Filed Under:Health Insurance, Disability

Disability Insurance Observer: Cross-selling

Opinion

The income umbrella (AP photo/Charles Dharapak)
The income umbrella (AP photo/Charles Dharapak)

If you're morally opposed to the mere existence of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchanges, you might well be right. I wish I could wave a magic wand and create an independent republic in which you could live free from government interference in health insurance. That might be a very nice republic. This article is probably not for you.

If you think that, for good or for ill, the PPACA exchanges and comparable private exchanges will never really open, you could be right. This article is probably not for you.

If you think that the exchanges could last for a while, and you’re open to the idea of the insurance industry working with them, why not try to use the exchanges to educate consumers about products other than health insurance?

Maybe insurance trade groups could start by getting a little information about disability insurance on the exchange websites.

The government is talking about the state of being uninsured as if the only way to be uninsured is to lack health insurance. But really, the lack of disability insurance is probably more likely to produce extreme problems than lack of health insurance.

If you lack health insurance, you may get lousy, inconvenient health care, but chances are that you'll get some sort of health care. The homeless people who live on the sidewalks near the LifeHealthPro.com offices seem to get a lot of health care.

Bill collectors might hound patients over unpaid medical bills. But, if the patients are healthy enough to keep working, chances are that the patients have a shot at keeping their houses or apartments.

If you are too disabled to work, and you haven't yet gotten through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) qualification maze -- or you live in a community in which the $1,100 average monthly SSDI benefit is barely enough to cover the cost of property taxes and utility bills -- you could easily end up on the sidewalk. It looks to me as if living on the sidewalk is probably worse for people's health than going without regular preventive care.

Disability insurance is not exactly an infant product. "Friendly societies" have been offering income protection arrangements for centuries. Modern insurers have been selling commercial income protection products for more than 100 years.

Of course, the federal government has sharply limited the ability of agents to sell Medicare supplement policies or Medicare Advantage plans alongside other types of insurance products, such as prescription drug plans or annuities. It looks as if that pattern could continue in the exchange program.

But it seems as if, whether the exchanges help or hurt the U.S. health insurance system, someone could at least try to use them to educate consumers with jury-rigged finances about the existence of disability insurance and other bread-and-butter personal protection products.

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