Disability insurance ratings methodology

How we rate the disability insurance companies we review.

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If you’re in the market for a disability insurance policy, there are dozens of providers to choose from.

When you’re comparing insurers, it’s important to look at policy offerings, as well as waiting periods, benefit periods and coverage amounts. But insurers aren’t always upfront about these features — which is where our team comes in.

Our insurance experts analyze disability insurance companies without bias. We assess their policy lineups, financial strength and customer reputations, and assign each insurer a rating to correspond with that.

These settings are here to help you cut down on your own research and find the insurer that can offer you the best income protection.

Our disability insurance ratings

We rate life insurance providers using a system of one to five stars.

★★★★★ — Excellent

★★★★★ — Good

★★★★★ — Average

★★★★★ — Subpar

★★★★★ — Poor

How we rate policy offerings

For disability insurance, we weigh each insurer’s base policy details.

Short-term disability insurance

We look favorably at insurers who offer waiting periods of 1-7 days, and penalize those whose shortest waiting period was 30 days or more.

As for benefit periods, insurers who pay benefits for 24 to 36 months score higher than those who limit benefits to less than a year.

In terms of coverage amounts, insurers who offer $5,000 to $10,000 in monthly benefits score a higher rating.

Long-term disability insurance

Insurers who offer waiting periods starting at 30 days earn a higher rating.

This product caters to long-term needs, so we look closely at how long companies allow policyholders to collect benefits. Insurers with a benefit period of 10 years or up to age 70 score higher than those who pay benefits for a shorter time.

As for maximum coverage, insurers who pay $20,000 or more in monthly benefits scored the best.

Riders

  • Most insurers allow policyholders to customize their coverage with riders, such as a future purchase option, student loan or retirement protection rider.
  • The average number of riders offered by disability insurers is 4, though we’ve come across insurers who offer as many as 9.
  • In our methodology, companies offering more than 4 riders score a higher rating.

How we rate financial strength

You may not file a disability claim for years to come, which is why your insurer’s financial strength is important. It indicates whether the company has the cash reserves to pay out claims in the foreseeable future.

To determine each insurer’s financial stability, we look to the major financial ratings agency: AM Best. The agency scores insurers on a scale of A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

How we rate customer satisfaction

As a policyholder, you’ll likely have to interact with your insurer to pay premiums and make a claim. You want to choose an insurer that’s responsive to questions and complaints, and allows you to file claims smoothly.

To assess how disability insurance companies treat their customers, we turn to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and J.D. Power.

The BBB assigns insurers a rating based on their customer interaction and how quickly they respond to complaints. Insurers can also be accredited with the BBB based on a set of internal criteria, like how many years they’ve been in business — but accreditation isn’t necessary. The best BBB rating is A+, and the worst is an F. If a company has “NR” next to its name, that means it hasn’t been rated yet. Along with ratings, the BBB records customer reviews and scales them using a scale of 1 to 5 stars.

J.D. Power’s annual customer study measures customer satisfaction, policy options, cost, billing and support. It uses the J.D. Power Circle Rating to score insurers on a scale of 1 to 5 circles. Insurers that earn 4 or 5 circles scored the highest possible marks in those key categories, while insurers who scored 3 circles or less received a lower rating.

For our methodology, insurers who earn the highest ratings score highly in our customer satisfaction index.

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