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Disability insurers seek eye contact

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Only about 1 percent of U.S. workers think they could miss three or more months of work due to an illness or injury before they retire.

In the real world, about 25 percent of U.S. workers face at least one bout of short-term disability (STD) leave. The risk of facing a disability that lasts five years or longer is about 8 percent for men, and about 10 percent for women, according to the Council for Disability Awareness (CDA).

Disability insurance marketers are hoping that, this time around, they’ll be able to do something about that awareness gap during the 2015 Disability Insurance Awareness Month campaign, which starts May 1st.

Life Happens, a nonprofit outreach organization organized by insurance agent and broker groups, began running the awareness month campaign in 2007 to supplement its efforts to educate consumers about the importance of life insurance with information about the importance of protecting the ability to earn an income.

See also: LIFE Foundation to Coordinate Industrywide Disability Insurance Awareness Month Campaign this Month

The group has posted updated 2015 awareness month materials for agents and brokers here

The big disability insurers have been reporting solid results for the first quarter.

Unum Group Corp. (NYSE:UNM), an industry leader, is reporting $213 million in net income for the first quarter on $2.6 billion in revenue, compared with $226 million in net income on $2.6 billion in revenue for the first quarter of 2014.

In spite of the effects of low interest rates, which limit what Unum can earn on its investments and push up the cost of coverage, the company was able to increase group long-term disability (LTD) sales 14 percent, to $37 million, and group short-term disability (STD) sales 21 percent, to $24 million. Sales were especially strong at employers with fewer than 2,000 covered workers.

At Unum, spending on sales commissions increased to $45 million, from $41 million.

Stan Corp. Financial Group Inc. (NYSE:SFG) also reported strong disability results. A competitor, Hartford Financial Group Inc. (NYSE:HIG), says its group disability revenue increased to $371 million for the quarter, from $369 million. 

But Unum and its competitors face the reality that, according to the CDA, 68 percent of adult Americans have no savings earmarked for emergencies. Thirty-eight percent say they would be unable to pay their bills if they were off work for even three months.

“For many of these people,” the company says in the quarterly statement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, “employer-sponsored benefits are the primary defense against the potentially catastrophic fallout of death, illness, or injury.”

For the 2015 campaign, Life Happens has prepared a package that includes flyers, videos and social media content. The videos show two people who talk about how disability insurance helped them when they suffered disabling medical conditions.

Insurers and insurance distributors have tried to amplify Life Happens’ efforts by promoting the awareness month on their websites and social media feeds.

The CDA has updated its Disability Disconnect infographic package.

A distribution arm of MetLife Inc. (NYSE:MET) has offered to donate $25 to Easter Sales for every disability insurance policy submitted in May.

Mutual of Omaha has posted a guide that tells producers what kinds of people actually buy disability insurance from the company. In May, it will be publishing disability insurance sales tips every Friday.

Nationwide Employee Benefits is encouraging producers to take disability awareness brochures to corporate clients in May, and to give presentations at civic group meetings about the need for income protection.

Disability Insurance Services and United Underwriters Inc. are examples of distributors that have put awareness month resource pages on their websites.

Disability Insurance Services gives some ideas about how agents and brokers can use the Life Happens materials. United Underwriters offers links to resources from a wide range of organizations.

See also: U.S. group disability market returns to work