Brokers must be able to cite accurate and pertinent statistics when discussing group disability insurance, but the presentation shouldn’t end there. “You have to know your metrics,” says Carol Harnett, president of the Council for Disability Awareness. “But if you want people to remember you and what you’re talking about, tell them a story.”

The latter is something that’s lacking when it comes to educating employers and employees about disability, she says. “We’ve lost the art of being personal,” Harnett says, and that isn’t helping move the dial on DI coverage. Only about one-third of Americans have long-term coverage, and 40% have short-term disability. “That hasn’t changed,” she says.

Brokers can help increase that number by thinking more broadly about disability and relating it in the context of a person’s life, Harnett says. “People don’t remember statistics,” she says. Rather, it’s real stories about real people that resonate with clients. “That’s what they will remember,” she says.

Harnett would know. She was recently hit by a car and has been dealing with subsequent injuries. Harnett was still able to speak at the conference she was attending in Portland, Ore., and her story had a profound impact on the brokers in the audience — especially because she delivered her speech from a wheelchair. In the weeks after her talk, Harnett received many emails from brokers asking if they could share her story with clients. “It catches people’s attention,” Harnett says. 

Brokers shouldn’t scare clients, Harnett says, but let them know that unexpected events do happen. “Stuff happens and life isn’t fair,” she says. 

‘Poorly named product’

One of the issues with disability coverage brokers must contend with is the name. “Disability insurance is probably the most poorly named product,” Harnett says. “People well more than 90% of the time will picture a person in a wheelchair.”

In reality, illness accounts for about 90% of disabilities rather than accidents, according to the CDA. That’s why brokers need to address the topic from a perspective of income replacement, Harnett says, and it’s important to speak to both employers and employees.

Targeting female employees is also crucial. Four in 10 households with children under age 18 have a woman as the primary wage earner, according to the Pew Research Center, and females make about 80% of the health care decisions for their families, according to the Department of Labor.

“That’s why it’s so important to educate women in advance of enrollment about the different benefits so they can make an informed choice,” says Danielle Lehman, product marketing manager at The Standard. “Online decision support tools can be effective in engaging female employees that need additional education, and can be accessed on their own time.”

Communication is essential, says Zack Pace, senior vice president of benefit consulting at CBIZ. Employees must be receiving communication about their disability insurance, and that information must be consistent with the plan document, he says. “That’s all that really matters.” 

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