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Nurse practitioners (NPs) are among the fastest-growing specialty in medicine. At the same time, their educational requirements have increased considerably over the last few years, with many employers now requiring advanced degrees.

That’s a lot of student loan debt to accumulate for a job that pays $100,000 to $125,000 annually.

Given the investment required to become a nurse practitioner and the income you earn from your chosen specialty, it’s important to protect your livelihood against an unforeseen injury or illness.

Pro Tip: Nurse practitioners can get instant quotes here!

Why every nurse practitioner needs disability insurance

The best way to do that is to invest in a disability insurance policy, which can replace a major portion of your income if you are unable to work due to injury or illness.

Without disability insurance, you could lose a significant amount of income and all that your income supports if you’re in a bad accident, lose your vision, or suffer an illness that affects your ability to practice medicine. Even if the disability is temporary, you could fall behind on your mortgage or car payments, rack up more debt, and be forced to sell valuable items or tap into retirement accounts for needed cash.

Even if you have coverage through a group plan, you may want to strongly consider an individual physician disability policy. Group plans typically offer less benefits than individual policies. Also, your ability to have coverage is contingent on being employed by the company or a member of the organization sponsoring the group plan, and group plans can be canceled at any time; individual insurance remains in force as long as you pay the premiums.

Understanding how your medical specialty impacts your disability insurance rates

Speaking of premiums, your medical specialty greatly determines how much you will pay for disability coverage.

Insurance companies group jobs into specific occupational classes based on risk. These occupational classes take into account the hazards of the job and the difficulty in returning to work following a disability. Another factor is the claim experience associated with certain professions.

Insurance companies generally classify occupations on a scale of 1 to 5 or 6. Many use the letter M to designate medical professionals. Typically, the higher the numerical value of the classification, the lower the rate available will be from the insurance company (and perceived risk).

How do disability insurance companies classify nurse practitioners?

Nurse practitioners are often certified in multiple areas of medicine. This makes it challenging for disability insurance companies to classify the profession in its various risk classes. As such, the premium rates charged to nurse practitioners on a physician disability insurance policy can vary greatly by company.

In fact, the major providers of physician disability insurance classify NPs from 3M to 5M.

When you review potential policies, it’s also important to understand what specialty you are being assessed as. For example, if you are a nurse practitioner whose main clinical focus is OB/GYN care, is the insurance company classifying you as an NP or an OB/GYN? The difference in premium rates can be substantial.

NPs should have own occupation and residual disability coverage

The most important provision a nurse practitioner should have included in a policy is that a disability is defined as one that prevents the insured from working in his or her “own occupation.”

This means the policy will pay benefits if an injury prevents you from working in your chosen medical specialty, but allows you to do other types of work that would nonetheless reduce your income.

A policy without an own-occupation feature would not pay benefits so long as you’re able to work in some capacity. With it, benefits would be paid so long as you couldn’t perform the specific tasks of your practice.

Residual disability is generally defined as being able to perform one or more, but not all, of the material and substantial duties of your occupation, or being unable to work in your occupation for a set percentage of the time. This would mean that you can still practice medicine but have to limit how much you can work.

Residual disability benefits are triggered when the insured suffers an established percentage of income because of their disability. The benefit you receive under the provision is typically proportionate to your lost earning power.

Buy while young and look for unisex rates

All insurance is priced based on the risk of you, the insured, filing a claim. The higher your risk, the more you will pay in premiums.

One of the factors that contribute to a higher risk for disability claims — and thus higher premiums for disability insurance — is age. Statistics show the older you are, the more likely you are of becoming disabled. Therefore, you can save money in the long term by purchasing coverage today. Each year you age is more money you’ll be paying out each month or year in premiums.

If you do buy coverage when you’re starting out in practice, it’s also advisable to get a policy with a future purchase option, also sometimes referred to as a future increase option, a future insurability option, or a benefit update rider.

This feature, whether provided as an optional rider for an additional cost or as part of the base policy, enables a policyholder to increase the amount of coverage at a future date without having to undergo additional underwriting. It’s designed to ensure you have adequate protection as your income increases the longer you practice medicine.

Women NPs should find a policy that offers a unisex rate. Because women file more disability insurance claims than men, their premiums are typically higher. A unisex rate policy, however, essentially negates gender-specific rates and uses an identical rate for men and women. On average, a unisex rate policy can save women 45 percent to 55 percent on their premiums.

Who Offers Disability Insurance
for Physicians?

