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Disability month campaign fights for mindshare

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Federal regulators, state regulators, insurance brokers, employers and insurance trade journal reporters are struggling to cope with the mountains of information about the looming Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) changes that are oozing out of the Internet.

The Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE) is trying to jump up above the PPACA mud flood and remind consumers, employers, and even regulators and insurance producers that, PPACA or no PPACA, workers still need to protect their ability to earn an income against the risk of disability.

LIFE is helping insurers, producers and others run the seventh annual Disability Insurance Awareness Month marketing campaign this month.

The group has posted updated disability planning sales kit information at In addition to flyers, the new kit includes videos and social-media content.

LIFE also has developed disability risk infographics and bits of disability information presented in “infosnacks.”

The content developers worked to create information chunks that insurance producers and benefits specialists can spread through Facebook walls, Twitter channels and personal blogs, LIFE says.

LIFE also has created an online Disability Insurance Quiz App.

John Nichols, president-elect of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), will be the awareness month campaign spokesman.

When Nichols was 32, he suffered a water skiing accident that left him paralyzed from his neck to his toes.

Nichols used disability insurance to help finance six years of rehabilitation. He recovered so well that he now runs marathons.  

LIMRA, an insurance industry marketing think tank, is supporting the campaign by developing a disability “Myths and Facts” background paper based on data from the Council for Disability Awareness (CDA) and the Social Security Administration.

One of the messages LIMRA is trying to spread is that the “best time to buy disability insurance” is “the moment you start earning a paycheck.”

Today, only about 30 percent of U.S. workers have either individual or group disability insurance, LIMRA says.

Unum Group Corp. (NYSE:UNM) is also supporting the awareness month campaign by releasing disability data.

Unum is trying to counter the common belief that workers can use worker’s compensation benefits to cope with disability by pointing out that most Unum disability policy claims are the result of illness.

In 2012, cancer accounted for about 16 percent of all Unum group long-term disability (LTD) claims, the company says. The percentage of Unum LTD claims resulting from cancer was up from 12 percent in 2007.

Pregnancy was still the most common cause of short-term disability (STD) claims, although the share caused by normal pregnancy fell to 19 percent, from 21 percent five years earlier.

WellPoint Inc. (NYSE:WLP), meanwhile, has addressed the problem of PPACA soaking up most of consumers’ benefits attention head on, by publishing early results of a survey that included questions that relate both to disability insurance and to PPACA.

Most observers expect the new PPACA “exchanges,” or health insurance supermarkets, to start out offering only medical insurance and stand-alone dental coverage, although federal officials have described procedures exchange managers could use to let consumers click through to websites that sell other products.

But WellPoint found that many of the 1,013 adults a polling firm surveyed for it thought the exchanges would sell a wide range of products — even travel insurance.

A large minority of the survey participants said they thought the exchanges would sell disability insurance.

WellPoint gave a press release summarizing the data with the headline “NEW HEALTH INSURANCE PUBLIC EXCHANGES WILL NOT COVER YOUR CAR, YOUR HOUSE, OR YOUR DOG FIDO.”

WellPoint also found that many young survey participants mistakenly believed that PPACA would protect them against the risk of disability.

Consumers clearly need income protection, because 47 percent of the participants said they were living paycheck to paycheck. A year earlier, when pollsters were conducting an earlier WellPoint survey, just 32 percent of the participants said they were living paycheck to paycheck. 

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