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When it comes to the need for critical illness coverage, women represent an especially good market.

Consider the family demographics. Todays family structure is more diverse than ever before. One thing that has not changed is the primary role a woman plays as caregiver and provider to the familyhowever that family may be defined.

Among single-parent households, three times the number of women are the heads of household than men. Should a critical illness happen to her, there might not be supplemental income to help cover new medical as well as ongoing expenses. There also may be lack of child care support, or money for daycare while she undergoes treatment and recovery.

With or without children, most husband-and-wife households today are dual incomewith the wife bringing in one-half or more of the income. We often consider the financial consequences of death of a primary income provider, but most people dont plan on a critical illness. Therefore, they cannot withstand several months with up to half or more of their income compromised or gone.

Finally, even though no additional monetary income is realized with a stay-at-home mother/spouse, the resulting monetary savings can be great. Unfortunately, while she may be eligible for life insurance coverage, she is not eligible for disability income. This is a perfect place for critical illness coverage. Should a critical illness strike, children must be cared for; her spouse may need to use the Family Medical Leave Actunpaid–to help care for her; and the traditional uncovered expenses associated with her illness and recovery would need to be paid.

Do health statistics support these observations? Lets see.

Critical illnesses dont discriminate between men and women. The leading causes of death in 2001 for women were heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory disease and diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov). Since CI policies typically cover the first three conditions, and since many CI products cover other conditions as well, many women will benefit from owning CI insurance.

What are the issues to consider with heart disease? This is the No. 1 killer of women on the CDC list. Despite the number of deaths, however, advanced medical technology has made survival more likely than ever before. Recovering physically and financially can be a long and difficult process.

What about stroke? Brain attacksor strokesare the No. 3 cause of death for women and No. 4 for men, according to the CDC. These events can happen to anyone at any age. The CDC figures show that more than 4 million people in the United States have survived a stroke. They, along with their loved ones, know firsthand what it takes to make it on the road to recovery.

As for cancer, when most people think of cancer in women, the first thing that comes to mind is breast cancer. Indeed, 1 out of every 3 women will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in her lifetime, according to 2003 statistics from the American Cancer Society. One of every 8 will have breast cancer.

Studies reported at the federal governments cancer Web site (www.cancer.gov) show that womens survival cancer rates, as a result of earlier and better screening, increased from 1994 to 1998 and stabilized through 2000. As effective medical treatments for cancer continue to emerge, the nation can expect to see even more success stories when it comes to fighting the diseaseand winning. Survival rates will again increase.

How can CI insurance coverage help women who survive these and other critical illness events?

The proceeds from a CI policy can be applied to cover a wide assortment of expenses women encounter in recovery. These include deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket maximums not covered by medical insurance; costs for obtaining care in the best medical facility available regardless of plan coverage; and expenses associated with filling the income gap where disability coverage may leave off, or cover lost wages if disability income is not available.

A woman can use CI benefits for many other expenses, too. Examples include: in-home care while recovering; daycare expenses; home meal delivery for the family or to provide a special diet; a fitness membership as part of continued recovery and prevention of future incidents; and vocational rehabilitation.

Also: reconstructive surgery, wigs, prosthetic devices; experimental treatments not typically covered under medical insurance; transportation and travel expenses for treatment; home cleaning assistance; the cost of a nursing home if needed; and home modifications.

Remember, the purpose of a CI policy is to provide a financial bridge to recovery. For most middle-income households (those making between $25,000 and $85,000 per year), a little coverage can go a long way. For example, around $20 per month can secure $25,000 coverage for a female nonsmokermoney that can be applied to any of the items listed above or any other way she needs.

In sum, women take care of the many people around them, but dont always take adequate care to protect themselves. CI insurance can go a long way toward protecting what they lived a lifetime nurturing.

, FLMI, CLU, is vice president-marketing at Assurity Life Insurance Company, Lincoln, Neb. Her e-mail address is kfrank@assurity.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, January 16, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.