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Giving Hearts, and Wallets, Some Love

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What You Need to Know

  • February is American Heart Month.
  • Critical illness insurance is one example of a product that can help.
  • Dental and benefits may help, too.

February has long been associated with shades of red and pink and an abundance of hearts — but not only the candied variety. It is also American Heart Month, a time for health education and awareness of cardiac disease, the leading cause of death for men and women alike in the U.S.

Though focus rightly remains on the coronavirus pandemic, other issues continue to affect Americans’ health. Along with COVID-19, when provided a list of several medical conditions, heart attack and stroke were among the top-five that respondents or a household member were diagnosed with or treated for in 2020, according to the 2020 Aflac Health Care Issues Survey.

February is American Heart Month, providing another reason for brokers to reach out to their clients, advising them to remind their employees against neglecting their overall health. It’s an opportune time to reinforce that there are benefits options that can help their workers stay healthy and more financially secure. Here are some considerations.

Heart Health and Family History

Heart disease is strongly linked to family history and other underlying issues. While getting a DNA kit to learn about your ancestors may provide some information, knowing about your immediate family’s health can help you identify you own potential risks. A combination of heredity with existing unhealthy habits such as lack of physical activity or an unbalanced diet can increase risk for heart disease.

Knowledge of one’s health risks can also help when considering the best benefits options. In fact, 42% of employees say that family history is extremely or very influential on health insurance decisions, according to the 2020-2021 Aflac WorkForces Report.  Health risks aside, the financial impact of a cardiovascular disease diagnosis can also strain employees’ financial well-being. This makes offering benefits that help with expenses health insurance may not cover worth considering.

An Enhanced Benefits Package

Supplemental insurance is a good place to start. One option is critical illness insurance, since it can help with costs for major health events such as a heart attack or stroke, and another is hospital insurance, which can help with covered diagnostic exams or hospital confinement. A mixed-benefit product such as Aflac’s BenExtend is also a consideration, since it combines popular benefits from critical illness, hospital, accident and life insurance plans. Since heart disease treatment can lead to missing work and a loss of income, disability insurance can also be a valuable offering.

Another benefits connection associated with heart health is dental and vision insurance. Research shows the value of routine eye and mouth exams in the detection and treatment of heart disease. In fact, the likelihood of developing a heart illness such as endocarditis increases due to unaddressed bacteria in the mouth getting into the bloodstream, according to the Mayo Clinic.  A study from The American Journal of Medicine research indicates that improving one’s eye health can directly improve one’s heart health. The converse is also true, as the study notes that many cases of ocular disease cases can be prevented with heart-health-related lifestyle changes.

Finally, review the riders and existing offerings available in clients’ plans to see if there are benefits for preventative care like routine health screenings or wellness visits. These can play a role in helping employees get ahead of issues and stay healthy — and can go a long way to fostering loyalty and trust.

Have a Heart-to-Heart

Counsel clients on helping employees take care of their physical health as well as offering a well-rounded benefits program. By putting more options for financial protection in the hands of workers, they will be better able to focus on maintaining a healthy heart and being prepared in case of serious illness.

Stephanie Shields (Photo: Aflac)Stephanie Shields is senior vice president of broker sales at Aflac.