Insurers generated less revenue from sales of new U.S. group disability plans during the first half of the year but were protecting more workers against disability.

JHA, Portland, Maine, published those statistics in a summary of its latest U.S. group disability insurance market survey, in which 32 carriers participated.

Premium revenue from sales of new short-term disability plans fell to $355 million during the first half, down 12% from the STD sales revenue total for the first half of 2005, and premium revenue from new long-term disability sales fell 11%, to $4.3 billion.

Despite the drop in revenue from new policy sales, the number of LTD cases sold increased 5.5%, to about 23,000, and the number of STD cases sold increased 7.4%, to about 19,000.

Premium revenue from in-force cases rose 5% for LTD coverage, to $4.3 billion, and 6.2% for STD coverage, to $1.5 billion.

Carriers also did a better job of carrying out their core mission: shielding Americans against illnesses and injuries that cause severe loss of income.

The number of U.S. workers protected against short-term disability increased 5%, to 16 million, and the number protected against long-term disability rose 3%, to 37 million.

Average premium revenue per insured employee increased 2% in the group LTD market, to $233 per employee, and held steady at $195 in the group STD market, according to JHA.

Disability insurance executives have been talking for years about the need to get away from efforts to steal big, low-margin cases away from competitors and instead make more of an effort to reach out to employers that have no group disability programs.

The latest JHA survey did not ask participants about group disability profits, but, in general, “profitability in both STD and LTD has improved in the past couple of years,” says Stacy Varney, a JHA disability market expert.

Especially in the STD market, the combination of a drop in revenue from new sales and an increase in the number of new cases suggests “insurers are really looking to write smaller cases,” Varney says.