Boomer Health Status Intrigues Disability Insurers And Producers
One of the big questions facing disability insurers and producers is the true health status of the baby boomers.
Will efforts to encourage boomers to exercise, eat healthier diets and stop smoking pay off by decreasing the likelihood that working boomers will file short-term and long-term disability claims?
Or will genetics or new health threats, such as skin cancer, or a general retreat from community involvement, somehow increase the likelihood that a given boomer will file a claim?
Either way, the aging of the boomers probably will lead to an increase the overall incidence of claims, experts interviewed say.
“Theres a natural progression of the types of conditions that people get as they get older,” says Dr. Ronald Leopold, medical director of MetLife disability at MetLife Inc., New York.
The nature of that progression could affect any financial advisor who sells disability insurance. If boomers are sicker in middle age than the actuaries expect, advisors could find that disability coverage is harder to find, rates are higher and commissions are lower. If boomers are healthier, advisors that sell disability coverage could be the belles of the ball.
Today, 9.4% of U.S. workers between the ages of 35 and 44 are either at home with a disability or continuing to work despite suffering from a serious disability, says Donna Otten, vice president of benefits management services and strategy implementation at Aetna Inc., Hartford.
The share with disabilities rises to 23% for workers between the ages of 55 and 64, Otten says.
MetLife reports that employees over age 55 are about twice as likely to submit diabetes claims as are younger employees and about four times as likely to submit claims for cardiovascular problems.
The solution is not to fire all the older workers, Leopold says. Even if employers could ignore age discrimination laws, most would find that the value of keeping old workers knowledge and contacts far outweighs increased benefits costs, Leopold says.
But the healthier the boomers are, the better the results will be for disability insurers and for the employers that pay the premiums.
Leopold is convinced that boomers really are smoking less, exercising more and working harder to control conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.