Best Short-Term Disability Insurance Companies

How to choose the right short-term disability insurance for you

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If you break a bone or experience an extended illness, do you have enough money in the bank to cover your expenses while you’re out of work? If you answered no, short-term disability insurance might be a way to protect yourself and your income. 

While it’s hard to imagine being ill or injured, an estimated 25 percent of Americans over age 20 will become disabled for at least a brief period by the time they reach retirement age, according to the Social Security Administration. Having a backup plan via short-term disability coverage is a way to protect yourself and your loved ones. 

Based on our review of standard short-term disability policies, plans will likely pay anywhere from 40 to 80 percent of your monthly income while you are recovering from illness or injury. Many women also use these policies to receive a portion of their income while on maternity leave. Some policies may help cover your income for as little as six weeks, while others may cover you for up to a year. 

Navigating short-term disability coverage can be challenging, especially if you wish to pursue an individual policy. This is a policy that’s not employer-dependent—you can take it with you regardless of where you work. We’ve evaluated short-term disability policies with emphasis on those that offer individual coverage and the best options based on considerations like coverage options and how well the company protects those in different occupations.

Best Short-Term Disability Insurance of 2021

Best Short-Term Disability Insurance Companies
Best Short-Term Disability Insurance Companies

Best Overall : Aflac


Aflac

 Aflac

Why we chose it: Aflac listed some of the greatest variety of policy terms and customization on its website, including short elimination periods and a high maximum monthly benefit.

What We Like
  • High variability of available benefits, including $6,000 maximum monthly benefit

  • Website features transparent explanations of available policy terms

What We Don't Like
  • Must speak to agent to obtain pricing quote

  • Exclusions include cosmetic surgery and mental or emotional disorders

Searching for individual short-term disability policies can seem challenging, as most companies don’t list the terms and conditions defining their policies; instead, they want you to contact their agents directly. Aflac instantly grabbed our attention for their policy transparency and more robust, customizable benefit offerings, which is why they took our top spot. 

Aflac offers guaranteed-issue policies, which means you do not have to participate in medical underwriting to secure a policy. Their plans are guaranteed renewable up to age 75. 

Aflac offers a wide variety of policies that range in monthly benefit, benefit period, and elimination periods. For example, they offer monthly benefit payments that range from $500 to $6,000 based on income requirements; this was one of the highest maximum benefit payments we reviewed. They also offer benefit periods that range from three up to 24 months with a partial disability benefit period of three months. 

Aflac also advertises 10 different elimination periods (the time a person must wait before their benefits begin), ranging from zero days for injury and seven for sickness to 180 days for injury and illness. They also offer a premium waiver for every month you are disabled, so they are paying you, rather than you paying them, during this time. 

As a company, Aflac has an AM Best financial strength credit rating of A+ (superior). Aflac's products are available nationwide, although they may not be available in all states, and available terms may vary by location.

Policy exclusions include pregnancy or childbirth in the first 10 months after you hold your policy (they will pay within certain limits after these 10 months), injuries related to elective/cosmetic procedures, mental or emotional disorders, or injuries related to dentistry procedures. 

Another drawback is that you will have to go through their online quote tool and share some personal information to obtain a quote. They advertise that some policies are offered at a cost that is “less than a movie ticket,” but they do not attach a specific dollar figure to this amount.

Best High-Limit Policy : Petersen International Underwriters


Petersen International Underwriters

 Petersen International Underwriters

Why we chose it: The company serves a niche market of high-income individuals who may need up to $50,000 a month to protect their income.

What We Like
  • Can provide higher maximum limit policies than most insurance companies

  • Offer additional riders to protect a higher income

What We Don't Like
  • Must discuss specific terms and costs with a broker

  • Only for higher-income clients who would benefit from $20,000 or more monthly

Individuals with higher compensations are traditionally underserved in the short-term disability market. However, if a person who makes six figures suddenly loses their income due to illness or injury, they may not be able to compensate. That’s where Petersen International Underwriters (PIU) comes in. The company offers short-term disability insurance and optional riders to help those with higher incomes. 

Their disability insurance plans are geared toward specific, higher-paying occupations including brokers, dentists, executives, golfers, lawyers, physicians, pilots, and even professional athletes. They do not advertise the costs for this coverage, but instead advise a person to contact their brokers for more information and personalized quotes. 

