Scott Benjamin understands where you’re coming from.
Nobody wants to talk about insurance. It’s boring. And complicated. And how many of us sign up for it, knowing that we’re supposed to but not really knowing what the real benefits are?
“Before I started doing insurance, I didn’t even know what I had for car insurance,” he says. “Then you look at the options - $10,000/$20,000/$50,000 coverage choices - I didn’t know what those figures really meant.”
He does now. In fact, Benjamin writes his own car insurance these days. But he specializes in supplemental policies offered through Aflac.
Supplemental insurance pays cash benefits to help people cover expenses — like food and housing, co-pays, child care, etc., — that their primary insurance isnt' designed to cover. According to AARP, basic supplemental medical plans also provide fixed benefits for covered preventive medical care.
“For situations involving a critical condition or illness, there are policies that offer to help pay out-of-pocket expenses for heart attacks, strokes, heart surgeries, cancer and other illnesses,” an article on AARP’s website states.
By supplementing income and existing medical insurance, the right policy has the potential to bring help people retain their quality of life and bring more medical care within affordable reach.
A 2012 survey of cancer survivors found that one-third of those surveyed had gone into debt. Of those who had gone into debt, 55 percent owed $10,000 or more, according to a report by the Cancer Action Network of the American Cancer Society. A 2016 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found about a quarter of adults aged 18-64 say they or someone in their household had problems paying or were unable to pay medical bills in the last 12 months. Sixty-two percent of these respondents were insured. And various studies on cancer care show that the cost of some treatments deters patients from getting them. A December 2016 study in the Journal of Oncology, for example, showed that a third of Medicare beneficiaries with chronic myeloid leukemia were foregoing a life-saving medication because of its cost: a co-pay of more than $3,000 per treatment.
The fixed cash benefits of supplemental policies are a major draw, providing recipients the choice of how to use the money, whether for rent, gas, groceries, child care, and other living expenses that are inevitable, but not directly covered.
“The great thing about supplemental insurance is, it’s completely customizable,” Benjamin explains. “And the benefits don’t go to the doctors or the hospitals or anywhere; they’re cash benefits paid directly to the people who are enrolled.”
To get the most value from supplemental insurance, according to AARP, people should first have comprehensive insurance that covers the majority of medical costs.
“The supplemental plan can then be used to cover any outstanding co-pays or deductibles left over,” Benjamin says.
It can be difficult to get a straight answer regarding the specifics of supplemental insurance. Different companies offer varying definitions and offer different plans and coverage.
However, the basics tend to include critical illnesses (like cancer); accident; accidental death; and hospital indemnity.
Supplemental insurance should not be confused with short-term insurance, which is a product available to people between jobs or other similar scenarios. And those interested should be aware that it can exclude pre-existing conditions.
Those who have Medicare Part A and Part B can look into a Medicare Supplement Insurance called a Medigap policy. According to medicare.gov, a Medigap policy, sold by private companies, can help pay some of the health care costs that original Medicare doesn’t cover, like copayments, coinsurance and deductibles.
“Some Medigap policies also offer coverage for services that Original Medicare doesn’t cover, like medical care when you travel outside the U.S.,” the website reports. “If you have Original Medicare and you buy a Medigap policy, Medicare will pay its share of the Medicare-approved amount for covered health care costs. Then your Medigap policy pays its share.”
The difficulty is, a lot of people either don’t know about supplemental insurance.
“I do think it is underutilized, and maybe a lot of people don’t want to think about more insurance,” says Paula Luzzi, an agency principal at Allstate Life Insurance Agency in New London. Luzzi adds, “They’re great plans, but I don’t think people know that much about them.”
The best way to learn is to talk to a professional like Benjamin or Luzzi, who can help individuals decipher their unique situations and maneuver through the policies and language.
Luzzi adds that supplemental insurance is also a way for employers to differentiate themselves.
“It’s a great tool for employers to offer something that not every employer does offer. It can be a great retention tool,” she says.
A lot of the policies are portable, she added, so if an employee does move on, their benefits don’t necessarily end.
Benjamin says he tells business owners it costs them nothing to offer a great supplemental insurance benefit package to their employees.
“Aflac will set up a pre-tax plan for a business owner for free,” he says, adding that a plan can also save them money on worker’s compensation rates..
A last key point: If you’re interested, do it now. Not after the surgery is scheduled or after the car crash happens.
He hates to say it, Benjamin adds, but “most people come to me when they’re hurt.”
For more information:
Scott Benjamin: 401-480-5120
Paula Luzzi: 860-442-7579