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How will upcoming changes in State Disability Insurance benefits affect commercial Short-Term Disability policies?

On January 1, 2018 changes are in store for State Disability Insurance (SDI) benefits (and Paid Family Leave benefits as well). Currently, individuals are eligible for wage replacement of 55% up to a maximum of $1,173 per week. In 2018, individuals will be eligible for:

  • 60% wage replacement if they earn 33% or more of the average quarterly wage in California; or
  • 70% wage replacement if they earn less than 33% of the average quarterly wage in California
  • A new maximum, estimated at this time, of $1,200 per week

With SDI picking up a larger portion of the individual’s wage replacement, commercial short-term disability (STD) plans will need to pay less. Our carrier sources say that this will likely decrease the cost for group STD coverage, but not by much.

Brokers and agents who implemented STD plans that target a certain wage replacement amount, might want to adjust the benefit to account for the higher SDI payout. For example, assume that in the past, broker and client decided that a 75% wage replacement benefit was best for the client. SDI currently pays 55%, so the broker layered on a 20% STD plan to reach a total 75% benefit. In 2018, most employees will qualify for 60% SDI wage replacement, so to maintain a 75% benefit, the broker and employer will want to adjust the STD plan down to 15%.

The Society for Human Resource Managers provides this summary of AB 908, which includes the January 1, 2018 changes to disability payouts.