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Unum Helps 10% More Disability Benefits Claimants Return to Work

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Unum Group is supporting this year’s Disability Insurance Awareness Month  outreach campaign by releasing a little new data on its own disability insurance claims.

The Chattanooga, Tennessee-based insurer says it it received 503,000 new disability claims in 2019 and paid $3.7 billion in disability benefits.

(Related: Disability Insurance Awareness Months Slips In)

That compares with 458,800 new disability claims and $3.7 billion in disability benefits in 2018.

The company’s return-to-work programs helped 275,000 disability claimants return to work last year. The return-to-work total was up 10% from the 2018 total.

The list of the top five causes for 2019 long-term disability claims looks about the same as the 2018 list:

  1. Cancer: 16% (flat)
  2. Injury: 12.5% (down from 13%)
  3. Back problems: 12.1% (down from 13%)
  4. Joint disorders: 9.5% (down from 10%)
  5. Heart problems: 9.4% (down from 10%)

Unum has released the disability claims data as another disability story — the COVID-19 pandemic — is sucking up a large share of U.S. consumers’ and U.S. employers’ attention.

Most of the focus on the impact of the virus has been on the death rate, but working-age people with COVID-19 are much more likely to be hospitalized, and live, than to die. News reports suggest that some people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 have lung problems and other problems for weeks after they leave the hospital. Up till now, much of the interest in COVID-19 return-to-work efforts has centered around the possibility that the workers returning to work might still be contagious.

Executives from companies that offer disability insurance have said that COVID-19 appears to have triggered some disability benefits claims. Insurers have not given any details on the effects of COVID-19 on disability.

New York City, which has had a severe COVID-19 outbreak and aggressive testing, breaks hospitalization data out by age.

In New York City, about 20 out of every 1,000 people ages 18 to 44 have tested positive for COVID-19, and about 2 out of every 1,000 people ages 18 to 44 who have tested positive have ended up in the hospital.

For New Yorkers ages 45 to 64, the confirmed COVID-19 case rate is 33 infections for every 1,000 people, and the hospitalization rate is about 8 per 1,000 people.

If other communities end up with similar numbers, employer and public health official interest in what Unum and other disability insurers know about returning workers to work may grow.

— Read Insurers Continue Fight for Disability Insurance Awarenesson ThinkAdvisor.

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