Compare rates, features, and more from the best disability insurance policies of 2022.
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States AvailableAK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KT, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
About

Ameritas Life is as reputable as any name in the insurance industry. However, it's actually a newcomer to the disability insurance space in comparison to its competitors. DInamic Foundation is its best disability insurance product for doctors. Policies are underwritten and issued by Union Central Life, its wholly-owned subsidiary.

Ameritas features a true own-occupation definition of disability. This provision benefits you if an accident or illness prevents you from practicing your specialty.

DInamic Foundation requires you to choose between non-cancelable coverage and guaranteed renewal. The maximum benefit period available is to age 70. Ameritas offers basic and enhanced residual disability riders. It also offers two different COLA riders.

Pros

  • True own-occupation provision.
  • Lowest premium amount.
  • Two COLA rider and residual disability options.
  • Various add-ons such a good health benefit, presumptive total disability benefit, COBRA premium benefit, partial disability benefit, and non-disabling injury benefit.

Cons

  • Slower customer service.
  • Lowest maximum policy benefit: $20,000 per month.
  • Must choose between non-cancelable coverage and guaranteed renewal.
  • For certain occupation classes, the own-occupation provision is only available for five years.

Read our full review of Ameritas's disability insurance policy.

States AvailableAK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KT, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
About

As one of the largest, most trusted mutual insurance companies in America, Guardian Life is the Cadillac of its industry. Its disability insurance product, ProVider Choice, is a great fit for doctors. Policies are underwritten and issued by Berkshire Life, a wholly-owned stock subsidiary.

According to Guardian, total disability occurs when injury or illness prevents you from performing your occupation. For doctors, more than half of your income must come from hands-on patient care or surgical procedures to qualify.

Guardian’s true own-occupation definition of disability guarantees full benefits. It still applies if you’re able to maintain gainful employment in another occupation. In fact, you may be able to benefit if you can still practice your specialty with major limitations.

Coverage is non-cancelable and guaranteed renewable to age 70. You may elect 10-year, five-year and two-year benefit periods. Guardian offers 30-day, 60-day, 90-day, 180-day, 360-day and 720-day elimination periods.

Unlike other providers, Guardian features three cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) rider options. As for residual disability, Guardian offers both basic and enhanced partial riders.

Pros

  • True own-occupation provision.
  • Highest COMDEX score: 99.
  • Highest maximum policy benefit: $20,000 per month.
  • Simplified underwriting for up to $7,500.
  • Various options for benefit and elimination periods.
  • Various options for COLA and residual disability riders.
  • Various add-ons such as an automatic benefit enhancement, benefit purchase option, catastrophic disability rider, hospice care benefit, serious illness supplemental benefit and student loan protection.

Cons

  • Highest premium amount.
  • No presumptive total disability benefit.

Read our full review on Guardian's disability insurance policy.

States AvailableAK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KT, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
About

MassMutual has been a mainstay in the insurance game since 1851. MassMutual offers two disability insurance products, Radius and Radius Choice. Both feature provisions and add-ons that allow you to customize your coverage to meet specific needs. MassMutual helps you protect your income and retirement without relinquishing payment control.

MassMutual features a true own-occupation definition of disability. However, the provision is not part of your base policy. You must purchase it as an additional rider. With this provision in place, ‘total disability’ occurs when you cannot perform the main duties of your occupation. This requires you to be under a physician's care.

Both Radius and Radius Choice are non-cancelable and guaranteed renewable to age 65. Radius is conditionally renewable for life, while Radius Choice is only until age 74. Both policies have benefit periods available to ages 65 and 67, as well as two years, five years and 10 years. Radius Choice also offers a maximum benefit period to age 70. Both policies offer elimination periods of 60 days, 90 days, 180 days, one year and two years.

MassMutual offers one cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) rider. After your first year of disability, your monthly benefit increases by a set percentage each year. MassMutual offers one option with basic criteria that increases your chance of qualifying.

Pros

  • True own-occupation provision.
  • Various add-ons such as an automatic benefit enhancement, catastrophic disability rider, future increase option, presumptive total disability benefit and student loan protection.

Cons

  • Own-occupation provision sold separately.
  • Only one COLA rider and residual disability rider option.
  • No benefit purchase option, hospice care benefit or serious illness supplemental benefit.

Read our full review on MassMutual's disability insurance policy.

States AvailableAK, AL, AR, AZ, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KT, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NE, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WA, WI, WV, WY
About

Ohio National’s disability insurance product is relatively new to the market. Still, it's among the best money can buy. ContinuON Income Solutions II allows you to customize your coverage without losing control of premium expenses.

