Critical Needs at a Critical Time: Supporting People Battling Serious Illnesses

Critical Needs at a Critical Time: Supporting People Battling Serious Illnesses

Lifestyle risks that lead to serious illnesses are on the rise. Critical illness insurance can help fill the gaps left by high deductible medical plans.
Tarie Summers, Head of Supplemental Health Insurance Products, Group Benefits, The Hartford
Tarie Summers, Head of Supplemental Health Insurance Products, Group Benefits, The Hartford
A calendar entry just might save your life.
Those regularly timed health exams and cancer detection screenings can help identify risk factors and catch diseases in their early stages. The reminders, pesky as they may seem, could help families avoid the rising health care costs of serious illnesses down the road.

Financial Protection and Flexibility

Employers who have critical illness insurance, also known as critical illness benefits, as part of their employee benefits package, both company-paid and employee-paid, can help workers and their families ease financial burdens during a difficult time. Critical illness benefits pay cash directly to a patient with cancer – one of more than 30 conditions that may be covered as a critical illness under these policies.
The costs for a cancer patient can be overwhelming – and we’re not even talking about the medical and prescription drug co-pays or health insurance deductibles. Consider all the additional expenses they face. The patient (and in many cases their spouse, too) could lose time from work for treatment. If the treatment is out of state or far away, they’ll likely have transportation and hotel costs. That’s where the cash payments from a critical illness policy can be used, helping pay for household bills, childcare, pet care, unexpected medical costs or used however the patient and family chooses.
“The costs of dealing with a serious illness could bankrupt some families,” says Tarie Summers, head of supplemental health insurance products for The Hartford’s Employee Benefits business. “Supplemental health benefits, like critical illness insurance, can provide some peace of mind and help people focus on their treatment and improving their health.”

Coping With COVID: Lifestyle Risks for Chronic Diseases

More than three years after lives and livelihoods were upended, Americans are still coping from the pandemic. Unfortunately, coping has led to some unhealthy choices. Research from The Hartford shows that 60% of U.S. workers are still experiencing some level of burnout.
Many workers said they became more sedentary, ate more junk food, drank alcohol more often (or for the first time) to help them cope. Poor nutrition, lack of physical activity and excessive alcohol use are among the lifestyle risks the CDC says can lead to chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.2
The risks behind some lifestyle behaviors and illness outcomes are more deeply imbedded beyond the pandemic. They can be tied to social and economic disparities. The CDC reports that these social determinants of health can be influenced by a variety of factors, such as access to quality health care, education and economic stability. Financial hardships from illness can be dire.

Covering the Gap With Critical Illness Benefits

Critical illness benefits help workers to supplement and protect their income when faced with the unexpected. It fills the gaps left by high deductible medical plans to help a patient pay for that deductible, as well as co-pays and expenses that medical insurance doesn’t cover. The policy pays a lump sum cash benefit – generally several thousand dollars initially – for the diagnosed illness. The patient also could be eligible for more cash benefits for related costs.
Some examples of critical illnesses include:
  • Breast cancer
  • Heart attack
  • Insolación
  • End-stage kidney failure
  • Organ transplant
  • Certain neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • Certain birth defects and child conditions
If offered as a voluntary (employee-paid) benefit, there’s often no additional cost to employers. Employees have flexibility at enrollment time to choose a coverage amount that best suits their needs. Additional services may also be available to employees, such as financial, legal and behavioral health counseling.

Promoting Wellness and Proactive Care

Support for employee well-being and wellness continues to be essential. According to the CDC, more than 40% of Americans delayed or avoided routine exams and some medical treatment because of COVID-19 concerns.3 This may increase the risk for acute and chronic illnesses, such as cancer.
To promote wellness and the importance of preventive care, some critical illness policies have benefits that encourage various health screenings. Like that calendar entry, it’s one more vital reminder that early detection saves lives.
1 The Hartford's 2023 Future of Benefits Study and Pulse Surveys. Viewed July 2023.
2 CDC: Lifestyle Risk Factors
3 CDC: Delay or Avoidance of Medical Care Because of COVID-19-related Concerns
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