One of the major determining factors of the risk involved with providing long term disability coverage is the occupation of the insured. To determine the pricing and benefits of policies, insurance companies group jobs into specific occupational classes based on risk.

When disability insurance companies build and price policies, they do so largely on the amount of risk involved.

One of the major determining factors of the risk involved with providing long term disability coverage is the occupation of the insured. To determine the pricing and benefits of policies, 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).

Medical specialties are not all classified the same. Typically, general practitioners, internists and family practice physicians are in a higher class and will therefore pay lower premiums than surgeons, emergency room physicians and other procedurally oriented doctors.

As your career progresses, it is wise to assess your occupation class to see if you can qualify for better rates.

Keep in mind the following about occupational risk classes when shopping for and comparing physician disability insurance.

Disability insurance occupation classes vary by company

For example, one company may classify oncologists in their 4M class, while a competing company may designate them as a 5M. In some cases, the discrepancy between insurers for certain specialties may vary by two class numbers.

Therefore, when shopping for disability insurance, you should give special consideration to a company’s policy which placed you in a higher classification than other companies.

Check my physician disability insurance rates here!

Disability insurance occupation classes are subject to change

Insurers may at times adjust occupational risk classes based on data that shows more or less risk in certain specialities, or the desire to boost sales among certain prospective customers. For example, an insurance company may inform its contracted agents that a certain group of specialists have been moved from a 4M risk class to a 5M class. Companies sometimes offer temporary discounts to certain classes as well.

The occupational class of your medical specialty will determine five key aspects of your disability policy:

  1. How much you will pay in premium.
    The area most impacted by your occupational class is the amount you will pay for coverage. Typically, the higher the numerical value of your class, the lower the premium you will pay.
  2. How much in monthly benefits you can receive.
    Insurers will cap the monthly benefit they will pay in the event of disability based on your occupational class.
  3. The maximum benefit you can receive.
    In some cases, your occupational class can determine whether you can receive payments to age 65 or if you’ll be limited to a pre-established period of time.
  4. Whether you can obtain own-occupation coverage.
    An own-occupation provision on a disability insurance policy means it will pay benefits if an injury prevents you from working in your medical specialty, even if you’re well enough to earn income doing other types of work. This provision helps define what constitutes a disability and whether you will collect benefits. For some companies and policies, your occupation class will determine if your base policy will carry an own-occupation definition. Otherwise, the policy may have an any-occupation definition, which means it will only pay benefits if you are unable to work in any capacity.
  5. The amount of coverage for mental and nervous disabilities.
    Occupation class can directly affect the extent of coverage you get with regard to mental and nervous coverage For example, certain occupational classes may limit this coverage to two years.

Disability insurance occupation classes by medical specialty

To make it easy to see which medical specialties are viewed more favorably by each insurance company, we’ve provided a list of current occupation classes for the six major physician disability insurance companies:

  1. The Standard
  2. Guardian
  3. Principal
  4. Ohio National
  5. Ameritas
  6. MassMutual

Check them out below!

Specialty

The Standard

Guardian

Ohio National

Ameritas

MassMutual

Principal

Allergy/Immunology

4P

4M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Anesthesiology

3P

3M

3M

4M

3P

3A-M

Anesthesiology: Pain Management

3P

3M

3M

4M

3P

3A-M

Anesthesiology: Pediatric

3P

3M

3M

4M

3P

3A-M

Cardiology: Electrophysiology

4P

4M

4M

5M

5P

4A-M

Cardiology: Invasive

4S

4M

4M

5M

3P

4A-M

Cardiology: Invasive-Interventional

4P

4M

4M

5M

3P

4A-M

Cardiology: Noninvasive

4P

4M

6M

5M

5P

4A-M

Critical Care: Intensivist

3P

3M

3M

6M

4P

5A-M

Dentist: General

3D

3D

3M

4M

3P

3A-M

Dermatology

4P

4M

6M

6M

5P

4A-M

Dermatology: Dermatopathology

4P

4M

6M

6M

5P

4A-M

Dermatology: Mohs Surgery

4P

4M

5M

6M

4P

4A-M

Emergency Medicine

3P

3M

3M

4M

3P

3A-M

Endocrinology/Metabolism

5P

5M

5M

6M

5P

5A-M

Family Medicine (with OB)

