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What is an Elimination Period for Disability Insurance?

Disability insurance can help replace lost income when you experience an illness or injury and are no longer able to work. If you invest in disability insurance, you can expect an elimination period, which states when your policy will kick in and start paying out after you file a claim. Here’s what you should know about the elimination period for disability insurance.

What is a disability insurance elimination period?

A disability insurance elimination period refers to how long you have to wait before the insurer will pay benefits. Also known as waiting periods, elimination periods vary greatly but typically range from 30 days to two years.1 They start on the date of your injury or diagnosis, rather than the date you file a claim.

During the elimination period, you’re responsible for the cost of any medical services you receive. If you file a valid claim when the elimination period is up, the insurance company will pay your benefits.

How your disability insurance elimination period affects your premiums

The elimination period you choose will directly impact the premiums you pay for disability insurance. Since a longer elimination period typically means you’ll be less likely to claim benefits and lowers an insurance company’s risk, it comes with lower premiums. On the flipside, a shorter elimination period signifies that you’ll be more likely to file a claim and positions you as a riskier policyholder. As a result, a shorter elimination period leads to higher premiums.2

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Types of disability insurance elimination periods

Here’s a look at the different elimination periods you might come across when you explore disability insurance:1

30 days

A 30-day elimination period is the shortest option, so it comes with the highest premiums. But you might choose this option if you’d like coverage as soon as possible.

60 days

While 60-day elimination periods are more affordable than 30-day elimination periods, they still come with a high price tag. Despite this, you might consider 60 days if you want to avoid hefty out-of-pocket costs after a disability


90 days

The sweet spot between coverage and cost for many people is a 90-day elimination period. If you believe you can wait four months to receive your first benefit, you may want to go this route.

180 days

If you have enough funds saved up to cover at least six months of no income, you can save money with a 180-day elimination period. Your premiums may be significantly lower than if you opt for a shorter elimination period.

365 days

You can lock in a very low premium if you choose an elimination period of 365 days. But keep in mind that you may spend a lot of your own funds on disability-related medical care for a while.

720 days

A 720-day elimination period comes with the lowest premiums. However, by the time you wait this long, you may face financial hardship from expenses related to your injury or illness. Therefore, this option may not make sense.

Elimination period vs. probationary period

Contrary to popular belief, an elimination period is not the same as a probationary period. A probationary period is the amount of time between when your policy is issued and when you can claim benefits. This helps protect insurers from fraudulent claims. An elimination period, on the other hand, allows you to file a claim at any time but won’t pay out benefits until the it has expired. Note that most long-term disability plans have elimination periods but not probationary periods.1

How to choose your disability elimination period

As you shop around for a disability elimination period, keep the following in mind:

Your budget

Take a close look at your budget. If you can’t afford high premiums, a longer elimination period might be your best bet, but you will have to wait longer before you can take advantage of your benefits. On the other hand, a shorter elimination period can give you more peace of mind if you can afford it.

Your dependents

If you don’t have any or many dependents, you may be able to save money with a longer elimination period. Multiple dependents, however, typically mean you may have higher expenses and need a shorter elimination period to help cover out-of-pocket costs in the event that you become disabled.

Your savings

Do you have a substantial emergency fund saved up? If so, a longer elimination period is likely the right option. But if you don’t have enough savings to cover 90 or 180 days without income, for example, you should consider a shorter elimination period, even though it may cost you more in premiums upfront.

Aflac offers short-term disability insurance

With disability insurance, there are a variety of elimination periods to choose from. But before you commit to a disability policy, make sure its elimination period makes sense for your unique budget and situation.

Aflac offers short-term disability insurance with affordable rates and multiple elimination period options. It can help you cover medical and non-medical expenses if a sickness or injury puts you out of work temporarily. For a quote or more information on how short-term disability works, chat with a representative. They can help you find the ideal policy for your needs.

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