I just did a rough calculation. There are nearly 145 million working Americans. Of that 145 million, 37 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, have short-term disability coverage through work. I figure that’s about 54 million workers with the minimum coverage. LIMRA International tells us there are about 6 million individual disability insurance policies in force. These folks purchased a policy on their own outside of work. Let’s assume, for the sake of the point I’m going to make, that these 6 million don’t have a disability benefit through their employer in addition to the individual policy. Combined then, roughly 60 million workers have some form of disability insurance. So, about 85 million working Americans, or close to 60 percent, DON’T have disability insurance.
My figures are estimates. I didn’t include those who take advantage of coverage through their professional associations. And I should acknowledge other groups have arrived at different numbers”a study done by the parent company of AXA Equitable, for instance, estimates 60 percent of Americans have disability insurance from some source. That puts the rough number of uninsured workers, according to their calculation, at about 60 million.
Whether there are 85 million or 60 million workers without disability coverage, there are in either case far too many. Tens of millions of Americans leave themselves vulnerable to serious financial hardship, and they probably aren’t aware of the risks.
That’s why LIFE and 40 leading industry organizations have banded together to raise their awareness as part of Disability Insurance Awareness Month. For the month of May, we will focus our marketing and communications efforts to educate the public about the importance of disability insurance protection, to point out the consequences of not having sufficient coverage, and provide them with tips on how they can go about getting it.
Simply put, disability insurance is insurance on your income. It replaces your income when you can’t work due to an unexpected injury or illness.
Think about it. You have bills, a mortgage payment, a car loan to pay, or maybe a retirement account and college savings program to fund. How do you pay your expenses, and take care of your plans for the future, without a paycheck for weeks, months, even years? A lot is riding on that income, and it needs to be insured. If you were a 25-year-old making $50,000 a year and suffered a permanent disability, you stand to lose $3.8 million in future earnings. What do you own that is more valuable than your ability to earn an income?
For the next month during Disability Insurance Awareness Month, LIFE will drive home that point in a series of radio public service announcements, in advertising and through aggressive media outreach. DIAM spokesperson and U.S. Paralympian April Holmes will be the centerpiece of our media outreach program (watch her video message at the LIFE home page). She is scheduled to talk with reporters from more than 20 TV, radio and print outlets this month. April will share her story and describe how disability insurance enabled her to keep her life together financially following a disabling accident seven years ago. We’ll also drive reporters and consumers to the new and improved LIFE website, which boasts great information about disability insurance as well as a popular online calculator, which allows you to determine for yourself about how much disability insurance you need.
During May, take the time to assess your disability insurance needs. Talk to a person in your human resources department to understand your coverage options at work or talk to a qualified insurance professional in your community. Make sure you have enough insurance to make ends meet should you become disabled and can’t work.