Some of PIU’s terms include benefit periods that range up to age 65. They also offer a premium waiver should a person become totally disabled after a 90-day period. While they do not specify how high their maximum monthly benefits would go, they did list monthly maximums of between $20,000 and $50,000 a month in the examples of how their products work. You can also add on riders, such as those for partial disability or cost of living adjustments that help you navigate inflation. 

The company has an A.M. Best rating of A (excellent) for financial strength. They are licensed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada, although they may not offer all policies in each state.

Best for Policy Add-Ons : Mutual of Omaha


Mutual of Omaha

Mutual of Omaha

Why we chose it: Mutual of Omaha’s short-term disability coverage is adequate for basic needs, and the ability to add policy riders for critical illness, hospital confinement, or return of benefits is a plus.

What We Like
  • Optional benefits expand your coverage

  • Guaranteed renewable policy up to age 67

What We Don't Like
  • Must contact an insurance agent for a personalized quote

  • Notable exclusions include losses from mental or nervous disorders

Mutual of Omaha offers immediate, portable short-term disability coverage to eligible subscribers. Their coverage goes up to a maximum monthly base benefit of $5,000 with different benefit period choices, including three, six, 12, or 24 months. The more months you opt for, the more the premium will increase. 

You can also add optional benefits for an extra premium. Examples include a critical illness benefit (specified for specific medical conditions), hospital confinement benefit, and accidental medical expense benefit.

In addition to varying coverage periods, Mutual of Omaha also offers varying elimination periods. These include zero days for an accident/sickness or seven, 14, 30, 60, or 90 days.

You can obtain a quote for short-term disability coverage on Mutual of Omaha’s website where you’ll be asked to select what best describes your occupation and receive a quote estimate. For example, a “professional” employee who works in an office would pay $10 to $55 per month for a 10-year benefit period for coverage up to $1,000 per month after a 90-day elimination period. 

While you can get a general idea of how much a short-term disability policy will cost on Mutual of Omaha’s website, you must contact an agent (which can be accomplished online) to obtain a specific quote given your occupation, age, and desired coverage. Renewability is guaranteed through age 67, but the latest time you can apply for coverage is age 61. 

Most of Mutual of Omaha’s non-covered conditions are standard (self-inflicted injury, on-the-job injury, and injury while committing a crime). However, they do not cover losses related to substance abuse or loss resulting from “mental or nervous disorders.”

Coverage is provided in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. AM Best rates Mutual of Omaha a Financial Strength Rating of A+ (superior).

Best for Self-Employed : Northwestern Mutual


Northwestern Mutual

 Northwestern Mutual

Why we chose it: Northwestern Mutual has crafted specific policies for self-employed individuals with a variety of income levels, including part-time employees, stay-at-home parents, and doctors.

What We Like
  • Offers policies specific to self-employed individuals, including physicians and dentists

  • Company has high ratings for financial strength and premium payouts

What We Don't Like
  • Must go through an agent to obtain a quote and coverage

  • No website information related to elimination periods and maximum benefits

Disability insurance can be especially tricky for the self-employed, as it is more difficult to determine a consistent payroll amount needed to cover expenses. That’s why it’s important to choose an insurance company with products geared toward the needs of the self-employed.

We found Northwestern Mutual fit the bill because they offer short-term disability insurance for self-employed individuals and disability overhead expense insurance that helps cover expenses to keep a business running. They also cover specific disabilities for physicians and dentists, many of whom may be self-employed. As a bonus, Northwestern Mutual has expanded its short-term disability coverage options to include policies for part-time employees and stay-at-home parents. 

In terms of company ratings, Northwestern Mutual has earned an A.M. Best rating of A++ (superior). Per their website, they also rank number one for disability insurance that pays out the highest rate of premiums to their subscribers. Their advisors operate in all 50 states, although policy availability may vary by state. 

Finding the right plan for you may pose a challenge, as the specifics need to be discussed with a Northwestern Mutual financial advisor. They will schedule a meeting with you to discuss available options given your occupation and goals for a disability policy. Northwestern Mutual then customizes the policy based on your financial needs. The policies are individualized for each person, making the selection process somewhat challenging. While there’s a lot of education on their website about why you may need a short-term disability policy, there aren’t many specifics about costs, elimination periods, and maximum benefits.

