Disability Insurance: Employers Shifting Costs to Employees
Feb 3, 2013
Jamie Fleischner

Jamie Fleischner

3 Feb, 2013

By Michelle Andrews, Washington Post,

Published: September 19, 2012

Disability insurance is one of those under-the-radar benefits you may take for

granted, especially if your employer picks up the tab for the coverage, as many

firms do. Because of that, as annual benefit enrollment time approaches you

probably aren’t worried about examining your disability coverage details and

costs the way you will your health insurance plan options. But you should.

The same pattern that has emerged in health insurance — employers’ shifting

more costs onto workers’ shoulders and trimming or eliminating benefits — is

occurring in disability coverage. This fall, as employers spell out insurance options

for next year, evaluate what’s offered and what it will cost, and make sure you’re

adequately covered.

Of course, one of the main reasons people give disability insurance short shrift is

that they don’t think they’ll ever need it. Meanwhile, they routinely buy coverage

to protect their lives and their homes, even though “for most people, the risk of

long-term disability is far greater than of [early] death or their house burning

down,” says Rich Fuerstenberg, a partner with human resources consultant

Mercer.

According to the Social Security Administration, a 20-year-old has about a 30

percent chance of becoming disabled by the time he retires. Although many

people assume that accidents are the most common reason for a disability

insurance claim, illness accounts for 90 percent of all claims, says Barry

Lundquist, president of the Council for Disability Awareness, a nonprofit

education group funded by the disability insurance industry. The top reasons for

new claims last year, according to the organization’s annual claim study, were

musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis or back problems, followed by cancer. A typical disability

insurance claim lasts about 2.5 years, according to research compiled by CDA.

When Monica Soltes took a buyout from Merrill Lynch and decided to start her own financial planning

business 10 years ago, she made sure she had health insurance but never considered buying disability

insurance. “You’re 38 years old and you think, ‘What’s going to happen to me?’ I didn’t even think about it,”

she recalls. Soltes moved from the Detroit area to sunny Del Mar, Calif., and rented an office with a view of

the ocean.

Not long after the move, she slipped when she stepped off the porch at her cousin’s Santa Monica home and

shattered her elbow. After multiple surgeries and an unsuccessful bone graft from her hip, she was no better

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