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Short-Term vs. Long-Term Disability Insurance

Navigating the world of insurance can be daunting. Here at Aflac, we want to help with any barriers in the way of getting the support you need. First, we'd like to help you understand the difference between short-term and long-term disability.

Short and long-term disability insurance can be very helpful depending on the situation you find yourself in. However, they serve specific purposes and have different coverage lengths. Our short-term disability insurance and long-term disability insurance is only offered through your employer. However, our supplemental plans like cancer insurance and critical illness insurance can be purchased directly through Aflac. These plans pay cash benefits directly to you (unless otherwise assigned) that can go toward recovery and treatment or everyday bills like electricity and groceries.

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What is short-term disability insurance?

Short-term disability insurance is a plan that provides income assistance when a covered health event puts you out of work for a temporary period of time.1 Typically, cash benefits from short-term disability insurance plans can help you with missed income for up to twelve months, but this depends on the specific company and plan you choose.2

For example, if you were to break your arm and your job requires heavy lifting, it wouldn’t be possible to do your work while recovering. Instead of missing income while you’re healing, you can collect a certain amount of money if you already have a short-term disability insurance plan in place.

Employers that offer their employees short-term disability insurance through payroll deduction may help employees feel safe and protected if an unforeseen accident were to strike and impact their ability to work short-term.

What is long-term disability insurance?

On the other hand, long-term disability which is only offered through your employer, can help provide income support for multiple years if you experience a long-term or permanent illness or health event. This type of plan is much more common if an accident or illness permanently impacts your ability to work.3

If you don’t have a long-term disability plan in place, it may be difficult to balance out the missed income from years of being unable to work. Long-term disability plans are designed to help make those years more financially stable.4

Short-term vs. long-term disability differences

There are a few key differences that set short and long-term disability plans apart:

  • Coverage Length: Long-term disability insurance provides coverage for a longer period than short-term disability plans do.
  • Coverage Amount: The benefits offered in each insurance plan vary depending on the company you choose, but typically you can receive a greater percentage of your income in cash benefits in a short-term disability plan.5 For instance, you may be able to get up to 70% of your income in a short-term plan. On the other hand, you may only get up to 40% of your income back in a long-term plan.
  • Cost: In general, these plans are similar in price. However, short-term disability tends to be slightly more expensive.6 This depends on the company and plan you choose.
  • Elimination Period: An elimination period is the portion of time between when you get a plan and when the benefits kick in.7 In a short-term disability plan, your benefits usually activate quickly. For long-term disability plans, it may take a couple of months.8

Which type of disability insurance Is right for me?

Now that you’ve explored the differences between short and long-term disability insurance, you may have a better idea of which one will be more helpful for your current needs. If you’re still unsure or have further questions, we recommend scheduling a chat with an agent.

Regardless of what you decide, it’s important to note that you have options. Suppose you have a medical history that points to a potential long-term cancer diagnosis or a critical illness. In that case, there may be alternative routes that provide you with better coverage.

However, if you would like to proactively explore getting a short-term disability or long-term disability plan, we recommend starting the conversation with your employer if it’s not already offered. We are always here to answer any additional questions you may have.

Still have questions?

Explore your short-term disability insurance options.

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