One-third (33 percent) of full-time workers surveyed lack long-term disability insurance; more than one-third (38 percent) of workers whose employers offered them the option to pay for group long-term disability insurance declined to buy it, leaving most uninsured.

These statistics surrounding disability insurance and public awareness from Sun Life’s recent report, titled “Will workers in America hope to dodge the bullet, remain blind to the risks or simply hide?” despite becoming familiar sights this month, remain startling given another fact cited by the report: Medical problems contribute to roughly half of all personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures in the United States.

A contributing factor to the lack of disability insurance may be recent shifts in workplace benefits that give workers the option of whether to purchase group benefits such as disability, life, vision and dental insurance, which more often than not they turn down. According to the report, these choices here have left a significant proportion of the American workforce unprepared.

“We must educate the U.S. workforce to understand the financial risks of long-term disability and learn best practices to mitigate their risks,” said Robert Klein, Jr., VP of voluntary benefits. “If 10 couples gather for a barbecue, we estimate that roughly three of them will have a partner who experiences a disability lasting one year or longer during their professional lifetimes.”

The report attempts to subdivide workers who don’t buy group voluntary long-term disability coverage into three categories: The gambler, who doesn’t think the risk justifies the cost of premiums (38 percent of respondents); the mole, who hasn’t considered the issue and remains blind to solutions (38 percent); and the ostrich, who finds the thought of disability too unpleasant to face (19 percent).

Workers under age fifty, minorities, men and tech workers are more likely to have purchased long-term disability insurance than other respondents.

Fifty-three percent of respondents believe that government programs such as Social Security would cover living expenses. However, the report points out that filing can take months, and even then, only 35 percent of SSDI claims applications receive approval each year.

Perhaps another misguided approach, the report found that among workers was that disability insurance belongs at the bottom of the list of priorities, behind health, life, vision and dental. The largest group of workers (41 percent) named life insurance the most important; one-third named dental insurance their most important coverage aside from health.

The report consists of responses from more than 2,000 workers across the United States and was conducted for Sun Life by Kelton Research.

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