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Unum: Disability benefits help people keep their homes

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Workers who become disabled may find themselves skipping medical care and shifting to a bare-bones lifestyle even if they collect disability insurance benefits.

But workers who have disability benefits are much more likely than the uninsured to be able to stay in their homes.

Analysts at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Unum Group Corp. have published that finding in a report based on a survey of 407 long-term disability (LTD) insurance beneficiaries conducted by Mathew Greenwald & Associates.

The CFA and Unum wanted to help consumers, employers and policymakers understand how access to short-term disability (LTD) and LTD benefits affects workers who suffer disabling accidents or illnesses before the normal retirement age.

The analysts found, for example, that 65 percent of the disabled workers with annual household incomes under $50,000 had to skip or delay medical care in spite of access to disability benefits — and that even 51 percent of the disabled workers with disability benefits and annual household incomes over $50,000 had to skip or delay care due to financial considerations.

Similarly, even when disabled workers had disability benefits, 68 percent of those in lower-income households and 45 percent in higher-income households had to cut back to what they felt was an uncomfortable lifestyle.

But, when the disabled workers had disability benefits, just 19 percent in the lower-income category and 11 percent in the higher-income category actually had to move out of their homes because of the disability.

Eighty-seven percent of the group disability insurance beneficiaries said employers should do a better job of explaining the plans to workers and 23 percent of the beneficiaries said they were not aware that they had disability coverage until they became disabled.

“Of those who were aware, many did not fully understand when payments would start, how much of their previous income would be replaced and how long they could expect their payments to continue,” the analysts say. 

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