Disability Insurance: The Overlooked Employee Benefit.

Disability Insurance: The Overlooked Employee Benefit

Does your pay stub include the cryptic three-letter code LTD with a tiny dollar amount that’s deducted each pay period?  It stands for long-term disability insurance, and it pays to have it to provide for your family when you can’t work because of an injury or an illness like cancer. But many employees go without it. In fact, despite the fact that more employers are offering long-term disability insurance as an employee benefit, the number of employees insured is dropping.

That’s the troubling trend that the Council For Disability Awareness, a group representing 19 member insurance companies, found in its latest annual review of claims data for 2013. More than 213,000 employers offer long-term disability insurance through those companies, a slight increase for the second year in a row, after declines from 2009 to 2011. Yet the number of insured employees declined roughly 1.5% to 32.1 million last year (in 2009, 34 million employees had coverage).

There are a couple of reasons for the changing disability landscape, according to Barry Lundquist, president of the Council. One factor is that employers are focused on compliance with the new Affordable Care Act’s health insurance provisions—so employers and agents/brokers are saying they’ll deal with other benefits like disability insurance later.

Another factor is that when employers are adding disability insurance as a benefit today, it’s more likely that they add it as a voluntary benefit. That means the employee pays the full cost. Historically, the employer has paid the full cost, or at least for coverage up to a certain level. With employer-paid plans, employees are automatically enrolled. Sometimes you have the decision whether to make salary deferrals to increase your coverage. But with voluntary plans, enrollment hovers around 40%, Lundquist says.

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