The web browser you are using will no longer be supported by Cigna.com. To continue accessing the site without interruption, please upgrade your browser to the most recent version.
Disabilities can, and do, happen. Stay on track by planning ahead.

Article | April 2019

Disabilities can, and do, happen. Stay on track by planning ahead.

Individuals and families spend a lot of time planning for activities, like a relaxing weekend getaway or an upcoming summer vacation. But, how much time do they spend thinking about and planning for the unexpected? That’s the goal of Disability Insurance Awareness Month: to remind everyone of the potential impact of disability and work absence and, most importantly, learn how to reduce the financial risks associated with these types of events.

The reality is that one in four adults in the U.S. has some type of disability1 and more than one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they reach retirement age2. People take disability leave from the workplace for a variety of reasons and these causes – commonly depression3, arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases, lower back strains and neck strains4 – can happen to anyone, sometimes unexpectedly.

With a commitment to whole person health – supporting both physical and emotional wellness – Cigna recently commissioned the Cigna Group Disability Study5 of 500 U.S. adults and the Cigna Absence Study6, which analyzed more than one million claims. The purpose of these studies was to further examine the physical, emotional and financial impact of Family Medical Leave (FML) and disability leave and to understand higher risk populations, underscoring the importance of being prepared.

“Understanding both short- and long-term disability coverage options is one of the most important ways individuals can protect themselves, their families and their finances,” said Bill Smith, president of Cigna Group Insurance. “We are here to help people take more control of this reality, so that if a disability does occur, they can quickly participate in return-to-work programs and spend time focusing on what’s important during recovery: their physical and emotional health.”

Unfortunately, many people who experienced a disabling event were financially unprepared for it5. In the Cigna Group Disability Study, among those without disability coverage5:

  • More than half (52 percent) took more than two years to recover financially.
  • Half experienced depression, compared to roughly one-third of individuals with coverage.
  • Fifty-two percent felt very unprepared financially, compared to 19 percent with coverage.
  • Forty-two percent became financially dependent on family and friends – about two times that of individuals with coverage.
  • Roughly one-third or more were extremely worried about their ability to pay living expenses, including rent/mortgage, medical bills, utilities and groceries.

The Cigna Absence Study revealed employers’ critical role in carrying the responsibility for disability coverage and taking preventive measures to identify employees who may need additional support. For example, individuals who encountered a prior work absence, such as FML, had a higher likelihood of filing a short-term disability (STD) claim in the future6. In fact6:

  • Employees were four times more likely to have a STD claim if they were taking care of their own health while caring for a family member.
  • Females were 30 percent more likely to have STD claim compared to males, and were more prone to musculoskeletal issues and mental illness whether taking care of themselves or a family member.
  • Individuals using opioids six months prior to FML leave had a higher incidence of STD claims compared to those who did not.

“We are assisting employers by offering their employees robust benefits for lost income while they are out of work and are helping guide individuals through depression, financial hardships and addiction-related issues that may arise from a disabling event,” says Lynn Goldbach, vice president of Cigna Group Claim Operations. “We are also employing pre-disability programs that can prevent an event from happening in the first place. Such programs offer a holistic view of the individual, keep employees healthier both at and away from work, and ultimately lead to greater productivity.”

An important finding for individuals and families is this: of those with disability coverage, more than eight in 10 individuals say they obtained it through their employer5. Double checking disability coverage through an employer, and reviewing the various benefit plans they have in place, will help guard against these potentially unexpected – and challenging – life events.

For more information about Cigna’s disability offerings and to hear from our customers about the programs that helped them achieve their return-to-work goals, please visit: www.cigna.com/disability.

Amputee runner tying shoe

1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. August 2018.

2Social Security Administration, “The Facts about Social Security’s Disability Program.” January 2019.

3World Health Organization, “Depression,” March 2018.

4Cigna Internal Study, “Based on Non-concurrent FML claims with start dates between Jul 2016 – Jun 2017” Cigna, Internal Claims Data 2017.

5Cigna, “2018 Disability Study.” November 2018.

6Cigna Absence Study, “Based on Non-concurrent FML claims with start dates from Jul 2016 – Jun 2017.”