The last few years have introduced social inequalities into the active social consciousness of the country. As a result, companies consider their own intrinsic values, the values of their workforce, and the effort they need to put in to align them.
At first glance, health equity This seems to be too broad and out of scope for benefits and insurance professionals to address in their work, but under this umbrella heading is space for advisors to add value to this important goal.
Although client advisors lack the ability to write laws and regulations that could help level the playing field, they can be a small but significant force for positive change.
Read more: Set up a 360 degree approach to your disability benefits
Disability is an often overlooked, but very important line of coverage. Currently, there are 51 million working adults in the United States without disability insurance, while more than 375,000 Americans become totally disabled each year. In the United States today, there are more than 8 million adults who have a disability that prevents them from working. Unfortunately, Americans are five times more likely to become disabled than to die, but they are better prepared financially for death. These statistics highlight the need for disability insurance – and advisors can help move these numbers in the right direction. At the beginning of my career, I had the good fortune to consult a publishing house based in New York. HR was filled with lovely professionals who not only cared about their jobs, but genuinely cared whether their employees were getting enough from their insurance plans.
Printing and distribution was done from a relatively low-income area of western New York. But for as caring as this company was, they were unwilling to provide short-term disability coverage beyond what is mandated by New York State Disability Benefits Law (DBL), which is 50% of earnings up to $170/week before taxes. The company believed that if the state had determined that this amount was enough, it was, and no advice would change its thinking.
Read more: 3 Key Ways Disability Insurance Can Help Working Parents
About two years into our working relationship, I received a voicemail that one of the warehouse workers had passed away. Although the HR department knew how to file the life insurance claim, the company still needed to speak urgently: the employee had died in the warehouse from cancer. Apparently his illness had been progressing for months, but he couldn’t take time off work for treatment because he couldn’t afford to live on the statutory benefit of $170/week. The company wanted to implement a short-term disability policy with the earliest effective date possible.
This scenario illustrates how health equity can easily be overlooked on any given day. A significant short-term disability plan can actually make the difference between choosing to seek treatment or not. While disability coverage was certainly a known factor here, there were certainly other factors at play: income and confidence in the healthcare system, to name a few. But the bottom line is that what stood between this man and cancer treatments was the absence of something as simple and inexpensive as a short-term disability insurance policy.
Unfortunately, the client had to learn this lesson in the most devastating way, but it’s up to advisors to become their clients’ thought partners, supporting and educating them along the way so they don’t don’t need a tragedy to force their hand.
Not all coverages are created with equal value. Is it also important to have a life insurance policy with high death benefits? May be. Could an employer direct some of those dollars towards implementing a meaningful short-term disability policy? Depending on the needs of the employer in question, the answer may be yes. A counselor won’t know until they have had the conversation, but it will allow them to become an even more trusted counselor, further cementing the relationship. Advisors don’t need to solve health equity, but should be aware that there are simple actions that can help level the playing field.