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Guardian Disability Insurance Review For Physicians: Best Enhanced Coverage?

Key Takeaways:

  • This Guardian disability insurance review explores the base policy and optional features of its Provider Choice plan. 
  • Physicians can choose an enhanced true own-occupation definition of disability that provides more ways to qualify for total disability benefits.
  • There are two partial disability benefit options that allow you to collect disability income for an injury or illness that prevents you from working full-time.

Physicians need a strong definition of disability to protect their specialty income and education investment from an unexpected injury or illness. As one of the “Big 5” disability insurance carriers, Guardian offers physicians flexible options for own-occupation disability coverage — including an enhanced definition of disability that you won’t find elsewhere.

When searching for individual disability insurance, there are many policies with varying levels of coverage. Our Guardian disability insurance review breaks its base policy and optional riders, so you can make an informed decision with confidence.

Guardian disability insurance review: Coverage details

Guardian, short for The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, has provided financial services to individuals and businesses for over 160 years. With 29 million customers, this mutually-owned insurance company offers life insurance and disability insurance, dental and vision insurance products, retirement and investment opportunities, and a variety of workforce solutions.  

Guardian’s subsidiary Berkshire Life Insurance Company of America underwrites its individual disability income products, including its Provider Choice policy. Here’s a quick overview of what Guardian disability insurance has to offer physicians.

Guardian Disability Insurance Plan Highlights

Guardian Disability Insurance Plan Highlights
Monthly coverage (maximum)$20,000 for physicians
Benefit period2 years, 5 years, 10 years, to age 65, to age 67, to age 70
Elimination period30 days, 60 days, 90 days, 180 days, 360 days, 720 days
Definition of disabilityEnhanced True Own-Occupation
True Own-Occupation
Two-Year True Own-Occupation
Two-Year Modified Own-Occupation

If you’d like a quick quote for own-occupation coverage from the “Big 5” disability insurance companies, fill out the form below. SLP Insurance will evaluate your existing disability insurance coverage and look for the top discounts for your situation.

Own-Occupation Disability Insurance Quote Form

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Built-in features for Guardian disability insurance

  • Five-year waiver of elimination period. If your disability lasts more than six months, the elimination period will be waived for any subsequent disability of 30 days or more that occurs within five years. This is exclusively available through Guardian.
  • Hospice care benefit. You’ll be considered totally disabled, and the elimination period will be waived if you enter a qualified hospice program.
  • Presumptive total disability benefit. You’ll automatically be considered totally disabled for complete loss of hearing, speech, sight in both eyes or the use of any two limbs (even if you’re able to continue working). Guardian pays benefits even if your presumptive disability is recoverable.
  • Waiver of premiums. You won’t have to pay premiums while receiving disability income. Guardian continues to waive premiums for six months after you recover and stop receiving benefits.
  • Serious illness supplemental benefit endorsement. You’ll receive an additional 50% of your monthly benefit for up to 12 months if you become totally disabled from cancer, stroke or a heart attack.
  • Occupational rehabilitation and modification and access benefit endorsement. Pays for occupation rehabilitation expenses and the cost of modifications to your work environment to get you back to work sooner.

Optional policy riders for Guardian

  • Partial disability benefits. Provides residual disability benefits when you’re disabled and working but have met the threshold for loss of income, work hours or job duties. 
  • Student loan protection. Reimburses you for student loan payments made while disabled. Benefit ranges from $250 to $2,500 per month for up to 10 or 15 years from policy date.
  • Options to increase coverage. You can apply to increase your coverage without additional medical tests, regardless of any changes to your health.
  • Cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). There are three options for a COLA rider: 6% maximum, 3% compound, or a 4-year delayed increase with a 3% compound.
  • Lump sum disability benefit. You’ll receive a lump sum amount based on 35% of the total disability benefits paid to you until age 60. This money is intended to be used to fund the next phase of your life.
  • Retirement protection. Retirement protection plus (RPP) replaces contributions, including employer match, while totally disabled.
  • Catastrophic disability benefits (CAT). Choose between two catastrophic disability riders that provide additional benefits for a severe disability. The Enhanced CAT includes a 3% compound COLA.
  • Supplemental Benefit Term Rider. Provides an additional benefit while totally disabled for 10 to 15 years from the policy date. The intent is to cover the period where you have higher debt and expenses, but lower income in the early stage of your career.
  • Social insurance substitute. Coordinates with payments received under Social Security and other government programs to help reduce the overall cost of your policy.
  • Unemployment waiver of premium. If unemployed, your premiums will be waived for 12 months.
  • Automatic benefit enhancement rider. Provides an annual 4% benefit increase each year for six years with no proof of income (at underwriter discretion).
  • Mental and/or substance-related disorders. Coverage for depression, anxiety, alcohol or drug use with no limit on the duration of benefits. If a limit is chosen, premium discounts are given.

