The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Unum Insurance found that only 13 percent of all employees say they know "a lot" about disability insurance, 41 percent who say they have coverage know how much it costs and 90 percent of those given information about disability insurance say they want this coverage.

“If there were three-times the sales agents currently selling insurance, a lot more people would have disability coverage,” says President and CEO of AccuQuote Byron Udell, who sells disability insurance in the Chicago metropolitan area. “The number of insurance agents has decreased and disability insurance has never been an easy sell so people don’t hear about it.”

While May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month, a Hartford Benefits for Tomorrow study found that only 44 percent of single Americans have insurance, which means 56 percent do not have disability coverage. Further emphasizing the lack of awareness is MetLife’s 10th Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends, which reported that nearly half of Gen Y workers between the ages of 21 and 31 admit they are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and two-thirds are very concerned about their family's financial security if the principle wage earner is unable to earn an income due to illness or injury.

“The older you get, the more expensive disability insurance is to obtain. If you buy it young, the premiums remain level. Everybody needs it,” Udell told Insurance Networking News. “Even among those Gen Y workers who do have coverage, there is a need to ensure that coverage amounts are adequate.” Among those surveyed for the MetLife study that do have disability insurance, 40 percent are not sure what percentage of their income is covered.

“The numbers indicate that consumers don’t understand what they own. The time to ask questions about what you have is before you get disabled, but most workers don’t want to think about the possibility of being disabled,” Udell said.

Although arthritis is the leading cause of disability, the State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services at The American College found that 97 percent of Americans are unaware of this fact and 30 percent cite workplace accidents as the cause of disability. In addition, the majority of Americans don’t understand the likelihood and risks of disability and are unprepared to handle the financial consequences, according to the American College study.

“The disconnect is that disability insurance is expensive. If it’s not offered on the job, it’s expensive for most workers,” said Byron. “A decent disability contract that covers 60 percent of income, cost of living increase, 90-day elimination period and a benefit period that lasts to when you're 65 years old costs $2,500 to $3,000 a year on a salary of $100,000.” As for gender, the Centers for Disease Control says women are more likely to face disability than men, but nearly three in four women say their cash reserves would not last a year and two-thirds say they are not confident that they could afford even basic living expenses, medical care, retirement and college savings if disabled.

“Depending on the carrier, women pay 20- to 40-percent more for disability insurance than men because there are a few more things in their bodies that can go wrong. Men can develop prostate cancer in their 50s while women can generally wind up with female disabilities that are illness-related earlier in life,” Udell said.

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