Workers who are sidelined by illness or injury are often more worried about their financial health than they are about their physical health, a Cigna survey revealed.
Employees who did not have disability insurance were more likely to experience a long financial recovery, the survey showed. More than half (52%) of survey respondents who did not have DI said it took them more than two years to recover financially. In addition, 42% of those without DI coverage said they resorted to borrowing from family and friends to make up for lost income – about twice the percentage of those who have coverage.
“When somebody ends up going out on disability leave, what they see is devastating,” said Lynn Goldbach, vice president of Cigna Group Claim Operations.
Goldbach said that when a worker is on disability leave, their financial concerns are as pronounced as their concerns about their physical health and recovery. One way DI carriers can help lessen the stress, she said, is to begin helping workers in the early stages of an illness, so that their risk is less significant. “We can help them shorten their time out of work so that it’s less of a burden if they have to be out for a prolonged period time,” she said.
But that helps only the workers who have DI coverage. What about those who don’t have it? Goldbach said those without DI are more likely to have their finances negatively impacted by a disabling illness. Here are some statistics from the Cigna survey:
- More than half (52%) without DI said they felt financially unprepared for their disabling event, compared with 19% of those who have coverage.
- One in five without coverage characterized their post-disability financial position as poor, compared with 7% of those who had coverage.
- 40% said they were extremely worried about their ability to pay their mortgage or rent; 33% worried about their ability to pay for life’s necessities.
- Half of those without DI said they were depressed after their disabling event, compared with one-third of those who have coverage.
“People don’t have the savings to be able to afford to live if they find themselves unexpectedly out of work,” Goldbach said. “It’s a huge burden for families.”
Not all disabilities hit workers equally in terms of financial stress, Goldbach said. The top disability claims that hit workers in the wallet are chronic illness, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. In many cases, she said, these illnesses follow a “recover and relapse” track, with workers going on and off disability. Mental health issues also are emerging as a greater cause of disability in recent years, she said.
Workers and their families aren’t the only ones affected by disabilities. Employers in a tight job market also feel the pain from having the workers off the job, Goldbach said. “Employers can’t afford to have their employees to be out of work long,” she said. “So we educate employers on why it’s important for them to offer the coverage to their workers.”
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.
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