Americans are surviving more serious illnesses and injuries than ever before – but can they survive them financially?
Employers today find it more challenging than ever to offer comprehensive health care coverage. Even with health care reform promising better coverage for more people, many group clients may continue to have major gaps in their medical coverage for deductibles and copayments – not to mention such non-medical expenses as experimental treatments, mortgage payments, and lost income, which health plans don’t typically cover.
Even more seriously, a study published this June by the American Cancer Society indicates that millions of cancer survivors have delayed medical care because they couldn’t afford it.
To help your group clients, you need new solutions that can fill these coverage gaps – and group critical illness and accident insurance plans may both offer significant help. These ancillary plans provide plan members and their families with financial benefits upon diagnosis of a major illness or accidental injury, and can help employers offer enhanced coverage at a minimal cost.
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The other side of survival
We all know someone who has survived a critical illness or catastrophic accident, and lived a full life afterward. More than 34 million episodes of medically attended injuries are reported each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society estimate more than 25 million Americans will survive a heart attack, stroke, or cancer this year. Survival rates are high even among heart transplant patients: 88 percent of men and 77 percent of women survived at least one year past their heart transplant, and 70 percent of all transplant patients survived five years.
Yet one of the greatest challenges for these survivors is how they’ll endure financially. A well-known study published by the American Journal of Medicine found that 62 percent of all bankruptcies were caused by medical expenses; this number was up nearly 14 percent over a similar study conducted just four years earlier. More surprising is the finding that 75 percent of those who declared medical bankruptcy reported having health insurance. “Unless you’re Bill Gates, you’re just one serious illness away from bankruptcy,” said the study’s lead author.
Medical bankruptcy may not be a surprising phenomenon, given the pharmaceutical regimens, experimental treatments, and various forms of therapy that are expensive with or without insurance. Still, as much as two-thirds of all costs related to serious illnesses are non-medical, including transportation to and from treatment, medically necessary renovations to a home, and family lodging or meals purchased during an individual’s stay at the hospital. All these expenses can contribute to a family’s financial distress while a primary wage earner recovers from illness or injury and regular family income is reduced.