Disability insurance helps workers keep up the pace

Open enrollment season is a good time for a broad look at how people are covered

Maybe you've protected their health, or their lives. What about their ability to earn a paycheck? (Photo: Thinkstock) Maybe you've protected their health, or their lives. What about their ability to earn a paycheck? (Photo: Thinkstock)

Life moves so fast it’s easy to get caught up in the speed of the journey. And it’s doubtful people slow down — much less stop — to consider how a disabling injury or illness might create a serious roadblock along the way.

Related: 8 facts to know about disability insurance [infographic]

According to a LIMRA study, there is a 3 in 10 chance of a person suffering a disabling illness or injury that would keep them out of work for three months or more. 

Also, according to a Council for Disability Awareness study, 68 percent of Americans have no savings for emergencies to help cover unexpected expenses. 

Given this, open enrollment season offers benefits advisers the opportunity to educate employers about products that can help employees financially in the event of an accident or illness.

A disability insurance plan is key to protecting an employee’s funds so they can keep pace with their lifestyle, giving them the ability to focus on recovery, rather than on finances.

The forefront of the benefits discussion with employers

Even though many people see a need for disability insurance, only 26 percent of Americans actually have disability coverage, according to LIMRA.

Plus, 30 percent of full-time employees said they are not confident about paying their bills if they or another family member had to be out of work for three months. Without financial protection, millions of families resort to draining their savings, maxing out their credit cards and even refinancing their homes to pay medical bills, according to NerdWallet.com.

That said, it’s important for employers to understand that there are alternative solutions to cutting disability insurance options. By making voluntary disability policies available, clients can help their employees access financial protection with little to no impact on their bottom line. In fact, employer-provided disability insurance prevents as many as 575,000 families each year from slipping into poverty levels and saves the government and taxpayers up to $4.5 billion annually, according to recent data from the Social Security Administration. 

Furthermore, LIMRA estimates that slightly more than 25 percent of 20-year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67. Only 4 percent of workers surveyed by LIMRA said they’d been approached about disability insurance in their workplaces in the past two years.

The reality of income protection

According to a recent Harvard University study, medical expenses make up about 62 percent of personal bankruptcies in the U.S., and 72 percent of those who filed for bankruptcy due to medical expenses were actually insured. 

Knowing this, it’s important for workers to understand that having major medical insurance may not be enough to help them through difficult times. This is an opportunity for benefits advisers to educate clients on the likelihood of their workers suffering from a disability. That discussion could help clarify any of clients' preconceived notions about disability insurance, while also encouraging employers and their workers to protect themselves by taking action.

Approaching these conversations with knowledge is an important first step. Employees who suffer a disabling illness or injury still have regular expenses. Without a steady source of income, many people would find it difficult to manage financial responsibilities such as the monthly mortgage or rent, car and credit card bills, education costs, utility and grocery bills, child care and other monthly payments. Benefits advisers can emphasize to clients that disability insurance plans are created to provide cash benefits to employees so they can focus on recuperation, not on out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Help provide protection this open enrollment season

A disabling accident, illness or injury that keeps employees from working shouldn’t hinder a worker’s ability to maintain the worker's current lifestyle.

Disability insurance means that workers won’t have to choose between recovery and financial stability. Open enrollment is a great opportunity for benefits advisers to explain the importance of disability policies by highlighting that it is an affordable option that makes financial sense for those who enjoy life’s journey and don’t want it to be slowed down.

Stephanie Shields is vice president of product innovation and marketing at Aflac. 

Related:

4 juicy disability insurance awareness market segments

7 new cartoons for disability insurance advisors

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