Best for Long Coverage Period : State Farm Insurance


State Farm

 State Farm

Why we chose it: Offering up to a three-year benefit period, State Farm Insurance offers some of the longest coverage periods we reviewed.

What We Like
  • Benefits periods include one to three years

  • Touts easy-to-fill-out application and online claims submission

What We Don't Like
  • Does not offer disability products in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or New Jersey

  • Does not provide benefits for uncomplicated pregnancy or childbirth

State Farm offered some of the longest benefit periods we saw available for short-term disability insurance, as many companies only offer up to one year. While the maximum monthly benefit is policy dependent, the amounts can range from $300 to $3,000, depending on your income and occupation. Their advertised elimination periods include 30, 60, or 90 days and are based on the policy, but they do not list renewability periods on their website. 

State Farm’s exclusion list contains several common exclusions (such as injuries due to self-harm or engagement in illegal activities). However, they also list several notable exclusions, including normal pregnancy and childbirth and when an illness or injury results from cosmetic surgery. 

In terms of financial stability, State Farm has an A.M. Best rating of A++ (superior). They offer short-term disability insurance in all states except three: Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. 

While you can obtain quotes for some common State Farm products online (such as auto insurance), you’ll have to contact State Farm directly for a short-term disability quote and fill out a short application. Once you have secured the policy, you have the option to make claims over the Internet, via phone, or directly with an agent.

Best for Ease of Qualifications : Breeze


Breeze

 Breeze

Why we chose it: Breeze’s online quote tool and ability to customize the policy in less than 15 minutes makes selecting a short-term disability policy, well, a breeze.

What We Like
  • Online quote process takes less than 15 minutes

  • Most people can sign up without taking a medical exam

What We Don't Like
  • Does not offer maternity coverage or coverage for higher-income individuals

  • Requires a medical exam for higher-paying maximum benefits based on age

True to its name, Breeze endeavors to make signing up for short-term disability insurance as easy as possible. They promise that in less than 15 minutes, you can sign up for affordable disability insurance. The process unfolds in three steps: You start by listing your occupation and age, select your desired coverage, and apply and choose the price that makes the most sense for you. 

For a 40-year-old woman in a professional field who does not smoke, Breeze quoted policy coverage of a $1,000 monthly benefit for $25 per month. Suppose you enter your quote information in and don’t like their initial recommendations. In that case, you can customize changes, including adjusting the benefit period up to age 67 or varying the waiting period from 30 to 365 days. 

Breeze also offers the options to choose different riders, including guaranteed insurability or a residual disability benefit rider. If you are self-employed or a business owner, they also have policies specific to these fields. 

Breeze doesn’t offer its products in New York; instead, they offer them through their parent company, Assurity. A.M. Best ranks Assurity as an A- (Excellent) for their financial stability. Their exclusions list also includes pregnancy, and limitations include any pre-existing medical condition at least two years before the policy’s issue date.

Compare Providers

Best Short-Term Disability Insurance
 Insurance Company  Why We Picked It  Maximum Monthly Base Benefit  Elimination Periods
Aflac Best Overall $6,000 0 to 180 days, depending upon the policy
Petersen International Underwriters Best High-Limit Disability Not listed, but some examples read up to $50,000 Not listed
Mutual of Omaha Best for Policy Add-Ons  $5,000 0 to 90 days, depending upon the policy
Northwestern Mutual Best for Self-Employed Policy-specific— must contact a financial advisor Policy-specific— must contact a financial advisor
State Farm Best for Long Coverage Period $3,000 30, 60, and 90 days
Breeze Best for Ease of Qualifications Dependent upon age and income 30 up to 365 days

FAQs

What Is Short-Term Disability Insurance?

Short-term disability insurance is an insurance policy type that can provide you with a portion of your income should you find yourself temporarily unable to work. The duration that short-term disability policies will pay varies by company but may range from three to six months. 

You may qualify for short-term disability insurance if you find yourself unable to work due to an injury or illness that happened while you weren’t on the job. 

