3 things to know about disability insurance during a global health crisis

disability insurance social distancing

Linda Raymond/Getty

The coronavirus has so far touched only a small percentage of the American population, but the side effects of the global crisis are sparing few.

Millions of people are at risk of losing their jobs as restaurants, bars, retail shops, entertainment venues, and countless other consumer-facing businesses shut their doors at the urge of local and state governments.

If you have disability insurance through your job or own a private policy, here's what you should know about what's covered and what's not during this global health crisis.

1. Social distancing won't trigger disability insurance

The Trump administration now recommends avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people. Some cities are enacting even stricter guidelines in the form of curfews and "shelter-in-place" orders.

And while employers have largely asked employees whose jobs can be conducted remotely to work from home, not everyone has that luxury. For instance, many restaurants and bars are closing indefinitely, leaving thousands, if not millions, of service workers on unpaid leave or even out of a job completely.

While disability insurance is meant to replace income when you're unable to work, "social quarantines don't cause policies to pay out unless you've been affected by the illness itself," Nicholas Mancuso, senior operations manager of the advanced planning and disability team at Policygenius, told Business Insider.

"If it's a social quarantine and it's forcing you out of work, that would not be a disability," Mancuso said. "There's no medical limitation forcing you not to work. There are social insurances that would kick into place, such as unemployment."

2. Disability insurance does cover illnesses, including COVID-19

Disability insurance isn't just for on-the-job injuries. In fact, Mancuso said, illnesses represent 90% of all disability insurance claims. The coronavirus may be new to us, but it's considered a standard illness by insurance carriers if it puts you out of work for long enough.

"There is no specific exclusion for coronavirus, but whether you're covered or not will be dependent on: What are the duties of your occupation? And if you contract the coronavirus, how does it affect your ability to complete those duties?" Mancuso explained.

Disability insurance policies have an elimination period - sometimes called a waiting period - which is how long you have to wait before your benefits will start paying out. It's like a deductible on your health insurance or auto policy, but instead of money, it's time. Typical elimination periods range from 30 to 90 days. If your disability is going to last longer than your elimination period, as determined by your doctor, then you may qualify for benefits.

3. If you can't get to a hospital, a physician can give you a virtual diagnosis

Your policy stipulates exactly what definition of disability the insurer will consider for any claims. In any case, Mancuso said, "you need a qualified party giving you a diagnosis and a treatment plan." A treatment plan should explain how long you're unable to work due to your illness or injury and specify your limitations.

However, it's not as easy in the age of coronavirus to visit a hospital or doctor's office, and the US is facing a coronavirus test kit shortage as it is. In a widespread effort to "flatten the curve" - or reduce the number of people who are sick at the peak of the virus' spread - local and state governments are encouraging people to hunker down at home for the foreseeable future.

"If anybody is concerned with getting into hospitals and getting verifications, a virtual appointment is a way to do that," Mancuso said. "As long as the doctor's note says that the insured is too sick to perform the duties of their job, they may not need a specific COVID-19 test to file a disability insurance claim, but it definitely wouldn't hurt."

Policygenius can help compare disability insurance policies to find the right coverage for you, at the right price »

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

{{}}
Add Comment()
Comments ()
X
Sort By:
Be the first one to comment.
We have sent you a verification email. This comment will be published once verification is done.