U.S. Workers Unprepared for Financial Impact of a Serious Injury or Illness

Cigna: Workers in the U.S. are unprepared financially to weather a costly injury or illness that keeps them out of work

November 21, 2013- PHILADELPHIA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–No longer than 12 weeks. That’s how long the majority (59 percent) of U.S. workers said they would be able to pay their bills without a paycheck if they became sick and unable to work, according to a new national survey from Cigna (NYSE: CI). Almost a third (29 percent) said they would exhaust their resources in a month or less.

Cigna’s survey was conducted among adults ages 25-65 living in the United States who work full-time and who enrolled for employer-offered benefits within the past two years. It examined views on different types of benefits, including various kinds of voluntary benefits such as disability, accidental injury, critical illness and accidental death insurance. Voluntary benefits are commonly offered by employers as an option for workers to purchase through payroll deductions, and are designed to help consumers offset the financial impact of unexpected, serious injuries or illnesses.

Employees unaware of benefits beyond the basic plans

When asked about different types of employer-offered benefits that can help provide financial protection, workers were significantly less familiar with these benefits compared to dental, vision and life insurance. However, nearly half of those who are not currently enrolled in these benefits through their employer said they would be more inclined to enroll in disability insurance (50 percent), critical illness insurance (46 percent) or accidental injury insurance (45 percent) after hearing more about what they cover.

“Voluntary benefits are an important and growing part of many employers’ overall benefits package, and many of these products can offer financial protection against the unforeseen,” said Mike Witwer, vice president for Cigna’s voluntary benefits business. “The survey shows that many workers are worried about the financial burden of a serious illness or injury or being without a paycheck because of one. With a little homework, consumers can learn more about these benefits and how they can fit into a personal financial protection plan.”

Convenience and Lower Cost Attractive to Consumers

Eastbridge Consulting Group recently looked at the availability of voluntary benefits and reported that 77 percent of employers with 10 or more employees offer at least one voluntary product and they anticipate that number will rise as employers look for ways to control the cost of benefits.1

Cigna survey respondents who said they are enrolled in any of the listed benefits (other than medical benefits) through their employer were asked what they liked about getting these benefits:

  • Three-quarters (73 percent) like purchasing through a payroll deduction;
  • Seven in 10 (68 percent) like the convenience;
  • Nearly six in 10 (57 percent) like that it’s cheaper than what they can find elsewhere; and,
  • About a third (36 percent) said it’s easier for them to manage their budget.
    Younger Workers Have Gap in Understanding

In Cigna’s survey, workers ages 25 to 34 were least familiar with the different types of employer-offered benefits they were asked about including disability, accidental injury, accidental death and critical illness insurance.

“With young families and not as much time to build up savings they could access, younger workers might be at the most risk for significant financial impacts of being out of work or paying unanticipated medical bills because of an injury or illness,” Witwer said. “Helping these employees learn more about financial protection benefits is an important step for us and for our employer clients.”

U.S. Workers Worried about Financial Security

The survey revealed that the financial impact of a serious illness or injury is on workers’ minds. Over eight in 10 (84 percent) agreed they had ever worried about it and three in 10 said they did so at least once a month or more often. “Running out of money” was cited as the greatest fear about not having enough insurance if they or someone in their immediate family had a serious injury or illness.

Even with comprehensive medical coverage, a major illness or injury typically creates unanticipated out-of-pocket medical costs for treatment and recovery. Meanwhile, household expenses such as rent or mortgage, utility costs, food and child care must still be paid.

Nearly six in 10 respondents (58 percent) reported they would be at some level of financial risk if they became sick and unable to work for a month, in line with the U.S. Federal Reserve Board’s findings that 68 percent of adult Americans do not have savings set aside for emergencies.2

“Running out of money” was cited as the greatest fear about not having enough insurance if they or someone in their immediate family had a serious injury or illness

What’s more, the potential for financial disruption may be more common than some people think. For example, according to the National Safety Council, approximately one in eight Americans seek medical treatment for accidents every year.3 In December of 2012, there were more than 2.5 million disabled workers in the United States in their 20s, 30s and 40s receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.4 Meanwhile, one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire.5

The survey asked people how they would handle non-medical expenses if a serious injury or illness struck them or their immediate family:

  • Most (72 percent) consider “personal savings” as their primary resource to help them through the unexpected, though young people were more likely than older people to say they’d borrow from family or friends.
  • Half (53 percent) would look at options for borrowing or withdrawing from a 401k/IRA or other retirement savings
  • About a third (34 percent) said they would call on additional disability insurance. However, fewer than 20 percent said they would borrow from a life insurance policy (17 percent), accidental injury benefits (16 percent), accidental death and dismemberment benefits (15 percent) or critical illness coverage (11 percent).

“Benefits can seem complicated. Cigna focuses on providing customers the tools and resources they need to make educated decisions,” said Witwer. “We’ve seen that when customers have access to easy-to-understand information, they’re more likely to make the choices that best meet their individual needs.”

For example, in 2011 Cigna launched Smart Benefit ChoicesSM, a web-based educational resource that uses true-to-life, interactive scenarios that allows voluntary benefit customers to select a benefit plan that matches a personalized profile reflecting their individual situation.




About the Survey

The survey was conducted by ORC International, not affiliated with Cigna, using an online methodology and consisted of 1,501 interviews among 25-65 year olds living in the U.S. who work full time and have enrolled for employer offered benefits in the past two years. Interviews took place September 9 – 17, 2013. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to take part in market research online surveys and polls. Quotas were enforced to ensure a distribution of key demographic information in order to analyze the data among key subgroups.

About ORC International

Leading global market research firm, ORC International uniquely integrates its people, methods, technology and insights to address the most strategic needs and challenges of its clients. Since its founding in 1938, the firm has maintained a passion to drive clients’ growth by providing insightful and innovative research solutions in the areas of Employee, Customer, Markets and Products and Strategy. The company is a founding member of CASRO and a partner of CNN on the CNN|ORC International Poll since 2006. To learn more about ORC, visit www.ORCInternational.com.

About Cigna

Cigna Corporation (NYSE:CI) is a global health service company dedicated to helping people improve their health, well-being and sense of security. All products and services are provided exclusively through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, including Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, Life Insurance Company of North America, Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York and their affiliates. Such products and services include an integrated suite of health services, such as medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy and vision care benefits, and other related products including group disability, life, and accident coverage. Cigna has sales capability in 30 countries and jurisdictions, with approximately 80 million customer relationships throughout the world. To learn more about Cigna®, including links to follow us on Facebook or Twitter, visit www.cigna.com.

1 Employers Are Embracing Voluntary More Every Day, Eastbridge Consulting Group, Inc., 2012 study. http://eastbridge.com/outside/2013/winter6.html

2 U.S. Federal Reserve Board, Survey of Consumer Finances, 2010

3 National Safety Council, Industry Facts Summary 2011

4 U.S. Social Security Administration, Disabled Worker Beneficiary Data, December 2012

5 U.S. Social Security Administration, Fact Sheet February 7, 2013