Only seven states require employers to offer short-term disability policies to their employees: California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island, plus Massachusetts and Connecticut starting in January 2021. However, many employers offer these policies to their employees regardless. 

Short-term disability policies will pay a portion of the income you lost by being unable to work. These are known as benefit rates. A policy’s benefit rate may vary from 40 to 80 percent of your income prior to your disability. Some policies may change benefit rates by weeks. You may get a higher rate (such as 80 percent) in the first two to four weeks you are on short-term disability, then drop down to 50 percent for the remaining benefit period. 


What Does Short-Term Disability Insurance Exclude?

Read your short-term disability policy carefully. A policy will usually list some terms and conditions for which the insurance company will not pay. Examples of common short-term disability exclusions include:

  • Inability to work due to a war 
  • Inability to work due to loss of occupational license 
  • Injuries due to active participation in a riot or protest 
  • Self-inflicted injuries 
  • A time period where you are in prison or jail for committing a crime 

Each policy may have its own stipulations. If you have a question about whether or not you are eligible for your disability benefits, contact your insurance company. 


Should You Get Short-Term Disability?

The decision to purchase short-term disability insurance is an individual one. Some considerations to make include:

  • Can I afford to be without an income for two to three months if I am ill or injured?
  • What is the expected monthly premium I’ve been offered for short-term disability insurance? 
  • Can I afford a monthly premium for short-term disability insurance? 

In 2018, an estimated 42 percent of United States private industry workers and 26 percent of state and local government workers had access to short-term disability policies, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reports that most people who have access to short-term disability insurance participate in the policy. 

The decision is yours—if your company offers the coverage without a monthly premium, it’s likely worth securing. It’s important to note that short-term disability payment does not mean your company will hold your job for you. If you have to pay a monthly premium, consider the long-term costs of paying the premium versus the possibility of saving three to six months’ worth of income as an alternative option. 

How Much Does Short-Term Disability Insurance Cost? 

Short-term disability costs can vary based on several factors. These include:

  • Age
  • Health status 
  • Income
  • Duration policy will pay 
  • If your employer helps pay for the policy 

If your employer does not help pay for the premium, you can expect to pay a percentage of your pre-tax salary on a yearly basis. For example, if you make $50,000 annually, paying 1 percent of your pre-tax salary would be about $500 a year or about $42 a month. You can expect this premium to be higher if you are older or have more health conditions (like diabetes or smoking), because these will increase the likelihood that you may need short-term disability coverage. 

Sometimes, your employer may completely cover the costs of short-term disability coverage or offer it to you at a significantly lower monthly price. 

What Is the Difference Between Short-Term Disability and FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that provides financial protection for workers who may need to temporarily leave their jobs due to medical reasons or family-related reasons. Some common reasons a person may take leave through the FMLA include the birth of a child, adopting a child, or to care for an ill family member. According to the Department of Labor, under FMLA, a person can take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave. However, this leave is unpaid. 

Some people will utilize FMLA in coordination with short-term disability. An example is after the birth of a child, when a woman can take up to 12 weeks of time off under FMLA. (Some employers may have policies that extend this time, but they can’t shorten it.) If a woman chooses, she may wish to use her short-term disability to provide her with additional income while she is off work. 

In short, FMLA is job protection that will not pay you when you take time off. Short-term disability is a policy that won’t protect your job but will pay you if you meet the criteria to take time off. 

How We Chose the Best Short-Term Disability Insurance

To select our list of best short-term disability insurance companies, we reviewed companies based on factors like costs, elimination periods, and benefits payouts. After researching more than 15 companies, we further narrowed down the choices to those who extend policy benefits to individuals (some only offer these through employers). We then evaluated the remaining companies based on website navigation, a range of elimination periods that included at least 30 to 90 days, application ease, AM Best ratings of at least A (excellent), and price quotes that were about 1 to 3 percent of a person’s salary when available. We used this information to select six of the best companies across a variety of categories.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  5. AM Best. AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and Its Subsidiary. Updated April 29, 2020.

  6. AM Best. AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and Most of Its Subsidiaries. Updated August 14, 2020.

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  8. USBLS. Employee access to disability insurance plans. Updated October 26, 2018.