By Lynn Goldbach | August 08, 2019 at 06:06 AM
With open enrollment on the horizon, now is the time to talk about short- and long-term disability coverage offerings.
The primary benefit of disability coverage, which most employees understand, is the partial payment of income should a working person encounter a covered disabling event.
Disability Insurance Awareness Month came to a close in May, but its messages are as relevant as ever. The seriousness of those messages creates the opportunity—and responsibility—for benefits managers and advisors to engage with employers well ahead of open enrollment. Like May, open enrollment will arrive—and be over—all too soon.
The reality is that one in four adults in the U.S. 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 the workplace for a variety of reasons, the most common causes—depression, arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases, and lower back and neck strains—can happen to anyone and have persisting impacts on individuals, their families and their employers. In fact, the Integrated Benefits Institute found that illness-related lost productivity costs U.S. employers $530 billion per year due to almost 1.4 billion days of employee work absence.
Despite these statistics, many individuals who experience a disabling event are physically, emotionally and financially unprepared for it. Cigna recently commissioned the Cigna Group Disability Study of 500 U.S. adults and found that among those without disability more were extremely worried about their ability to pay living expenses.
With open enrollment on the horizon, now is the time for benefits managers and advisors to engage with employers about the 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, outside of just salary, to help weather the disabling event.
The primary benefit of disability coverage, which most employees understand, is the partial payment of income should a working person encounter a covered disabling event. But the benefits don’t stop there.
During open enrollment (and throughout the year) employers must educate employees about the financial support included with their plan that goes above-and-beyond what’s expected, which may include automatic claim payments, money-coaching, Social Security Advocacy and financial counseling programs.
Social Security Advocacy, which can include guidance and payments for attorney fees and other associated costs, is especially important because it helps bridge the gap to retirement. People often don’t understand that, if they are out on disability leave, they stop contributing to Social Security, and may need legal support to ensure they receive the supplemental social security income they deserve.
2. Total health and wellness benefits associated with disability coverage.
Ancillary health and wellness benefits, outside of financial support, offered through an employer can help put the value of coverage in perspective. Think about it this way: When people take disability leave because of an illness or injury, they must spend time focusing on what’s important during recovery:
their physical and emotional health. By educating employees about the return-to-work programs that may be available with coverage, such as personal health coaching, health engagement, advocacy, technical assistance and re-acclimation support, employers can demonstrate how they support employees from a holistic health and well-being perspective.
In some cases, employer’s may offer behavioral health benefits which can help guide individuals through a disabling event’s unanticipated issues, such as depression, emotional hardships and addiction. These benefits can prove to be a differentiator in employer benefit plans, helping employers to shorten the duration of a disability leave and get their employees back to optimal health sooner.
3. Holistic pre-disability and absence management programs.
Today, companies are employing pre-disability programs—leveraging their total health and wellness benefits—to help prevent a disabling event in the first place. Such programs offer a holistic view of the individual and are designed to keep employees healthier both at and away from work. The problem is: Many employees either don’t know about their options or they’re unsure how to get involved. This leaves a substantial opportunity to help employers better engage with and direct employees to preventive programs, ensuring their ability to better identify at-risk individuals who may need additional support.
An example falls within the absence management space. A recent analysis of more than one million Cigna claims revealed that individuals who experienced a work absence, such as Family Medical Leave, had a higher likelihood of filing a short-term disability claim in the future. In fact, individuals were shown to be four times more likely to have such a claim if they were taking care of their own health while caring for a family member. With early and proactive employee engagement, employers can play a critical role in managing overall health and well-being – which may 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 connected ways. Benefits managers and advisors must do their due diligence this open enrollment season to ensure that the full breadth of their clients’ disability coverage options and educational resources is made available to employees. This will help individuals proactively guard against unexpected – and challenging – life events.
Lynn Goldbach is vice president of Cigns Group Calims.
For more information std/ltd plans that are now offering 10% below renewal rates for groups of 10 and more, click here to contact cbg | CONFIDENT.