Disability Insurance Awareness Month ended in May, but its messages are more relevant than ever. The seriousness of these messages creates the opportunity – and the responsibility – for benefits managers and advisors to engage with employers long before open enrollment. As in May, open registration will arrive – and end – far too soon.
The reality is that one in four adults in the United States lives with a disability, and more than one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they reach retirement age. While people take disability leave from work for a variety of reasons, the most common causes – depression, arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases, and lower back and neck sprains – can affect n anyone and have lasting effects on individuals, their families and their employers. In fact, the Institute of Integrated Benefits found that illness-related lost productivity costs U.S. employers $530 billion a year due to nearly 1.4 billion days of employee absence.
Related: Removing “disability” from disability insurance
Despite these statistics, many people who experience a disabling event are physically, emotionally and financially unprepared. Cigna recently commissioned the Cigna Group Disability Study of 500 American adults and found that of those without disability coverage, 52% took more than two years to recover financially and half suffered from depression. On top of that, 42% became financially dependent on family and friends – around twice as many as those covered – and around a third or more were extremely worried about their ability to pay living expenses.
With open enrollment on the horizon, now is the time for managers and benefits advisors to talk to employers about short- and long-term disability coverage offerings available to employees. Below are three key points to help benefits experts communicate the value of this coverage.
1. Financial support, beyond simple salary, to help overcome the disabling event.
The main benefit of disability coverage, which most employees understand, is the partial payment of income if a working person experiences a covered disabling event. But the benefits don’t stop there.
During open enrollment (and throughout the year), employers must inform employees of the financial support included in their plan that goes beyond what is expected, which may include automatic payments of claims, financial coaching, social security advocacy programs and financial counseling.
Social Security defense, which can include counseling and payments for attorneys’ fees and other associated costs, is particularly important because it helps bridge the retirement gap. People often don’t understand that if they’re on disability they stop contributing to social security and may need legal support to ensure they receive the extra social security income. they deserve.
2. Total health and wellness benefits associated with disability coverage.
Extended health and wellness benefits, aside from financial support, offered through an employer can help put the value of coverage into perspective. Think of it this way: When people take disability leave due to illness or injury, they need to spend time focusing on what’s important during their recovery: their physical and emotional health. . By educating employees about return-to-work programs that may be available with coverage, such as personal health coaching, health engagement, advocacy, technical assistance and support at reacclimatization, employers can demonstrate how they support employees from a holistic perspective on health and wellness. – be perspective.
In some cases, the employer may offer behavioral health benefits that can help guide individuals through the unforeseen problems of a disabling event, such as depression, emotional difficulties, and addiction. These benefits can be a differentiator in employer benefit plans, helping employers shorten the duration of disability leave and get their employees back to optimal health faster.
3. Holistic pre-disability and absence management programs.
Today, companies are using pre-disability programs, leveraging their total health and wellness benefits, to help prevent a disabling event in the first place. Such programs provide a holistic view of the individual and are designed to keep employees healthier on and off the job. The problem is this: many employees don’t know what options are available to them or how to get involved. This leaves a substantial opportunity to help employers better engage with employees and steer them towards prevention programs, ensuring their ability to better identify at-risk individuals who may need additional support.
An example comes from the absence management area. A recent analysis of over one million Cigna claims found that people who experienced absence from work, such as family medical leave, had a higher likelihood of filing a short-term disability claim at home. ‘to come up. In fact, individuals have been shown to be four times more likely to have such a claim if they take care of their own health while caring for a family member. With early and proactive employee engagement, employers can play a vital role in managing overall health and well-being, which can ultimately lead to greater productivity.
The physical, emotional and financial impacts of disability cut across all age groups and demographics, and can affect a life in very interconnected ways. Benefits managers and advisors should exercise due diligence in this open enrollment season to ensure that the full range of disability coverage options and educational resources for their clients are made available to employees. This will help individuals to proactively guard against unexpected and difficult life events.
Lynn Goldbach is vice-president of Cigna Group Complaints.