearly endless ways for a disability to occur.

Your Occupation Matters, Too!

Many massage therapists ask us how their occupation matters with disability insurance underwriting. Well, some occupations are riskier than others. Carriers adjust for this.

All the disability insurance carriers classify occupations based on disability risk.

In general, the carriers classify from 1 or A to a 5 or 6. An occupation with a class 6 has the lowest disability risk due to occupation and a class 1 occupation has the highest.

All things being equal, you’ll pay a higher premium if you are a class 1.

Disability insurance companies usually classify massage therapists as a class 1 or a 2. In some cases, a higher classification may be available.

So, what does this have to do with massage therapists?

Well, you do have the potential for a higher on-the-job disability compared to, say, an office manager. Carriers underwrite this by assigning your occupation the classification number.

We have helped many self-employed massage therapists attain a class 5, thereby saving significant premium money.

While there is general alignment among the disability insurance carriers, some carriers elevate your classification higher. All things being equal, carriers with a higher occupation classification save you money with lower monthly premiums. While not guaranteed due to specific provisions, we have helped many self-employed massage therapists attain a class 5, thereby saving significant premium money.

Additionally, many companies have a work requirement. They generally require your working 30 hours or more per week for a disability insurance policy. These hours include any administrative duties to run your business.

If you are a part-time massage therapist, do not worry. We have helped many part-time massage therapists obtain disability insurance. Contact us for more details.

The Makings of A Strong Disability Insurance Policy For Massage Therapists

Let me tell you something that other agents won’t: disability insurance isn’t complicated. Moreover, you don’t (likely) need all the “bells and whistles”.

This is what I mean. Disability insurance can be tailored to your needs. However, we feel there are some “non-negotiable” provisions that you need in your policy. After that, your preference determines other options and riders.

The first “non-negotiable” is the own-occupation definition of disability.

Luckily, many carriers make this definition of disability available for massage therapists.

The own-occupation definition means that the carriers pay a disability benefit if you can’t perform your own occupation as a massage therapist. It pays even if your disability doesn’t prevent you from working in another job, say as a security guard.

The second feature is partial disability benefits. You’ll want this. All this means is that the carriers pay you a partial benefit if you can work, but just not full-time. Many carriers offer this, but they have a stringent definition (see to the right). We work with carriers that offer an easier definition for massage therapists.

Finally, guaranteed insurability options (future purchase options) are a key feature of a policy. This option gives you the ability to purchase additional coverage (i.e. more disability insurance) in the future, but with no underwriting required. You just need to show financial insurability.

For example, 3 years ago, you made $30,000 and bought disability insurance. Today, you are making $60,000. That is a $30,000 increase! You can insure that amount through the guaranteed insurability option. Without that option, you would have to apply for an additional policy and prove health insurability again. Who wants to do that?

In our opinion, these three features are key to disability insurance for massage therapists. After that, you can choose features and options at your preference.  We discuss those next.

Disability Insurance Basics For Massage Therapists

to show important provisions in disability insurance for massage therapists

There are several definitions and provisions you’ll need to understand about disability insurance to make an informed decision.

There is an elimination period, or waiting period, which is like a deductible. It is the period of time that elapses before disability benefits begin. For example, if you select a 90-day elimination period and are disabled, you’ll be eligible for disability benefits on the 91st day. However, typically with carriers, you won’t get paid until 30 days later or day 120 or so. This means you need to have adequate savings to carry you and your family until benefits begin.

For long-term disability insurance, you can go as low as 30 days for a waiting period.

Disability insurance companies allow a benefit period of 5 years. It’s important to note that the benefit period is based on each claim. As long as you pay premiums, you will have disability insurance to age 67 (unless you have a conditionally renewable plan, and those do exist).

You might be wondering why we are telling you this. The reason is all of this leads to premiums. The lower the waiting period, the higher the premium you’ll pay. The longer the benefit period, the higher the premium you’ll pay. And, vice-versa. All things being equal, of course.

You will have to make decisions based on benefits versus cost. Everyone wants the “Ashton Martin” plan. However, nearly everyone can’t afford that. Additionally, the old adage runs true here: some coverage is better than none.

Some coverage is better than none!

