The number of long-term-disability claims continues to increase and nearly three in five new LTD claimants in 2011 were women, according to a new study by the Council for Disability Awareness.
The percentage of women filing claims has slowly increased, compared to the percentage of claims from men, according to the CDA, a Portland, Maine-based nonprofit group, whose member companies represent more than three-quarters of the commercial disability insurance marketplace.
"I don't think females are getting less healthy," said Barry Lundquist, president of the CDA. Instead, the increased numbers are more of an indication "that there are more females in the workforce."
Demographics are also the cause, he said, of the surge in claims by baby boomers, with the largest hike in the number of new approved claims over the past four years coming from individuals over age 60.
Lundquist said the organization expects "claims to increase incrementally as the average age of the people covered gets older and you would also expect claims to be a little larger."
In all, the number of long-term disability claims continued a steady increase for the fourth consecutive year. In 2011, 662,000 disabled individuals received long-term disability insurance payments -- about a 1 percent increase over the prior year -- from CDA member companies, including Aetna, AIG Benefit Solutions, The Hartford, Lincoln Financial Group, MetLife, Prudential, The Standard, UnitedHealthcare and more.
In 2011, CDA member companies paid more than $9.3 billion in LTD insurance claims, a 2 percent increase from 2010.
About two in five (43 percent) participating companies reported increased claim incidence from 2010 to 2011, and "most, but not all, companies continue to believe the economic environment is a factor," according to the CDA.
"The probability of being disabled tracks unemployment rates," Richard J. Fuerstenberg, a senior partner in the Princeton, N.J., office of Mercer's health and benefits business, told Risk & InsuranceŽearlier this year.
Lundquist noted, however, that experts had expected an even greater number of claims because of the poor economy and high unemployment rate.
"In general, we have not seen as much of that in this report or the prior couple of years' reports as was anticipated," he said.
In fact, it appears that some employees are hesitant to go out on disability, he said. "One of the theories about that is people have been hanging onto their jobs with their fingernails because they are fearful that if they do go out, there will be nothing to come back to," Lundquist said.
"When people do apply for claims these days, they seem to be in worse shape than they have been in the past," which means the claims "are lasting longer," he said.
"The return-to-work programs are less effective because there aren't as many jobs to return to," Lundquist said.
Musculoskeletal/connective tissue diagnoses in 2011 comprised the largest percentage of both new (29 percent) and existing (31 percent) disability claims. That was followed, in rounded numbers, by cancer and neoplasms (14 percent new, 9 percent existing); nervous system-related (8 percent new, 14 percent existing); and cardiovascular/circulatory (9 percent new, 12 percent existing).
-- By Anne Freedman
October 11, 2012
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