NU Online News Service, Jan. 28, 2005, 4:57 p.m. EST

A Kansas City, Mo., benefits seller is introducing a new type of employee-paid disability insurance program.[@@]

The company, Assurant Employee Benefits, says its new Voluntary Serious Disability Benefit policy will pay benefits based on impairment ratings developed by the American Medical Association, Chicago.

By using the AMA ratings to define disability, the policy establishes a clear-cut benchmark for evaluating claims, according to Assurant Employee Benefits, a unit of Assurant Inc., New York.

Assurant Employee Benefits can sell the policy without imposing any pre-existing conditions limitations or qualifying period and without asking any health questions, the company says.

The policy offers a combination of benefits for up to 6 months for claimants who are hospitalized for 72 hours or longer and are unable to do gainful work afterward. After 6 months, the coverage converts to long-term disability coverage with claims decisions based on the AMA impairment guidelines. Benefits can continue up to age 65, as long as the claimant’s numerical impairment rating meets or exceeds 51%, according to Assurant Employee Benefits.