Good news: You’ve got health insurance (at least, all Americans are required to or pay a penalty).
Bad news: It doesn’t cover everything. Especially if something really bad happens, like a heart attack or stroke.
“A typical major medical plan will cover many of the health-related expenses imposed by a serious illness, but treating these illnesses is expensive,” said Simon Milazzo, products director at employee benefits provider Unum. “Some out-of-pocket expenses are predictable, like deductibles and copayments, but others may be unexpected and have a significant financial impact.”
Medical insurance doesn’t usually cover related costs, such as travel to treatment centers, child care during absences or recovery, home modifications or rehabilitation charges. And if you lose income while you’re unable to work, you could have a tough time paying for everyday living expenses including mortgage or rent, utilities and food.
The American Heart Association says the direct and indirect costs of cardiovascular disease — including health costs and lost productivity — total nearly $317 billion.
Also from WorkWell:
Are you at risk? Maybe. The American Heart Association estimates nearly 86 million Americans are living with cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the number 1 killer of women, taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined. African-Americans have nearly twice the risk of Caucasians for a first stroke.
So, what can you do? Start with lowering your risk where you can. You know this stuff: lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, be more active, eat more veggies and ditch the smokes. Some research also advises moderate consumption of dark chocolate and red wine, reducing stress and even laughing more.
You also can consider buying critical illness insurance. Never heard of it? You’re not alone.
“Critical illness insurance has been around for decades, but its value still isn’t fully recognized or understood by the people who might need it,” Milazzo said.
Critical illness insurance complements your major medical coverage by helping you pay the often-significant costs of treating and recovering from a serious illness. It pays a lump-sum amount — typically from $5,000 to $100,000 depending on the coverage you buy — if you’re diagnosed with a covered illness. Those illnesses may include heart attack, stroke, end-stage renal failure, coronary artery bypass surgery, major organ failure and sometimes cancer.
“A great place to buy critical illness insurance is at the workplace where the advantages of ‘group’ offers and pricing discounts will be available,” Milazzo said. “The coverage can be more affordable than you might expect.”
Many employers offer critical illness insurance as part of their benefits package on a voluntary basis. That means employees who want this protection select and pay for it themselves, with no cost to the company. If your employer doesn’t offer critical illness insurance now, you can ask them to add it.