All this discussion about health care reform may have left you wondering what is ultimately in store for the industry. How would a new health care bill, or even smaller reform-based measures, affect group disability insurance? What challenges would producers face while selling disability insurance? Employers may look to their trusted benefits professional — you — to determine a suitable way to continue providing disability coverage while other benefit options become drastically different.

According to Ron Remak, general agent of Bill C. Brown Associates in Bloomington, IN, the effect of any health care reform on the disability insurance market is still undetermined. Regardless of what happens in Congress, employees will still need disability insurance coverage to fill gaps in their income created by a short or long-term disability. The key here is to continue educating your clients about the need for disability coverage.

“Health care reform doesn’t address the absolute need for professional agents to accurately and consistently communicate the value of disability insurance, with or without health care,” Remak said. “People need quality coverage in effect that insures and protects income for their family.”

Health insurance covers certain medical expenses, but disability insurance coverage is a valuable tool to help pay for everything else: mortgages, utilities, transportation, food, and other essentials. Health insurance coverage should not be viewed as something that replaces disability coverage, but rather something that works alongside disability coverage to ensure that employees can take care of themselves and their families’ financial needs.

Employers are examining their entire benefits packages more thoroughly. Opinions differ on whether health insurance overall would cost more or less under a new bill. If the cost was lower, employers would have more discretionary budget dollars available for disability insurance. If the cost was higher, however, there still would be plenty of opportunity to offer disability insurance on a voluntary basis. The need is still there — and that’s where you come in.

Here are some strategies you can use to keep selling disability insurance in this uncertain and potentially
shifting market:

  • Inform yourself. Keep up with the news about health care reform. The health care reform bill is still evolving, and reform is even more uncertain than before. It is vital that you keep up-to-date with any changes and fully understand how those changes could affect your products. By being knowledgeable about health care reform, you can position yourself as a trusted resource.
  • Educate your clients about disability. Identify potential hot-button issues that your clients may be concerned about, and prepare a response to address their concerns. Health care reform can be an intimidating topic, and, as Remak said, arming yourself and your customers with the facts can help make it less daunting.
  • Show them you care. Positioning yourself as a trusted partner means showing empathy. Look at yourself not as a vendor, but rather as an extension of an in-house benefits team. This means knowing a client’s benefits offerings inside and out and being able to recommend practical solutions that help both employers and employees.
  • Expand your products. Today, you have even more of a reason to talk to your clients about their coverage. While you already have their attention, why not talk about related products, such as disability? Health care may be dominating your clients’ attention, but disability insurance can be equally important for employees.
  • Be sensitive to political beliefs. It seems like everyone has a strong opinion about health care reform. Be prepared to address the topic with customers who may feel very strongly for or against health care reform. Employers are primarily concerned with their bottom line and providing quality benefits to their employees, so make sure you present disability in a way that illustrates how it benefits their employees, regardless of the outcome of health care reform debate.

Tim Staggs is the regional vice president of group sales for American United Life Insurance Company, a OneAmerica company. He can be reached at 770-933-7150 or timothy.staggs@oneamerica.com.