Although American Heart month is now over, it is still vital that your clients understand the importance of protecting their finances from the costs of heart disease and keeping their hearts healthy. The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian) has compiled six important questions that you can pass along to your clients.

According to the American Heart Association, about 1.2 million Americans suffered a first or recurrent coronary attack in 2007 and survival rates for heart attacks are 67% today, up from 45% in 1950. Guardian’s Benefits & Behavior: Spotlight on Group Critical Illness report shows that 61% of those who have experienced, or had a spouse experience, a critical illness such as a heart attack, have encountered unanticipated expenses.

“The prevalence of ailments like heart disease, cancer, major organ transplants and kidney disease, coupled with high survival rates, underscore the value of critical illness insurance,” said Barry Petruzzi, 2nd Vice President, Group Benefits, Guardian. “Guardian research shows that many families aren’t aware of this important safety net. People often don’t think about how to deal with life’s twists and turns until they are hanging over a cliff. We came up with six questions to spark conversations that would help employees and their families prepare for, and/or avoid a critical illness.”

1. If I have a heart attack, stroke, cancer or other major illness, how would I pay for extra expenses related to my recovery that aren’t covered by my medical insurance? Money from critical illness insurance, given as a lump-sum amount when someone is diagnosed with a serious illness such as a heart attack, can be used at the policyholder’s discretion and provide needed protection.

Critical illness insurance can be used to pay for out-of-pocket recovery expenses such as medical deductibles and co-payments, out-of-network costs, experimental and complementary alternative medicine and even medical tourism.

2. Who would watch my children if I am recovering from an illness? The lump sum that you receive from a critical illness insurance policy can help you to pay a friend, family member, daycare center or nanny to help you with the extra child care that you and/or your spouse may need while focused on recovery.

3. Who would pay my spouse if he or she takes time off from work to help me when I am ill? People often underestimate the loss of a family member’s income caused by time off from work and travel to treatment centers. The money from a critical illness policy can be used without restriction. You can use the money to help pay a family member for time off from work, or to take a much needed vacation to reduce your stress and improve your health.

4. What should I look for in a policy designed to protect me when I am ill? All critical illness, disability and medical insurance policies are not created equal. It is important to spend time learning about your insurance policies before you actually need them. With critical illness policies some of the questions that you should ask your benefits advisor or insurance professional include:

  • What illnesses does this policy cover?
  • What happens if I get sick again after I already make a claim on my policy?
  • What happens if I am hospitalized due to an illness that is not covered on my policy?

It is important to note that new types of group critical illness insurance can provide additional coverage for hospital stays without regard to a particular illness. Previous versions of critical illness insurance covering hospital stays only covered very specific illnesses.

5. Do I need critical illness insurance if I already have disability, long-term care and/or medical insurance? This decision is based on your personal goals, finances and circumstances. Often a combination of these products can be helpful. Traditionally, medical plans pay for treatments outlined in a plan contract, but often do not pay for many of the expenses related to recovery. Long-term care insurance pays a benefit if you lose the ability to independently manage a few of your activities of daily living — e.g. eating, bathing, toileting, walking and dressing. After a waiting period, disability insurance replaces a portion of your income if you can’t work due to injury or illness. With a critical illness policy, you receive a lump sum of money a short time after being diagnosed with a major illness. Most policies allow you to use the money as you choose.

6. What can I do now to take better care of myself and reduce the odds of suffering from a heart attack? Many critical illness policies have wellness benefits to encourage members to receive the care they need to prevent or reduce the odds of a heart attack or other major illness. If you quit smoking and make exercise and healthy eating habits a permanent part of your lifestyle, you will reap the benefits of improved overall health. The American Heart Association has valuable information about how you can live a heart healthier life at http://mylifecheck.heart.org/

For more tips on introducing critical illness insurance to your prospects, check out “How to position Critical Illness Insurance”