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Disability Insurance Observer: The Mature Snowboarder

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I used, very honestly, to think that the idea of Hartford Financial Services Inc., Hartford (NYSE:HIG), sponsoring a winter sports event for people with disabilities was a little odd.

Why on earth encourage people who already have problems with arms or legs to get on skis or snowboards and cause more injuries to more arms and legs?

Then my friend Joe, who is self-employed and about 40, got interested in winter sports, and I understood: The best way to attract the attention of healthy, active people who generally take good care of themselves but think they are invincible is to reach them when they have wiped out while skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, snorkeling or the like.

Of course, no one wants to insure a burning house against fire.

No one really wants to insure a skiier rushing down a black diamond trail against the risk of banging into a tree on the black diamond trail.

But, on the other hand, if an insurer can somehow deal with the risk of black diamond trails and similar threats in the design and pricing of a disability insurance policy — or, perhaps, a life insurance or long-term care insurance (LTCI) policy — it seems as if the black diamond trail itself is the protection seller’s best friend.

Joe, for example (many details here are changed to protect Joe’s identity, in case he is, in reality, a super hero, and the bad guys are looking for him), is used to bounding up stairs in a single leap, biking around major metropolitan areas as if they were suburban cul de sacs, and toting heavy suitcases and boxes around as if they were lunchboxes. Most of the time, he has a hard time grasping the possibility that other people might find any ordinary physical activity tiring, let alone the possibility that he himself could have trouble with some activity as trivial as running a marathon or climbing up the mast of a sailboat.

Normally, when I tell Joe that I write about disability insurance, and I mention that disability insurance is a product self-employed people ought to consider buying, he looks about as interested as if I had suggested that some people in the world make a living by growing cassava root, or that some people enjoy macrame. Those topics normally have no meaning for him.

A few weeks ago, however, he took advantage of what will probably be the last few flurries of snow of the season and went snowboarding. At one point, he toppled over and banged up his ribs and his knees.

For an hour or two, he could barely walk. He probably hadn’t done anything at all to his life expectancy, or his expectancy for years of healthy life, but, for a week or two, he could move only about as well as most people can move when they’ve been working out regularly. He suddenly had to make an effort to climb stairs or lift heavy objects. He couldn’t sleep comfortably on his stomach. He sometimes needed more than four hours of sleep a night.

The next time I saw him after that, he told me, “Wow, it was horrible. What if I’d been like that for a whole week? How would I have gone to work? What would I do if I couldn’t work?”

Suddenly, Joe knew why someone might find the topic of disability insurance interesting.


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