Ohio National offers its true own-occupation provision as a rider. Regardless of occupation class, it does not come with your base policy. With Ohio National, total disability occurs when you're unable to perform the material and substantial duties of your specialty. To qualify, you must be under the care of a physician.

ContinuON Income Solutions II is guaranteed renewable on an annual basis. Coverage is non-cancelable as long as you consistently pay on time. Benefits periods include age 65, 67 and 70. Two-year, five-year and 10-year benefit periods are also available. Ohio National offers 60-day, 90-day, 180-day and one-year elimination periods.

Ohio National offers both a 3% and a 6% COLA rider. Policyholders may elect the basic or enhanced residual disability rider.

Pros

  • True own-occupation provision.
  • Excellent customer service.
  • Various add-ons such as a hospice benefit, survivor benefit and recurrent disability benefit.

Cons

  • Lowest physical and labs limit means simplified underwriting is only allowed for up to $3,000 per month.

Read our full review on Ohio National's disability insurance policy.

States AvailableAK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KT, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
About

Principal Life is among the most competitive providers in the disability insurance market. HH750 is an excellent option for doctors seeking a top-shelf disability insurance product. It features a wide variety of options that afford you maximum flexibility.

Principal offers both a true own-occupation and a modified own-occupation provision. A true own-occupation provision is the best bet for highly-skilled individuals like doctors. You benefit if you become unable to perform the material and substantial duties of your specialty. It still applies if you can maintain gainful employment in a different occupation.

Modified own-occupation is a watered-down version of the former. Frankly, it's only feasible if you’re cost is a concern. The definition of disability is the same, but you will not benefit if you can fulfill another occupation. Either way, both provisions are available as part of your base policy. You do not have to purchase an additional rider.

HH750 is non-cancelable and guaranteed renewable to age 65. Benefit periods are available to ages 65, 67 and 70, and for two years and five years. Principal features 30-day, 60-day, 90-day, 180-day and one year elimination periods.

Principal offers one cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) rider. After selecting a maximum benefit between 3-6%, it increases on a compound basis. Principal also offers one partial residual disability rider.

Pros

  • True and modified own-occupation provisions.
  • Advisor’s Choice Award for advisor support.
  • Available to those who only work 20 hours a week.
  • Simplified underwriting for up to $6,000 per month.
  • Various add-ons such as a benefit update rider, catastrophic disability rider, future benefit increase rider, presumptive total disability benefit, and serious illness benefit.

Cons

  • The modified own-occupation provision can be misleading. It can save you money now, but you will not receive as strong of benefits as true own-occupation.

Read our full review of Principal's disability insurance policy.

States AvailableAK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KT, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
About

The Standard is among the largest, most trusted providers in the disability insurance space. The company has several options, but Platinum Advantage is the most beneficial for doctors. It features built-in provisions and additional riders that maximize income protection.

The Standard's true own-occupation definition of disability is available as an additional rider. With this provision in place, ‘total disability’ occurs when you are unable to perform the substantial and material duties of your specialty. You must also be under the care of a physician to qualify.

Platinum Advantage is guaranteed renewable to age 67. To make your policy non-cancelable, you must purchase an additional rider. Benefit periods are available to ages 65 and 67, as well as two years, five years and 10 years. Elimination periods of 60 days, 90 days, 180 days and one year are available.

The Standard offers one cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) rider. After selecting a maximum benefit between 3-6%, it increases annually on a compound basis according to the Consumer Price Index. The Standard offers a basic residual disability rider.

Pros

  • True own-occupation provision.
  • Wide variety of options and strong coverage guarantee.
  • No-cost riders and benefits, such as the family care benefit.
  • Various add-ons such as an automatic increase benefit rider, benefit increase rider, catastrophic disability rider, family care benefit, premium waiver benefit, presumptive total disability benefit, student loan rider and survivor benefit.

Cons

  • Own-occupation and non-cancelable riders sold separately.
  • Only one COLA rider and residual disability rider option.
  • Lowest COMDEX score: 79.

Read our full review on The Standard's disability insurance policy.

Joel Palmer - Award-Winning Writer

Joel Palmer is an award-winning journalist, corporate copywriter, and marketing specialist with over two decades of professional experience. He writes compelling, authoritative, and original content for companies and organizations across a wide range of industries, from financial services and real estate to government and software development.

Disability InsurancePublished May 31, 2018
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