Disability Awareness Month: Educating clients on the benefits of better coverageArticle added by Tom Morey on May 14, 2012
Tom Morey

Tom Morey

Joined: May 14, 2012

Insurance professionals are in a prime position to serve as benefits advocates by educating and promoting the value of voluntary disability insurance as a necessity rather than simply an optional choice.

May is Disability Awareness Month, which makes it a great opportunity for advisors to counsel both their current and potential clients on how voluntary disability insurance can provide their employees with income protection if an unpredicted disabling illness or injury occurs.

Why should you educate clients about disability insurance?

Although workers are aware they should be prepared for a future disability, many are in denial of the actual risk they face in their lifetime. Many workers have an it-won’t-happen-to-me attitude, so it’s imperative that advisors communicate the extent of potential out-of-pocket costs associated with disability, from transportation and hospital stays to missed work days and prescriptions.

The U.S. Census Bureau found that over 36 million Americans are classified as disabled, with more than 50 percent of those disabled Americans in their working years, from ages 18 to 64. Yet, the 2012 Aflac WorkForces Report found that even those approaching middle age think they are unlikely to face disability. Eighty percent of workers ages 32 to 47 said they felt it was unlikely that they would become disabled. These survey results clearly show the disconnection between Americans’ expectations about their health and their actual risk of being disabled. While disability may seem improbable now, workers should be aware of the risks of being without coverage in case they are forced to face the unexpected.

Who needs disability insurance?

Insurance professionals need to overcome an ongoing challenge: how to educate consumers about the need for disability insurance and then translate this knowledge into action. Consumers who want to protect their financial future can benefit from short-term disability insurance.

The most common reasons for workers to claim disability:
  • Muscle and bone disorders such as back problems, joint pain and muscle pain make up more than one-fourth of income-interrupting disabilities. Pain can be a result of injury or disease like arthritis or fibromyalgia.

  • Cancer is the second leading cause of new disability claims, representing 15 percent of all claims.

  • Cardiovascular or circulatory problems have increased slightly and are now the third leading cause of new and existing disability claims.
Why offer voluntary disability policies?

Insurance professionals are in a prime position to serve as benefits advocates by educating and promoting the value of voluntary disability insurance as a necessity rather than simply an optional choice.

With a slow economic recovery and uncertainty about health care reform, many businesses are reducing disability insurance coverage or eliminating those policies entirely. These changes can leave workers with inadequate coverage and without income replacement.
Voluntary short-term disability insurance is available as a no-direct-cost solution for employers who want to maintain disability coverage options and help provide financial protection for their employees. These policies have become more attractive to employees since they can work with advisors to select a level of disability coverage that best meets their needs, as well as the length of time benefits are payable.

These policies are especially helpful to workers facing costly medical expenses resulting from illnesses, such as cancer. For instance, Charles (Bob) and Luann Porter’s lives changed forever when Bob was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in 2011. Their first thought was: What can we do to fight this dreaded disease. Once they had a treatment plan in place, their thoughts turned to: How will we pay our bills?

Bob soon became too ill to work and Luann wasn't making enough to pay all their bills, such as mortgage, utilities, insurance, car payments, credit card bills, etc. In addition, Bob had exhausted most of his personal time off during his diagnosis phase and initial testing. Thankfully, Bob remembered he had a short-term disability policy that provided cash benefits that he used to help meet his financial obligations.

“[The policy] provided our minds and hearts with much relief as we continue on this journey," Bob says.

Education is key

Both employers and employees should be fully aware of the costs associated with not being prepared for an unexpected disability. Educating your clients about their risks and how best to protect their income while they recover from an injury or illness away from work is essential.

During Disability Awareness Month, taking time to alert current and potential clients about the need for disability protection could help you and your clients.
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