American workers are either unaware or in denial about the prospects of illness or accidents, notes a new report, and as a result, are not financially prepared for such incidents. The “2012 Aflac WorkForces Report,” an online survey of nearly 1,900 benefits decision-makers and more than 6,100 U.S. workers, analyzed forces impacting the trends, attitudes and use of employee benefits.
Conducted in January and February 2012 by Research Now and released by Aflac, a provider of supplemental and guaranteed-renewable insurance in the United States, the report offers some telling information about how workers feel about their health and that of their loved ones.
Six out of 10 workers (62 percent) queried said it’s not very or not at all likely they or a family member will be diagnosed with a serious illness such as cancer, and more than half (55 percent) said they were not very or not at all likely to be diagnosed with a chronic illness, such as heart disease or diabetes.
The reality of these health issues paints a different picture. The American Cancer Society’s, “Cancer Facts & Figures 2012” holds that one in three women and one in two men will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Further, the National Safety Council’s “Injury Facts 2011 edition,” reports that more than 38.9 million medically consulted injuries occur in a year. And according to the American Heart Association, “Heart Disease & Stroke Statistics 2012,” one in six deaths in the United States is caused by coronary heart disease.
Despite optimism about their physical health, American workers are concerned about their financial health, and many admit they are unprepared to handle the financial consequences of a serious illness or accident in their family, notes the Aflac report. Half of American workers (51 percent) are trying to reduce debt, yet nearly six in 10 (58 percent) of American workers queried by the study do not have a financial plan to handle the unexpected. Finally, only eight percent strongly agree that their family would be financially prepared in the event of an unexpected emergency.
“The fact that American workers aren’t aware of their medical risks and the potential financial impact of those risks is a very real concern that is only compounded when workers don’t take full advantage of available benefits options or adjust their savings strategies to be more prepared,” said Audrey Boone Tillman, EVP of Corporate Services at Aflac. “Now, more than ever, people need to understand that well-being means more than just good health—it’s being prepared for the reality of whatever life may bring and taking the necessary measures to protect themselves and their families.”
Yet the disconnect between workers’ belief that potential health issues are “non-issues” and the realization that they would be forced to find financial help is telling. When asked how they would pay for out-of-pocket expenses due to an unexpected illness, more than half (57 percent) of the study’s respondents said they would have to tap into savings, 30 percent would use a credit card and 19 percent—nearly one out of five people—would have to withdraw funds from their 401k plans to cover the costs.
The report also found 60 percent of workers would be at least somewhat likely to purchase voluntary health insurance plans if offered by their employer.
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