Producers can be heroes by being indispensable in disability claims

SELLING HEALTH INSURANCE IS GETTING TOUGHER. AND THE EMPLOYEE BENEFITS BUSINESS IS NOT GETTING EASIER EITHER. But at a time when producers are struggling to find their footing, you can distinguish yourself by becoming a “disability insurance (DI) guide.”

Now, that doesn’t mean simply selling DI. It’s about making a commitment to employers and individuals that you will be there in their time of need. It is not a case of “sell it and forget it,” but making a promise to be indispensable. Who else is going to offer that to these clients and prospects?

First, let’s take a step back and consider the actual process of becoming disabled. We frequently have a false sense of security owning disability coverage. The question I ask is: “Will you collect benefits from your disability insurance policy when you become disabled?” Most of us assume that our disability policies will provide benefits on a timely basis at the point of disability. Regrettably, too many of us discover the inadequacies of our disability insurance programs after we’ve either already become uninsurable, no longer qualify for coverage or we’re facing the devastating financial consequences of a long-term disability (LTD).

Disabilities do not play favorites. None of us are immune from heart attacks, cancer, diabetes or any of the other causes of LTD. Facing a LTD will certainly be easier if we have enough of the right kind of protection.

The comfort and security of a “regular” job with regular paychecks ends abruptly when faced with a LTD. The psychological and emotional stress of a serious illness, added to the financial consequences of a LTD, can be devastating even to the hardiest of souls.

Hitting The Wall

In a single moment, you crossed the line from the healthy life you knew and passed into the “world of the disabled.” You had peace of mind before— but now there’s only anxiety and fear.

It’s been reported that becoming disabled is like walking into a wall. You’ve been healthy your entire life, except for a few sprains, cuts and bruises. You never realized how your good health had added to your sense of well-being. You also never stopped to appreciate the value of a steady paycheck. But now, it has all ended.

You went from being a wage-earning employee to an applicant for disability benefits. You’ll be dealing with strangers on the phone and you can expect paperwork followed by even more paperwork. For most of us, our ability to work and earn an income is considered to be our most valuable asset. Is there anything that can disrupt our lives quicker, and in a more devastating way, than to become totally disabled?

Let’s fast forward to when the insured, a marketing vice president of a high-tech company, becomes disabled. Consider his transition from wage earner to disability claimant. He’s enjoyed a lifetime of good health. His work ethic, high level of motivation and creativity has lead to substantial business success.

The industry standard is to mail the claim form to the insured for him to complete his portion. He sends the attending physician’s portion to his doctor to complete and return to his insurance company. His employer will identify his occupation, including a complete job description and report his earnings at the point of disability.

There are three parts of the puzzle that need to fit together: the statements of the insured, the employer and the attending physician. What more can be done by the agent? A lot!

The insured is now facing the most psychologically-devastating event of his career. He is used to being the breadwinner—supporting his family and their lifestyle. Accustomed to being 100 percent healthy, he is now facing a nightmare. He’s no longer a vice president. He’s now a claimant who needs to trust that his LTD insurer will treat him well. He has a natural apprehension about insurance companies. Many people have experienced difficulty when filing a claim or read a negative article about a company not paying their claims.

Now, from this moment on, our claimant will no longer be earning a paycheck. His income, hopefully, will be coming from an insurance company. Never before has he found the need to file an insurance claim, which can be an intimidating experience within itself. Then, what about the disability itself? Workouts at his health club, racquetball and golf have all been pleasurable afterhours activities. Will he ever be able to return to those activities again? Doubt and apprehension are now present. Fear, a newfound anxiety and possibly depression will soon be present.

Quarterbacking The Claims Process

We stress the importance of the professional advisor guiding claimants through the LTD claims process. This is your opportunity to provide the “team support” and comfort that claimants greatly appreciate when faced with the emotional upset and financial consequences of a LTD. You can outline the claims process itself to claimants so they know exactly what to expect. Explain their rights to them. Then review all of the claimant’s disability coverage so all claim forms are submitted at the same time. It’s advisable for you to act as the “point person” in the claims process.

With your “quarterbacking” the claims process, claimants are not alone and dealing with strangers. You’re their ally. They trusted you when they followed your recommendations many years ago when they purchased coverage from you. Now, you have the opportunity to be of even more value than you were initially.

There is no way anyone can appreciate or understand what it’s like to become disabled in the blink of an eye—unless they’ve experienced it themselves. It affects not only claimants, but their family and friends as well. Their lives will never be the same—ever again. In addition to making sure the “i’s” are all dotted, your assistance can give your client an enormous psychological boost, taking comfort in knowing that you’re playing on the same team together.

December 2011 of Insurance New Net Magazine Allan Checkoway’s career includes more than 30 years in the healthcare insurance field and specializes in the brokerage placement of DI and  LTCi coverage.


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