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Did you know more than one in four working women today will experience a serious disability before reaching retirement age? This means facing the risk of being unable to work and earn an income for months or even years. No active source of income to buy food, pay their mortgage or rent, or make car payments.

At best, they may deplete their savings until they recover. If they don’t have savings, they could incur massive debt and ultimately declare bankruptcy. In fact, according to a study from the American Journal of Public Health, medical problems contribute to two-thirds of bankruptcies in the U.S.

One of the best ways for women to avoid this scenario is to purchase disability insurance. Disability insurance offers financial protection if an injury or illness limits your ability to earn a living. It is designed to replace a portion of your income while you are disabled.

But many people do not have disability insurance. In a survey last year by the Council for Disability Awareness, 32 million unmarried women workers are underinsured for a disability. This makes up roughly 25 percent of today’s American workforce. The survey also found that 52 percent of all single, working women, aged 20-65, have no disability insurance at all.

Why Women Are At Risk For Disability

Injuries and illnesses don’t discriminate by gender. In fact, women file more disability claims than men. And it’s not just serious accidents and diseases that cause disability.

For women, arthritis or rheumatism is the most common cause of disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly a third of people with rheumatoid arthritis have to stop working within five years of their diagnosis. And it’s not just because of the pain. Many arthritis sufferers lose sleep or have medicinal side effects, impacting their ability to work.

Other disabilities that women tend to suffer from more than men include breast cancer, autoimmune disorders, and depression.

According to the insurer Unum, in the past 10 years, long-term claims for joint disorders have risen 30 percent in men and women, while musculoskeletal issues have increased 35 percent. Cancer has been the top cause of long-term disability for more than a decade.

How Disability Insurance Helps With Pregnancy and Maternity Leave

One of the biggest benefits of disability insurance for women is covering lost income after they have a baby.

Although many employers offer paid maternity leave and some states even mandate it, most women in the private sector are not covered by a paid family leave policy. Disability insurance, however, can replace a large portion of your lost income.

Short term disability insurance policies, designed to cover less serious conditions for six months to two years, typically consider childbirth a disability. You can receive short term disability payments for six weeks after normal delivery and eight weeks for a C-section or multiple births. Benefits can be extended if the delivery had complications or the mother suffers from postpartum depression. This can close a major income gap if a mother does not have paid maternity leave through their employer or state.

On the other hand, long term disability insurance generally does not provide benefits for pregnancy or birth. However, certain long term complications resulting from a pregnancy could qualify for benefits under a long term disability insurance policy. Pregnancies can also accelerate dormant illnesses and other conditions that may be covered by long-term disability.

Women who do have paid family and medical leave can still benefit from disability insurance. Paid leave programs and statutes typically have caps in the amount and duration of coverage that employers pay. Disability insurance can help fill gaps between what a mother needs during leave and what she receives from her employer.

Why Women Pay More For Disability Insurance

Unfortunately, disability insurance carriers typically charge higher premium rates for women than men. The difference ranges from 20 percent to 60 percent, even with all other underwriting factors being equal.

Why? It comes down to risk. Insurance premiums are based on the risk of the insured filing a claim. The higher the risk, the higher the premium.

Women typically pay less for life insurance than men because they statistically have longer life expectancies and suffer fewer fatal accidents than men. Likewise, women will not be charged as much for car insurance because they have fewer high-dollar accidents and don’t cause as many traffic deaths.

With disability insurance, women pose a greater risk than men. They file more claims. Plus, women tend to be out of work longer for disability than men.

However, there are ways for women to avoid paying higher premiums for disability insurance. One is to find an insurance carrier that offers unisex rates. There are a few companies that offer individual disability insurance policies that essentially negate gender-specific rates and use an identical rate for men and women.

Another option is getting coverage through group disability insurance, which is offered through your employer or a professional association. There is no underwriting involved in a group plan, so there is no price difference based on gender. Plus, all applicants with the company or organization are provided coverage.

If You Earn An Income, You Need Disability Insurance

Whether you’re single, a single parent, or part of a two-income family, anybody who earns an income should have disability insurance. Otherwise, an unforeseen injury or illness can disrupt your life financially by depleting your savings, forcing you into debt, or leading to significant cuts in your household budget.

To get an idea of how much an individual disability insurance plan would cost for you, check your rates online with Breeze. If you like what you see, you can apply from your phone or computer in just 10-15 minutes.

This article was written by Colin Nabity, CEO & Co-Founder of Breeze.