Pros and cons of Guardian disability insurance

Here are some things to consider when exploring Guardian disability insurance.

Pro: Ability to choose your definition of disability

With Guardian’s own-occupation coverage, the choice to work in another occupation is yours. Policyholders can choose between:

  1. True Own-Occupation. Ability to receive full benefits even if you’re employed in another occupation.
  2. Two-Year True Own-Occupation. Offers a two-year period of true own-occupation coverage. Then, the policy converts to a modified own-occupation definition where you aren’t able to be employed in another capacity.
  3. Two-Year Modified Own-Occupation. Offers a two-year period of modified own-occupation coverage. If you’re still disabled after two years, the policy converts to an any-occupation definition.

Physicians have access to an Enhanced True Own-Occupation definition. It is a true own-occupation policy but takes it a step further by considering you totally disabled if more than 50% of your income is from hands-on patient care or performing surgical procedures — and you’re no longer able to provide these services due to a disability.

Pro: Offers two levels of partial disability benefits

If you aren’t totally disabled, you can still receive residual benefits by choosing either:

  1. Basic partial disability benefit rider. Provides benefits if you experience a loss of income of at least 20% and are unable to work pre-disability hours or perform the same duties. Benefits are proportional to the loss of income (if 75% or more, then it’s considered a 100% loss). 
  2. Enhanced partial disability benefit rider. Requires a loss of income of at least 15% or be unable to work as many hours or perform all the same duties. Benefits are equal to the actual loss of income up to 100% of your monthly benefit for the first 12 months. Then, benefits are proportional to the loss of income.

Both options include different levels of recovery benefits if you’re no longer disabled but haven’t returned to your full workload.

Pro: Opportunity to increase coverage without another medical exam

Residents, fellows and early-stage physicians can benefit from a future purchase option rider. Guardian offers two choices:

  1. Future increase option. Ability to increase coverage annually until age 55. You choose whether to apply for more coverage or not.
  2. Benefit purchase option. Ability to increase coverage every three years until age 55. However, you’re required to purchase at least 50% of the additional coverage amount offered every three years to keep the rider in effect.

Note the benefit purchase option is a more cost-effective solution in terms of how much the rider costs.

Pro: Strong financial stability

Here are Guardian’s most recent financial strength ratings:

Guardian Financial Strength Ratings

Guardian Financial Strength Ratings
A.M. Best CompanyA++ (Superior)1st of 15 ratings
Moody's Investor ServiceAa1 (High Quality)2nd of 21 ratings
Standard & Poor'sAA+ (Very Strong)2nd of 20 ratings

Con: Maximum monthly benefit for physicians might not be enough

Guardian’s maximum benefit caps out at $20,000 a month for physicians, which is on par for other “Big 5” insurance providers like Ameritas and MassMutual. But if you need more coverage, you might be able to access monthly benefits up to $30,000 with The Standard or Principal.

Con: A comprehensive individual policy can be expensive

If you have a group disability insurance policy through your employer, you’re likely paying little to no cost for coverage. So, the cost of individual disability insurance can often come as a surprise.

You can generally expect to pay around 2% to 4% of your income for adequate own-occupation coverage. But this type of policy provides a stronger definition of disability than an any-occupation policy with your employer. Plus, it offers more flexibility to create a policy based on your actual needs.

Should you apply for disability insurance with Guardian?

Long-term disability insurance is a necessity for physicians who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on their education and training. But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all policy. So, it’s best to contact an independent insurance broker who can compare coverage options and explain the nuances of optional riders and other policy decisions. Plus, they can access the best disability insurance discounts available for your unique situation.

Fill out the form below to receive a quote from SLP Insurance.

Own-Occupation Disability Insurance Quote Form

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