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{ts '2010-07-22 00:00:00.000'}

Guardian Underscores How Life, Critical Illness and Disability Income Insurance Can Protect Family Finances and Reduce the Need for Medical Related Loans
NEW YORK, July 22, 2010 — A recent report, Benefits & Behavior: Spotlight on Group Disability and Critical Illness - Awareness & Opportunity, from The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), one of the largest mutual life insurers and a leading provider of employee benefits, reveals that women were more likely than men to give a loan to family members in need of financial assistance because of medical distress.



  • Despite longer life-spans and consequently the need to save more for retirement, 55% of women reported that they gave loans to friends or family members who were in medical distress compared to 34% of men.
Guardian conducted the survey to gain insight about how illnesses and the current economy have affected employee benefit decisions, particularly voluntary benefits (employee-paid), and employee understanding of key protection products. The full report can be accessed by visiting Guardian's new dedicated employee benefits website, which provides research, industry trends, and educational resources at www.aboutemployeebenefits.com.



A Thin Line between Altruism and Anguish

"Government and retirement industry studies have made it clear that women tend to outlive men and therefore should probably be saving for a longer retirement," Said Barry Petruzzi, 2nd VP, Group Benefits, Guardian. "If women are loaning an amount that they can afford to give, then it is an altruistic gesture to help friends and family. But, if they give more than they can afford, it can cause financial difficulties for themselves as well as possibly impact their retirement plans."
"A solid financial protection package that includes life, disability, and critical illness insurance can help ensure that a person doesn't have to borrow money in the first place - what's more, some products can actually help a person compensate friends and families for the assistance they provide," added Petruzzi. "For example, people often use the lump-sum they receive from critical illness policies to help compensate caregivers and family members who take an extended period of time off from work to help them during recovery."
Guardian also offers a spousal benefit on its group disability income insurance that assists with expenses associated with the disability of a spouse. The partner still at work receives extra money to help with expenses that medical insurance doesn't cover.



Expect the Unexpected

"There were many unanticipated findings in this survey," said Elena Wu, Group Marketing Officer, Guardian. "Most surprising was the fact that personal experiences with a major illness did not seem to impact interest in purchasing voluntary disability, life, or critical illness insurance."
  • Most full-time employees (68%) have been or have a relative or friend that has been disabled, seriously ill or too sick to work.
Wu added, "We were expecting to see that employees who had first-hand knowledge of the trials and tribulations of an illness would be the first in line to buy protection. But you can't assume that just because someone had a premature death or major illness in their close circle, they will run out to buy insurance. People are savvy and they know on some level that they need the protection, but they are often overwhelmed with too much information or confused by a lack of relevant information. Working with a financial advisor or benefits specialist can help employees make better decisions."
Popularity Contest

Although personal experience doesn't always translate into a greater inclination to purchase coverage, the report also revealed that more than 41% of full-time employees said they would consider paying in full to obtain certain benefits not currently offered by their employer, if the employer were to make those available.
When asked which benefit they would consider on a voluntary basis, employees chose the following (ranked in order of preference):
  • Disability -- 58%
  • Critical Illness -- 56%
  • Dental -- 55%
  • Life -- 52%
  • Vision -- 48%
Petruzzi explained, "Intuitively, you would think that dental would rank at the top because it has a greater penetration and is a high-use and very popular benefit. In contrast, disability and critical illness are only used if an employee experiences a major illness, but they were statistically tied with dental insurance."
"The significant interest in critical illness and disability income insurance is likely because there are still many employers that do not offer these coverages. With employers' budgets remaining tight, it's good news that employees would welcome the opportunity to obtain critical illness and disability income insurance - even if it means paying most, if not all, of the cost out of their own wallet," summarized Petruzzi.

Guardian recently enhanced its voluntary disability offering by lowering premiums, increasing coverage and simplifying its enrollment process. Additionally, under the company's Disability Choice voluntary plan employees are able to increase coverage each year through an annual step-up option. The option allows employees to adjust their insurance amount as their needs and salary change.
Reading, Writing, and Voluntary Benefits

Voluntary benefits give employees more responsibility for their employee benefit decisions, but Guardian research reveals that many employees admit that they don't understand differences between insurance products.
  • More than a third (38%) of employees state that they don't know the difference between critical illness and disability insurance;
  • More than a third (38%) say that they don't know the difference between critical illness and medical insurance;
  • More than two-fifths (43%) say they don't know the difference between critical illness and long-term care insurance;
  • More than half (57%) don't know the difference between critical illness insurance and accelerated death benefits on life insurance.
"We fielded these questions about employee understanding of the difference between coverage types in a 2008 survey, and the results are consistent with our current findings," said Wu. "This shows that despite industry efforts to educate consumers there is still a significant knowledge gap. The information transformation won't happen overnight. As an industry, we have to devote more resources to consumer education if we intend to move the needle in helping employees to better understand their employee benefits."


About the Survey
Benefits & Behavior: Spotlight on Group Disability and Critical Illness - Awareness & Opportunity presents the findings of a telephone survey conducted among a national probability sample of 1,015 adults comprising 504 men and 511 women, 18 years of age and older, living in private households in the continental United States. The interviews were conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation of Princeton, N.J. from February 4-7, 2010.
About Guardian
A mutual insurer founded in 1860, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and its subsidiaries are committed to protecting individuals, business owners and their employees with life, long-term care, disability income, group medical and dental insurance products, and offer 401(k), annuities and other financial products. Guardian operates one of the largest dental networks in the United States, and protects more than six million employees and their families at 120,000 companies. The company has more than 5,400 employees in the United States and a network of over 3,000 financial representatives in more than 80 agencies nationwide.


For more information about Guardian, please visit: www.GuardianLife.com.
SOURCE:The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America


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