By Scott Maker, senior vice president of Government Affairs
Although the country made it through the mid-October turmoil in Washington, we will be facing the same issues early next year as Congress once again grapples with budget issues and the debt limit. Despite the frustration about the dysfunction in Washington, our industry continues to make great progress in our efforts to raise awareness around the critical role our products play in providing financial security for working Americans.
The September release of the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Unum study vividly illustrates the power of disability benefits to protect the financial stability of individuals and families. The recipients of employer-sponsored long term disability benefits shared their very personal stories about the serious financial, social and psychological effects that would have occurred had they not had disability benefits.
This study is important to our efforts to increase awareness and understanding of financial protection benefits. CFA’s strong partnership and support for this type of employee benefit will help policymakers appreciate the strong consumer-based need for financial protection benefits.
Following closely on the heels of the CFA-Unum study, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) released a report from Charles River Associates which shows that private disability insurers’ return-to-work programs are estimated to save the federal government $25 billion over the next decade. The report says that private disability insurance programs, such as return-to-work support, save federal programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicaid approximately $2 billion each year, or nearly $30,000 for each worker impacted by a disability.
This latest report comes two years after Unum and Charles River Associates released a report that found group disability coverage saves approximately half a million American workers and their families from impoverishment each year, contributing to a savings to the government and taxpayers of up to $4.5 billion per year.
Both reports from Charles River Associates quantify the economic value private disability insurance provides in saving the federal government money, while also protecting the financial security of millions of American workers.
This type of data gives us a powerful tool when discussing the value of disability insurance with policymakers. Quantifying the savings to the government resonates with policymakers on both sides of the aisle, particularly at a time when government resources available to provide a safety net for disabled workers are limited and scarce.
In recognition of the bipartisan appeal of our industry’s message, the 113th Congress recently established the Income Protection Caucus. The caucus’s aim is to raise the awareness around the risks of disability and to promote personal responsibility and financial preparedness.
It is clear that policymakers are listening to our industry’s call to promote policies that encourage access to and affordability of disability benefits.
While most of our efforts have been focused on federal policymakers, we will begin taking our message to state policymakers in the coming months. The states are showing a willingness to enact policies that the deadlock in Washington makes impossible on the federal level, and we are encouraged that our public policy message will resonate with state lawmakers.
We appreciate your partnership in promoting our industry’s public policy message. If you have any questions about these issues, please feel free to contact Scott Maker in Unum’s Government Affairs department at firstname.lastname@example.org.