UnitedHealthcare has introduced new Critical Illness Protection plans that provide a cash benefit for covered health events to help fund employees’ out-of-pocket expenses after a major illness, such as deductibles and copays, as well as helping cover lost income.
Critical illness coverage provides crucial support to employees recovering from a major illness – such as cancer, heart attack, or stroke, which account for more than 75 percent of all critical illnesses. Following the diagnosis of a covered health event, plan participants receive a lump sum payment ranging between $5,000 and $40,000, which can be used to pay medical bills or cover normal living expenses.
The new plans offer greater flexibility for employers and employees, including:
- an expanded list of covered illnesses, including advanced conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease;
- coverage for child-only conditions such as cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy that are diagnosed from birth to age 26;
- additional benefit payouts for different conditions as well as second payouts for the same condition, if the recurrence of the same condition occurs within 12 months of initial diagnosis;
- flexible coverage options for employees, spouses and children; and
- variable funding arrangements providing cost certainty for employers and the ability for employees to purchase the additional coverage they need.
More employers are offering critical illness protection plans as a way to add financial certainty for employees, especially for people enrolled in high-deductible health plans. Approximately 35 percent of large and midsize employers now offer critical illness coverage, up from 12 percent in 2002, according to a Towers Watson survey.
“A significant medical diagnosis can be devastating for people personally and financially, often causing unexpected expenses that are not covered by medical benefits,” said Gary Harger, vice president of voluntary products, UnitedHealthcare. “Even when covered by health insurance, some people suffer a major illness that can result in significant expenses and possibly lost income due to their care. These new Critical Illness Protection plans can help supplement medical benefits and enable employees to focus on healing from their illness instead of their bills.”
Employers that offer their employees UnitedHealthcare medical plans can integrate their benefits with several ancillary products such as critical illness, accident, dental, vision and disability insurance. UnitedHealthcare’s integrated approach, called Bridge2Health, generates a wide range of data that provides a more complete profile of employees’ health and, as a result, allows for more customized interventions that can help employees reduce costs and achieve better overall health.
Research shows that adding these types of voluntary benefits to a core medical benefits offering can help improve companies’ bottom lines by increasing productivity and employee engagement. According to a 2014 report by LIMRA, a worldwide association of insurance and financial services companies, voluntary benefits can help attract and retain employees while improving morale.
“Employers and employees continue to recognize the value of voluntary benefits, with employee-paid options remaining very popular nationwide,” said Ron Neyer, MBA, CLU, ChFC, associate research director for LIMRA. “Offering robust benefit packages gives employees greater control over their health and well-being, while improving job retention and satisfaction. More than one in four private employers with at least 10 employees offers a critical illness benefit to their nonunion workforce, with that rate doubling since 2002.”
Employers offering both medical and voluntary plans from UnitedHealthcare also enjoy streamlined administration that enables a greater focus on the overall health of plan participants across all benefits offered by the company.
UnitedHealthcare’s Critical Illness Protection plans are currently available to businesses with 51 or more eligible employees in 44 states and Washington, D.C. Voluntary benefit plans are available as standalone products, as well as in addition to medical coverage.
UnitedHealthcare also offers critical illness plans to individuals who buy their own health insurance, as well as term life insurance products that have a critical illness feature. More information about individual critical illness plans is available at www.uhc.com.