Many states across the United States have either initiated or passed legislation to offer paid medical and family leave to employees. If you have access to this benefit, you may question if you need supplemental disability insurance. The short answer is YES.
While paid leave may offer financial assistance in specific situations, the need for disability insurance hasn’t gone away. In fact, it is more important than ever to understand how paid leave benefits work so you aren’t left without coverage in a time of need.
Understand Your State’s Eligibility Requirements for Paid Medical Leave
Before you make changes to your disability plan, understand the eligibility requirements for your state’s paid medical leave plan. Here are some things to look for:
- Have you contributed to the state plan? Most state benefits require either a voluntary or mandatory contribution to the state-paid plan before you can claim benefits. If you haven’t been contributing for the required period, you may not have access to these benefits yet.
- Have you been working for your current employer or previous employers in the state for the required time period? For example, in Washington, you must work at least 820 hours in the state of Washington before a benefit can be claimed.
- What medical reasons does my state plan cover? If your state plan only covers specific injuries or illnesses, you may not qualify for benefits when the time comes.
- Am I excluded from benefits for other reasons? Another example from the state of Washington is that paid leave benefits are not applicable to union members subject to certain bargaining agreements.
If you’re ineligible or excluded from the state paid leave plan, you should consider a disability plan to financially help you if you’re unable to work due to a covered injury or illness.
Consider the Benefit Period
Paid leave benefits typically have a limited benefit period. Even if you decide to rely on paid leave to cover a disability, you should consider a disability insurance plan that starts when paid leave ends. While it can be difficult to know how long you may be off work due to an injury or illness, you should plan for your specific needs.
For example, if your state plan offers up to 12 weeks paid leave (84 days), at minimum, you may want to consider a plan that starts on the 91st day of disability to minimize your gap in coverage. Take note that there may be rules against receiving benefits from both a state-paid leave plan and disability insurance at the same time. It’s important to understand where they may overlap.
In some cases, state paid leave plans offer a paid leave for a length of time that includes paid medical leave and paid family leave. This means if you use time to care for a family member, it will decrease the amount of time you can take for personal medical leave.
Remember the Importance of Disability Insurance
In situations when your disability extends past the benefit period of your state plan, or you don’t qualify for the state-paid leave, disability insurance can help fill the coverage gap. Don’t assume that your state-paid leave benefits are going to keep you covered. Many state paid leave plans provide short-term paid leave for a few weeks or months. Disability insurance may provide benefits for longer periods of time, including up to Social Security Normal Retirement Age. Remember, disability insurance is designed to help you protect your income if you are unable to work due to a covered injury or illness.