Show your clients how enhancements to critical illness insurance make this protection even more valuable during the pandemic
BY MICHAEL A. STACHOWIAK
Critical illness insurance has been in the employee benefits spotlight for the past decade. It’s one of the industry’s top growth products, with sales up 14% last year to $846 million. This trend started long before anyone heard of coronavirus, and with good reason. Heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the United States for decades, and more than 600,000 people in this country will die from cancer this year. Thanks to better treatment, technology and detection many more people are surviving these critical illnesses, but with a big price tag. Medical costs for cancer total $80 billion in the U.S., while costs for cardiovascular disease treatment are projected to more than double from the current $318 billion to $749 billion by 2035. When you add indirect costs — lost time at work, paying for additional services at home, transportation, childcare and other expenses — it’s projected to skyrocket even more.
COVID-19 is now the third leading cause of death in the U.S., killing more people than the flu, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Similar to heart disease, cancer and other critical illnesses, the treatment for COVID is expensive. According to public health experts, approximately 20% of people who get COVID-19 and seek treatment may need a hospital stay. Those without health insurance could see bills exceeding $73,000. Those patients with private insurance using in-network providers can still expect to pay
about $40,000.Some critical illness carriers are responding to this need for expanded financial protection by adding infectious disease coverage to their plans. The coverage may be offered as a rider that provides a lump sum benefit that employees can use to help pay health care expenses, nonmedical costs and other bills. Benefits typically cover hospital stays up to 14 days. Covered conditions can include coronavirus along with other infectious diseases such as antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Legionnaires’ disease, meningitis, Lyme disease, sepsis and more. Some of the latest critical illness plans cover 50 or more different conditions such as heart attack, stroke, cancer or organ failure, and treatment procedures like coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Plans may also pay benefits for the reoccurrence of the same illness such as cancer. Additional conditions covered for children can include Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida and cleft lip or palate, often at no additional cost. Wellbeing assistance benefits are another category and may cover dozens of health screening tests, such as a colonoscopy, mammogram or BRCA genetic test that identifies breast cancer risk.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A CRITICAL ILLNESS PLAN
There’s a tremendous amount of variety in the critical illness market. Look for these features to achieve the greatest value:
- Customization and choice. The newer critical illness plans provide many options to tailor coverage. Your clients should expect a choice of several different plan designs with different features. For example, they may want a plan that includes more cancer coverage to offer a combined benefit to employees. If they already offer a cancer plan, they may prefer a critical illness design with less emphasis on cancer benefits.
- Personalization to meet individual needs. Employees should be able to choose from different levels of coverage to meet their financial and family situations, including spouse and child protection. They might also want coverage that pays additional benefits for first diagnosis, heart procedures or progressive diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
- Guaranteed — with no health questions. All employees, spouses and eligible dependent children will have access to coverage.
- HSA-compatible. This allows employers to provide coverage that can be used with employees’ health savings accounts.
- Breast cancer coverage at 100%. This benefit should apply to invasive and noninvasive cancers.
- Digital access. Easy-to-use technology with mobile apps help employees track symptoms, treatment plans and appointments and find resources for transportation, financial assistance, and emotional support while dealing with cancer.
- Employee communication and enrollment support. Look for carriers that provide clear communication and educate employees on enrollment. In a virtual world, access to integrated platforms, call center options and online tools are crucial. The coronavirus pandemic has shed new light on the value of critical illness coverage. Educate your clients on the importance of critical illness insurance as an affordable option that can help employees better protect themselves and their families.
MICHAEL STACHOWIAK is VP of sales for the southwest region at Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company. He is a growth leader with more than 13 years of experience in sales leadership. He has built sales organizations and agencies and led broker sales teams in Southern California.