Optional Disability Insurance Riders For Massage Therapists

You can add optional disability insurance riders (link) at an additional cost to your policy that best fits your needs and budget. Some popular rider options for massage therapists include:

Retroactive Injury Benefit Rider: Pays benefits from the date of disability due to injury (i.e. not sickness) if disability occurs within 30 days of the injury and continues through the elimination period.

Activities of Daily Living Rider: This rider pays an additional benefit if you can’t perform two or more of the activities of daily living or cognitive impairment.

Residual Disability Rider: This rider will pay a benefit if you return to work in your occupation, and you experience an income loss of 20% or more compared to your pre-disability income. Usually, the amount of disability income you receive is a percentage of your total monthly disability benefit. For example, let’s say you return to work and experience a 40% income loss. If your monthly disability benefit is $4,000, you will receive $1,600 ($4,000 X 40%).

Social Insurance Rider: Coordinates your benefit with the Social Security Administration. This rider lowers your premium; however, you potentially have to coordinate your benefits with SSDI (social security disability insurance). In other words, the social security benefits reduce the benefit you receive from the disability insurance company. Do you want to work with the government? I generally do not recommend this rider. Contact us to learn more.

Cost-of-Living Adjustment: increases your monthly benefit by the contracted inflation rate if you have been a year on claim.

Depending on the carrier, there are additional options such as a critical illness rider, non-cancellable provision, accident rider, and more.

The Best Disability Insurance For Massage Therapists

You are probably wondering who we like to work with. I mean, we did say “the best” in our title.

Well, because of advertising guidelines and remain compliant, we can’t disclose carriers in our articles any longer.

However, keep the following in mind:

  • the “best” for you may not be for someone else. Everyone’s situation is different
  • we have helped many massage therapists obtain disability insurance, so we know which carriers are favorable for your occupation and who are not
  • depending on your state you reside in and other factors, you can have a class 5 occupation which is unheard of for massage therapists
  • we routinely get our massage therapy client’s premiums below $100 per month (more on that below)

We work with many disability insurance companies and only those that offer:

  • the own occupation definition
  • enhanced partial disability benefits
  • guaranteed insurability options
  • occupation class to a class 5, where applicable (YES!)
  • and other riders to meet your needs

We have the expertise to guide you to the right disability insurance decision. Moreover, we have even helped massage therapists, who were declined for disability insurance before, get the coverage they need.

If we can’t help you, or if there is a better option for you, we will tell you that. You see, helping you is our first priority. Your interests come first to us, not our own needs and interests.

How Much Do Massage Therapists Pay For Disability Insurance?

Everyone wants to know about costs. John, just cut to the chase. How much will all this cost? 

Well, it depends.

Remember, disability premiums are based on the following:

  • age
  • occupation
  • health conditions
  • salary/income

You can’t change your age, and you can’t change your occupation. You can’t to show costs of disability insurance for massage therapistschange your health conditions…to a point.

Sometimes, carriers will reverse exclusions, depending on the situation. Your income is your income, and you want to insure as much as you can.

There are factors outside one’s control. However, we at My Family Life Insurance aim to keep premiums at $100 or less per month for disability insurance. Nearly all the time, we accomplish that. You can easily customize a policy for $100 per month.

Stated another way, disability insurance can easily cost anywhere from $1.00 to $3.00 per day. Maybe more, as we mentioned. Do you think that is expensive? If you buy coffee every day or your lunch, you are spending your disability insurance premiums anyway. That’s right. The cost is equivalent to the cost of a cup of Starbucks coffee.

Another way to look at the cost:

Disability insurance costs 2 cents for every $1 you make. Think about that.

There is no excuse to protect your family and livelihood. As we mentioned, some coverage is better than none. Don’t let cost be the deterrent for a solid policy protecting your family. (Related: See disability insurance mistakes people make.)

What About Disability Insurance Plans Through Associations?

The American Massage Therapist Association (AMTA), and some of the other massage therapy associations, offer disability insurance to their members.  The Hartford Financial Services Group underwrites the disability insurance for the AMTA. The association offers disability insurance plans for AMTA members.

Is a disability insurance plan through an association right for you? Association disability insurance programs tend to be “plain vanilla”, which means they are simple and basic and may not meet your specific, individual needs. Many of these plans are an extension of group employer disability plans. However, because of their simplicity, they tend to be lower in premium cost as well.

