Disability Insurance Coverage – Can I Get It If I’m Not Working?

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In Canada, approx. 3.6 million people have disabilities (according to the TDSB website. In Ontario, approx. 1.5 million people have disabilities. The disability rate increases with age and is expected to increase with the aging population.

Over half (54 percent) of working age adults with disabilities are either unemployed or not in the labour force. Ontarians with disabilities reported an average income of $22,543. Only nine percent of adults with disabilities have a total income of over $50,000 – this number likely represents individuals who had disability insurance coverage before becoming disabled. Eighty-four percent of women with disabilities and sixty-five percent of men with disabilities reported income of less than $30,000. Forty-six percent of adults with disabilities in the labour force make less than $15,000 a year. These are some scary numbers.

Why are these numbers important? They’re important because they demonstrate why it is crucial to have your own disability insurance coverage in Ontario even if your employer offers you disability insurance coverage.

Disability insurance in Ontario often insures your earned income against the risk that a disability will make working uncomfortable (this includes psychological disorders), painful (as with back pain), or impossible (as with coma). It includes paid sick leave, short-term disability benefits, and long-term disability benefits.

Many people in Ontario purchase their own disability insurance policies on the open market. People make this choice for a number of different reasons. Where an employer is paying for part of your benefits or WSIB is involved, many Canadians have reported incidences where:

  1. They have been pressured to return to work even when they felt that they weren’t ready.

  2. Had a doctor other than their personal physician, rather, a physician hired by the insurance company making the final determination as to when they should return to work.

  3. Were pressured to participate in employer sponsored programs.

  4. When returning to work was given a completely different job.

  5. Saw their benefits decline over time and more…

When you purchase your own disability insurance policy in Ontario there are a number of benefits:

  1. You are the customer and may receive improved service from the insurance company.

  2. You can arrange a policy over a term, guaranteeing your premium and coverage.

  3. Your premiums won’t increase with age.

  4. You can arrange a policy where your income won’t decline over time.

  5. You will not lose your disability insurance coverage if you lose your job or become unemployed.

Point numbers 4 and 5 above are very important because disability premiums can increase significantly with age, and time can be your enemy because if a disability occurs, it will impair your ability to qualify for disability insurance coverage in Ontario. In addition, disability insures income, so you must be employed or have provable income to qualify for disability insurance coverage. If you are not employed and have limited or no income; you won’t qualify for disability insurance coverage in Ontario.

Individuals who rely on disability insurance coverage provided by an employer take considerable risk because when their employment ceases, so does their disability insurance coverage. For example, if a 30 year old individual had a job with a company for 10 years and then lost their job, they would not be able to qualify for disability insurance coverage in Ontario until they found another one. In addition, if they decided to purchase their own disability insurance coverage upon gaining new employment, their premiums would be considerably higher than had they purchased a term disability insurance policy even 5 years sooner.

There are many good and valid reasons that an individual should have their own disability insurance coverage. The last thing you want to do is wait until you become one of the over 3 million people who have a disability in Canada to find out that you have no options.

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