5P

4M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Family Medicine (without OB)

5P

4M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Family Medicine: Ambulatory Only (No Inpatient Work)

5P

4M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Family Medicine: Sports Medicine

5P

4M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Gastroenterology

4P

5M

5M

6M

5P

5A-M

Gastroenterology: Hepatology

4P

5M

5M

6M

5P

5A-M

Geriatrics

5P

5M

5M

6M

5P

5A-M

Hematology/Oncology

5P

5M

5M

6M

5P

5A-M

Hematology/Oncology: Oncology (Only)

5P

5M

5M

6M

5P

5A-M

Hospice/Palliative Care (Family Medicine)

5P

4M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Hospitalist: Family Medicine

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Hospitalist: Internal Medicine

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Hospitalist: IM-Pediatric

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Hospitalist: OB/GYN

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Hospitalist: Pediatric

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Infectious Disease

5P

4M

6M

6M

4P

5A-M

Internal Medicine: General

5P

4M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Internal Medicine: Ambulatory Only (No Inpatient Work)

5P

4M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Internal Medicine: Pediatric

5P

4M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Nephrology

4S

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Neurology

4P

4M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Nurse Practitioner

4P

3M

4M

5M

3A

4A-M

Obstetrics/Gynecology: General

3P

3M

4M

5M

3P

3A-M

OB/GYN: Gynecology (Only)

3P

3M

4M

5M

3P

3A-M

OB/GYN: Gynecological Oncology

3P

3M

4M

5M

3P

3A-M

OB/GYN: Maternal & Fetal Med

3P

3M

4M

5M

3P

3A-M

OB/GYN: Reproductive Endocrinology

3P

3M

4M

5M

3P

3A-M

OB/GYN: Urogynecology

3P

3M

4M

5M

3P

3A-M

Occupational Medicine

4P

3M

3M

3M

4P

2A-M

Optometrist

5A

6M

6M

6A

5P

5A-M

Ophthalmology

4S

4M

5M

6M

3P

4A-M

Ophthalmology: Corneal & Ref Surgery

4S

4M

5M

6M

3P

4A-M

Ophthalmology: Pediatric

4S

4M

5M

6M

3P

4A-M

Ophthalmology: Retina

4S

4M

5M

6M

3P

4A-M

Orthopedic (Nonsurgical)

3P

3M

4M

5M

3P

5A-M

Orthopedic Surgery: General

3P

3M

4M

5M

3P

3A-M

Orthopedic Surgery: Foot & Ankle

3P

3M

4M

5M

3P

3A-M

Orthopedic Surgery: Hand

3P

3M

4M

5M

3P

3A-M

Orthopedic Surgery: Hip & Joint

3P

3M

4M

5M

3P

3A-M

Orthopedic Surgery: Pediatric

3P

3M

4M

5M

3P

3A-M

Orthopedic Surgery: Spine

3P

3M

4M

5M

3P

3A-M

Orthopedic Surgery: Trauma

3P

3M

4M

5M

3P

3A-M

Orthopedic Surgery: Sports Medicine

3P

3M

4M

5M

3P

3A-M

Otorhinolaryngology

4S

3M

4M

5M

4P

4A-M

Otorhinolaryngology: Pediatric

4S

3M

4M

5M

4P

4A-M

Pain Management: Nonanesthesia

3P

3M

3M

5M

3P

3A-M

Pathology: Anatomic & Clinical

4P

4M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pathology: Anatomic

4P

4M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pathology: Clinical

4P

4M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: General

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Adolescent Medicine

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Allergy/Immunology

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Cardiology

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Child Development

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Critical Care/Intensivist

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Emergency Medicine

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Endocrinology

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Gastroenterology

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Genetics

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Hematology/Oncology

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Infectious Disease

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Neonatal Medicine

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Nephrology

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Neurology

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Pulmonology

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Radiology

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pediatrics: Urgent Care

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pharmacist

5P

5M

5A

6A

4A

5A-M

Physiatry (Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation)