In our opinion, the disability insurance program through the AMTA is no different. Is it a bad plan? No. There are benefits and drawbacks. Here they are as we see them.

Benefits include:

  • very low monthly cost
  • easy application
  • spousal coverage, even if he or she is a non-AMTA member
  • pre-existing condition coverage after a 12-month waiting period

While these are positives, the plan contains many drawbacks which we discuss next.

Disadvantages of the AMTA Disability Insurance Plan

• limited monthly benefit – the most you can receive is $4,000 per month. This amount equates to $68,000 annually. If you earn more than this, you’ll have a potential income replacement gap. For example, let’s say you earn $100,000 as a massage therapist. That means your maximum income replacement is about $5,800 per month. If you have the AMTA disability insurance for $4,000 and go on a disability claim, how will you come up with the additional $1,800 per month?

• limited coverage for sicknesses – if you have a disabling sickness or illness, ATMA pays benefits for only 12 months. Remember, most disabilities are from sicknesses rather than injuries. Additionally, many disabilities last longer than a year. That is concerning to us.

• modified own occupation definition for 2 years – they contain a modified own-occupation definition for 24 months. After that, the definition transitions to the unfavorable “any” occupation.

• no residual disability benefit – a majority of disabilities start as a partial disability.  Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, arthritis…you name it, can start as a partial disability. Under the AMTA plan, the policy won’t pay. Why? It will only pay a partial benefit once you are totally disabled (i.e not working at all) and meet your elimination period. But, you are working and your doctor says you can work…see the problem?

A residual disability benefit pays without the total disability requirement. You generally need a certain loss of income, loss of work time, or a combination of both.

While advantages exist with the ATMA plan, there are drawbacks. We feel the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. However, you have to do what you feel is right for your situation.

Final Thoughts About Disability Insurance For Massage Therapists

We hope now you have a solid idea why massage therapists need disability insurance. Confused? Don’t feel that way. We’re here to help educate you and protect your income and future.

Don’t know where to start? Use this disability insurance needs analysis worksheet. Follow the instructions; it is rather easy to fill out (we at My Family Life Insurance try to make understanding insurance easy).

Next, feel free to reach out to us for our assistance or use the form below.

We only work for you, your family, and your best interests. We have helped many massage therapists secure the right disability insurance for their specific situation, giving them and their families peace of mind.

Learn More

Are you interested in learning more about the information in this article? Please fill out the form below, and we will email you additional information or give you a call. We always work in your best interest. By entering your information, you are providing your express consent that My Family Life Insurance may contact you via e-mails, SMS, phone calls, or prerecorded messages at any phone number(s) that you provide, even if the number is a wireless number or on any federal or state do-not-call list. Additionally, you understand that calls may be placed using automated technology, and that consent is not a requirement for purchase. Your information will NOT be sold and will remain private. However, you may opt out at any time. We respect your privacy first and foremost. By contacting us, you agree to receive text messages from our number (800) 645-9841. If you no longer wish to receive text messages, you may opt out at any time by replying "STOP".


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Nurses usually don’t wake up in the morning and think, “Gosh, I need some disability insurance!”

Am I right?

If you are a nurse, you are busy. Being on your feet, helping doctors and patients with examinations, and treating patients with care is part of your livelihood. Nursing can definitely be a very tough job, but a rewarding one both emotionally and financially.

However, have you ever thought about what could happen if you could no longer do your job?

What would happen if you became sick, ill, injured, and disabled?

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disability insurance for chiropractors

Chiropractors don’t have a lot of time thinking about disability insurance, am I right?

I think you will likely agree with me on that.

Yeah, John. I am pretty busy, but I am interested in learning more about disability insurance.

Great. However, what if you could no longer do your job?

Have you ever thought about what would happen if you became sick, ill, injured, and disabled?

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In this article, we are going to discuss short-term disability insurance costs for 2023.

Disability insurance is an extremely important insurance that most families need. It is the only insurance that will pay a benefit to you if you are sick or hurt and can’t do your job. No other type of insurance does that.

Inflation is still high, money is still tight, and economists predict doom and gloom with a recession. I receive many phone calls from professionals about the costs of short-term disability insurance.

Continue reading Get Ahead of the Curve: 2024 Short-Term Disability Insurance Costs Explained