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Nearly half of American workers (47 percent) say they love their jobs and 10 percent would continue to work even if they won the lottery, according to a Cigna survey of workplace attitudes. However, the Cigna survey, recognizing Disability Insurance Awareness Month, also revealed that most American workers do not have an adequate plan for sustaining an income should they be unable to work due to a disabling illness or injury.
More than 1.5 million workers suffered injuries or illnesses in 2014 that required absences from work, job transfers or restrictions at work,i and the Cigna survey found that most workers (72 percent) say they are taking proactive steps to guard against such circumstances. While good intentioned, many of the actions workers said they were taking could fall short if they were out of work and unable to earn an income for more than a few days.
“American workers are on the right track when they say they are making healthier choices and even saving money to prepare for the possibility they could be out of work for more than just a few days if they were sick or injured,” said Mark Marsters, senior vice president for Cigna’s disability insurance business. “Beyond the costs of medical treatment, if recovery required time away from work, paying for everyday bills or for extras like child care, transportation or home maintenance could become a challenge.”
The most popular actions workers say they have taken within the past six months to financially protect themselves against an unexpected illness or injury are:
- Trying to be healthy to avoid an illness (51 percent),
- Saving more money (35 percent), and
- Taking precautions to become more safety conscious (33 percent).
However, only one in ten survey participants said they bought additional disability insurance or purchased supplemental insurance products like critical illness, accidental injury or hospital indemnity insurance. According to the Bureau of Labor Statisticsii, only 39 percent of private industry workers have short-term disability insurance and even fewer – 33 percent – have long-term disability coverage, suggesting that employees may be placing too much confidence in strategies that do not include insurance coverage.
The survey revealed that many workers get a sense of pride from working (63 percent), a sense of accomplishment (57 percent) and also enjoy their relationships with people at work (52 percent). Being away from work can also mean more than losing a paycheck, reinforcing the importance of having support services to help in returning to work as soon as individuals are able.
“In addition to more financial protection, disability insurance offers access to resources and support services so workers do not go through the recovery process alone and can return to work when they are ready,” Marsters said.
Medical costs worrying American workers
In Cigna’s study, 44 percent of American workers said that they worry about how they might pay for medical costs not covered by their medical plan. With two-thirds of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, costs associated with a hospital admission can be an unexpected challenge to an individual’s finances.iii
Having disability and voluntary coverages offers workers additional financial protection as well as access to vocational coaches and other valuable resources to help them return to work as quickly and safely as possible. Many disability plans provide services to help employees with potentially disabling conditions stay at work, and pay partial disability benefits that enable employees to work part-time or on a modified-duty basis as they recover from a disability. When return to work is not an option, insurers offer assistance with application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.
Employers Influential in Workforce Decisions
Employers may play an influential role in helping employees build their financial safety net. In the Cigna study, employees who are offered disability insurance, critical illness insurance, accidental injury insurance or hospital indemnity insurance are nearly twice as likely to see how these products can help provide additional financial protection than workers who do not have these benefit options available.
Employers can use that influence to enhance educational materials about benefit options. For example, when asked about benefits they would want if a disabling injury or illness were to occur, only 47 percent of those surveyed said disability insurance. Nearly as many, 39 percent, said they would turn to sick time or Family & Medical Leave (FML) for help. However, the Family & Medical Leave Act does not provide any financial assistance as it is a federal law requiring employers to provide employees job-protection and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons.
“Through the support of employers, brokers and insurers working together, American workers can make better benefit choices and ultimately have access to the resources they need to stay productive and healthy, while also protecting their financial health,” said Marsters.
At Maya Murphy, P.C., our personal injury attorneys are dedicated to achieving the best results for individuals and their family members and loved ones whose daily lives have been disrupted by injury, whether caused by a motor vehicle or pedestrian accident, a slip and fall, medical malpractice, a defective product, or otherwise. Our attorneys are not afraid to aggressively pursue and litigate cases and have extensive experience litigating personal injury matters in both state and federal courts, and always with regard to the unique circumstances of our client and the injury he or she has sustained.