The income umbrella (AP photo/Charles Dharapak)

Writers of disability insurance struggle between the goal of protecting the insureds and giving the insureds a strong incentive to develop glued-to-couch syndrome.

Some carriers seem to have figured out a way to improve benefits without encouraging malingering by adding 401(k) plan contribution protection as an optional or built-in benefit.

The idea is that the added benefit can protect the truly disabled insured’s future welfare without providing enough of a current financial incentive to have much of an effect on claims.

These days, employers are turning more and more benefits programs into voluntary, employee-paid benefits programs.

Workers may get their life insurance, their legal assistance plan membership, and even their car insurance and their pet insurance through their employers.

If the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) survives, or even if it doesn’t, employers may finally start making good on health policy analysts’ predictions that a growing percentage of U.S. employers will eventually provide medical insurance through some kind of voluntary or worksite marketing program.

If these trends continue, it seems as if one future opportunity would be to add products that workers can use to protect the income they are spending on insurance products purchased through employer-sponsored, employee-paid programs, not just the income they are putting into employer-sponsored retirement plans.

The disability carriers would have to work with the issuers of the voluntary and worksite products to keep from duplicating existing portability features and throwing off the underwriting for the voluntary and worksite products. 

But it seems as if managing the risk ought to be possible, especially for products such as auto insurance, pet insurance and non-medically-underwritten health insurance that protect against risks that would seem to have little correlation with disability risk.

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