MetLife, a leading provider of employee benefits, today announced the release of a new white paper that examines the awareness of critical illness insurance (CII) among employees and the financial impact that a critical illness can have on a typical U.S. household. Critical Times Require Critical Solutions exposes the gaps in personal financial safety nets that a health situation may create despite having medical and disability income coverage and outlines steps employers can take to help employees obtain the right amount of protection. To download the white paper, visit and click on the “Voluntary Benefits” link.

The research detailed in Critical Times Require Critical Solutions found that the average financial burden associated with recovering from a critical illness is $35,500, most of which is linked to lost income. Few full-time employees – only 16% of those surveyed -- feel confident they could pay for a medical emergency. In a challenging economic environment, employees lack the resources to cope with these unforeseen expenses: About four in ten full-time employees surveyed indicated that they live paycheck to paycheck.

“When faced with a critical illness, many individuals are surprised that their medical coverage may not address the full financial consequences of their sickness. A lump sum benefit provided by critical illness insurance can help mitigate the spike in expenses that can result from deductibles, co-insurance, uncovered expenses and annual benefit maximums,” says Clea Barth, vice president, Critical Illness Insurance Products, for MetLife. “However, critical illness insurance doesn’t yet have high visibility within employee benefit offerings because there’s still considerable lack of awareness surrounding this product.”

The white paper explains that just 28% of full-time employees surveyed say they have heard of CII and among those, the majority are confusing it for health insurance, disability income insurance, or a government insurance program. However, about 75% of employees who don’t own critical illness insurance or have never heard of it, find the concept appealing once the products features are explained. Most are even willing to pay the entire premium. Including critical illness insurance as a voluntary offering within a comprehensive benefit program can be a cost-effective way for employers to improve employee benefit satisfaction and employee retention.

For those offering CII, Barth offers the following suggestions to maximize employee participation in a voluntary critical illness insurance benefit:

  • Promote as supplement – Promote critical illness insurance alongside other core benefits to supplement existing medical and disability income benefit plans – thus, strengthening the financial safety net for employees by stitching in another layer of protection from out-of- pocket medical and non-medical expenses.
  • Improve communications – For better communications, employers can correlate an employees’ benefits offering with their individual financial concerns, or illustrate how financial protection benefits are relevant in building a strong personal safety net and helping to provide peace of mind. Strong benefit communications can also help reinforce the employer’s commitment to their employee’s well-being and strengthen employee engagement in the benefits program.
  • Keep the product simple – Keeping the product simple is one key way to ensure that the benefit communications are straightforward and effective. The lump sum that critical illness insurance offers eliminates the need for ongoing claims paperwork. There is also flexibility for the employee. They can use the lump sum payment as they see fit for both medical and non-medical expenses.

“Employers are increasingly asking employees to take more responsibility for their financial and medical well-being,” says Barth. “Offering critical illness insurance can have a positive impact on employees’ perception of their employer because it helps fill a potential gap in their financial safety nets. Plus, helping employees more easily handle financial issues during a critical illness allows them to focus on their physical recovery and may help them return to full productivity.”

Research Methodology
In April 2010, MetLife conducted two online surveys to closely examine the awareness of critical illness insurance and the financial impact that a critical illness can have on a typical U.S. household. The first survey, The MetLife Critical Illness Awareness Study, featured interviews with 1,000 respondents, ages 25 to 55, including 508 people who work full-time. The second survey, The Financial Impact of a Critical Illness Study, featured interviews with 1,002 respondents, ages 25 to 55, who experienced cancer, a heart attack or stroke either first hand or through a spouse -- between six months and five years prior to the survey. A key requirement to participate in the study was that the individual for whom the survey questions were intended had health insurance at the time of diagnosis.

About MetLife

MetLife is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), a leading global provider of insurance, annuities and employee benefit programs, serving 90 million customers in over 60 countries. Through its subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. For more information, visit


Karen Eldred
Judi Mahaney