By Susan K. Neely
Melinda Gates, who co-chairs the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said:
“To safely reopen the country, healthy people need to be able to go to work, and sick people need to be able to stay home,” she wrote. “We know that will require scaling up testing and contact tracing. We overlook that it will require scaling up caregiving solutions, too.”
Life insurers agree and see the need for more caregiving solutions. Whether it’s childbirth, adoption, a family health crisis, or a worker’s own health crisis, life insurers believe no one should have to choose between their paycheck and caring for loved ones or themselves.
Earlier this year, Congress extended paid leave benefits to people caring for loved ones and provided additional unemployment benefits to workers laid off or furloughed because of COVID-19.
These actions provided families with much-needed relief but were only temporary. More needs to be done to relieve ongoing pressures faced by all workers, but especially women. They often find themselves struggling to balance their work responsibilities with caregiving. These pressures will continue long after the pandemic subsides.
Private paid medical leave insurance — called disability income insurance — is the most common income protection, allowing workers to maintain their income when they are out of the workplace because of a medical condition or after the birth of a child.
Life insurers pay around $19 billion in disability income insurance benefits annually. They protect 40% of private-sector workers from losing pay if they take medical leave after welcoming a child or tending to a medical condition.
Following the lead of the private sector, public leaders can establish workplace options and guidelines that allow parents to meet their responsibilities at home and at work.
Plus, these flexible programs along with paid leave will help keep women in the workforce and, in turn, promote long-term economic growth. During a time when so much is at stake, we need to prioritize policies that support our caregivers.
ACLI encourages Congress to include smart, workable caregiving solutions rooted in the successful private sector in pandemic recovery bills it will consider in 2021.
Susan K. Neely is the President and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), the nation's leading trade association dedicated to providing products and services that contribute to Americans' financial and retirement security. As president and CEO, Neely drives public policy and advocacy on behalf of ACLI's member companies that represent 94 percent of industry assets and serve 90 million families.