3P

4M

5M

5M

4P

5A-M

Podiatry: General

2P

3M

3M

2M

3P

3A-M

Podiatry: Surgery-Foot & Ankle

2P

3M

3M

2M

3P

3A-M

Psychiatry: General

4P

4M

5M

5M

5P

4A-M

Psychiatry: Child & Adolescent

4P

4M

5M

5M

5P

4A-M

Psychiatry: Geriatric

4P

4M

5M

5M

5P

4A-M

Pulmonary Medicine: General

4P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pulmonary Medicine: Critical Care

4P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Pulmonary Medicine: General & Critical Care

4P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Radiation Oncology

5P

4M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Radiology: Interventional

4S

4M

6M

6M

4P

4A-M

Radiology: Diagnostic

4P

4M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Radiology: Neurological

4P

4M

6M

6M

5P

4A-M

Radiology: Nuclear Medicine

4P

4M

5M

6M

5P

4A-M

Rheumatology

5P

5M

6M

6M

5P

5A-M

Sleep Medicine

2P

3M

3M

4M

2P

4A-M

Surgery: General

4S

3M

4M

4M

3P

3A-M

Surgery: Bariatric

4S

3M

4M

4M

3P

3A-M

Surgery: Breast

4S

3M

4M

4M

3P

3A-M

Surgery: Cardiovascular

4S

3M

4M

4M

3P

4A-M

Surgery: Cardiovascular-Pediatric

4S

3M

4M

4M

3P

4A-M

Surgery: Colon & Rectal

4S

3M

4M

4M

3P

3A-M

Surgery: Neurological

4S

3M

4M

4M

3P

3A-M

Surgery: Neurological-Pediatric

4S

3M

4M

4M

3P

3A-M

Surgery: Oncology

4S

3M

4M

4M

3P

3A-M

Surgery: Oral

4S

3M

4M

4M

4P

3A-M

Surgery: Pediatric

4S

3M

4M

4M

3P

3A-M

Surgery: Plastic & Reconstruction

4S

3M

4M

4M

3P

3A-M

Surgery: Thoracic (Primary)

4S

3M

4M

4M

3P

3A-M

Surgery: Transplant

4S

3M

4M

4M

3P

3A-M

Surgery: Trauma 4S

4S

3M

4M

4M

3P

3A-M

Surgery: Vascular (Primary)

4S

3M

4M

4M

3P

3A-M

Urgent Care

3P

3M

3M

6M

4P

3A-M

Urology

4S

4M

4M

5M

4P

4A-M

Urology: Pediatric

4S

4M

4M

5M

4P

4A-M

Dentist: Endodontist

3D

4D

4M

5M

4P

3A-M

Dentist: Pediatric

3D

4D

4M

5M

4P

3A-M

Dentist: Periodontist

3D

4D

4M

5M

4P

3A-M

Dentist: Orthodontist

3D

4D

4M

5M

4P

3A-M

Dentist: Prosthodontist

3D

4D

4M

5M

4P

3A-M

Veterinarian: Large Animals

3P

3M

3A

4A

3A

3A-M

Veterinarian: Small Animals

5P

5M

5A

6A

4A

5A-M

Shopping for disability insurance is not easy, and occupational classes are just one risk factor insurance companies use to assess the risk of insureds. Your age, health and in some cases, gender, will also determine how much you pay and what benefits you can qualify for. It’s possible that your health condition may underwrite more favorably with one company, even though your medical specialty is in a lower risk class.

Because of the complexity and the varying degree of features and benefits available, it’s best to work with an independent agent who can provide quotes on several different disability insurance policies instead of a captive agent who may only offer you one choice.

If you liked this article, then you'll love:
The Ultimate Guide to Physician Disability Insurance in 2020

Colin Nabity - Founder & CEO

Colin is the Founder & CEO of LeverageRx, an online lending and insurance marketplace for doctors. Colin has over 10 years of experience in financial services and is a licensed life and health insurance agent.

Disability InsurancePublished May 16, 2017