The income umbrella (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

If people with serious health problems could get affordable, subsidized guaranteed-issue individual health coverage — without qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) — what might that do to disability insurance claims?

If newly insured people pour into doctors’ offices, diagnostic clinics and hospitals, and make it hard for people with plain old group coverage to get timely appointments, what might that do to disability claims? 

My brain is too small to figure that out. I’m not an actuary or futurologist. Just a reporter on deadline.

But, anyhow: Gen Re, the company that acquired the organizer of the wonderful old JHA disability insurance conference series, has sent out the flier for the company’s 2013 group benefits conference (which will cover the group life market along with the disability market). 

The conference (which, I have now been told by Gen Re staffers is, sorry, folks, invitation-only) is set to take place in March, in Naples, Fla. The workshop list itself is full of food for strategic thought.

Winthrop Cashdollar and Steve Clayburn will talk about whether SSDI will survive.

Petar Peric of Gen Re’s unit in Australia will talk about whether automated underwriting can work.

And Brian Dunham will talk about what PPACA might mean for disability insurance claims by talking about what the Massachusetts health system changes that took effect in 2006 have done to the Bay State short-term disability (STD) market.

Of course, PPACA may make life miserable for small health insurers, individual health insurance producers, group health plan sponsors and young, high-income, healthy people who will be stuck paying through the nose for non-subsidized, excessively ornate health coverage.

But, in theory, PPACA really could make life a lot easier for people with health problems and moderate incomes. They’ll get some help with paying for coverage, and the insurers will stop slamming doors in their faces.

But, on the other hand, PPACA might overload doctors’ offices with newly insured patients. Maybe just getting a bad leg X-rayed will take two days of camping out in a clinic.

Maybe some sickly workers who’ve been clinging to jobs they hate or can barely perform for the sake of keeping health coverage will take the opportunity to quit, buy exchange coverage, and file for STD benefits.

But maybe PPACA will lead to improvements in group benefits packages, especially at some small employers, and maybe ailing workers will be more likely to stay on the payroll to keep those more attractive health benefits packages.

If so, maybe an increase in STD claims filed by workers at employers with good health benefits will offset a decrease in STD claims filed by workers at small employers that are being pushed to enhance their benefits.

Or, something. The one thing that seems certain is that 2014 will be an interesting year to cover disability insurance.

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