Disability Insurers Talk About Funding A Consumer Ad Campaign

By Allison Bell

Bonita Springs, Fla.

Group disability insurance executives are thinking about organizing a $10 million consumer education campaign.

Executives here for a disability insurance conference organized by John Hewitt & Associates Inc. talked repeatedly about how great it would be if their industry had the equivalent of the milk industrys “Got Milk?” campaign, or a new “AFLAC Duck” who could quack its way into workers consciousness.

Traditionally, group disability insurers have focused on sending group reps to court employers with large pools of male, full-time workers.

Today, companies are employing more women, immigrants, part-time workers and seasonal workers. Sales of traditional group disability products have been soft, and benefits sellers are trying to persuade workers to pay for benefits themselves.

Unfortunately, after decades of going after employers, “were not as expert at consumer merchandising,” said Richard Mucci, senior vice president in the group benefits division at Hartford Life, a unit of Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford. “Many of us dont even know how many employees we really insure.”

JHA, a disability risk management firm owned by General Re Corp., Stamford, Conn., dubbed one session “Wheres Our Got Milk? Campaign?” The highlight was the premiere of a video survey of consumers in downtown Portland, Maine, a city that serves as the unofficial capital of the group disability insurance industry.

Despite Portlands heavy involvement in the group disability industry, many consumers there were unfamiliar with disability insurance products.

One woman who owns a small business said she paid 100% of the health premiums for her employees and bought disability insurance for herself. “Its like economic insurance,” she said.

But the woman does not provide disability coverage for her employees, partly because of worries about cost and partly because her employees have never asked for it.

Executives at the JHA conference praised Mutual Of Omaha Insurance Company for running 2 national disability insurance television commercials.

Persuading more carriers to run their own commercials will be difficult, because some executives fear commercials will drum up business for all industry participants, not just themselves, according to conference attendees.

Conference attendees also agreed that, even though insurers generate about $14 billion in annual premium revenue, or about twice as much as Americans spend on attending movies at movie theaters, raising the cash to fund an industrywide campaign will be challenging.

Mucci reported he is making his third effort to organize a disability insurance trade group that could handle tasks such as planning consumer education campaigns.

Winthrop Cashdollar, executive director for disability and long term care insurance at the AHIP, Washington, said he worked on another effort to organize a disability insurance awareness campaign. “It kind of foundered when people were supposed to get their checkbooks out,” he said.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, March 12, 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.