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Considering Disability Health Insurance for Your Members

By Heather Kerrigan | May 17, 2018

How can board members help union workers with disabilities feel secure in their jobs? While one way is to cultivate a supportive environment in which workers are comfortable addressing their needs, especially as they relate to health insurance. Even more importantly, make sure that the health plan you choose provides affordable disability health insurance and includes the coverage your members need. Here's what you need to know.

Understanding Health Care for Members With Disabilities

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, roughly one in 10 noninstitutionalized adults aged 21 to 64 have a substantial disability that impacts some aspect of their lives. This means there's a high likelihood that you have disabled members within your union. Depending on the disability and time on the job, some of your members may already receive health insurance through Medicare. But there are many rules attached to who can be covered under the program, so don't assume that your members are already receiving coverage elsewhere.

Just like your able-bodied members, those with disabilities simply want coverage that provides them easy and affordable access to the services they require. Ensuring that you offer robust health insurance options, including ones that provide members the opportunity to locate specialty health services both within and outside of the primary network, is vital. Similarly important is keeping costs for disability health insurance as low as possible.

Depending on a given member's disability, it may be necessary to provide accommodation for the explanation of health benefits. Setting up the opportunity for an in-person session to review benefits and ask questions, providing information in large print or braille or offering verbal instruction over the phone can help a disabled member choose the right health insurance option and access the benefits available.

If a member becomes temporarily or permanently disabled, show your support by helping that member maintain their benefits for as long as possible or by helping them find services to provide coverage if time off the job causes a lapse in benefits.

Failing to Recognize the Necessity of Health Care for Members With Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act provides legal protection from discrimination for your disabled members, and this extends to the benefits they're offered. Failure to provide benefits to disabled members in line with those provided to all members could result in a lawsuit.

Putting the appropriate structures in place and offering to support your members through disability health insurance is vital to protecting both your members and your union. The effort you put in upfront to ensure they're cared for will benefit everyone in the long run.

Heather Kerrigan started her career in journalism at Governing magazine, reporting on state and local politics and policy, with a specific focus on public workforce, environment, health care, education and technology issues. Prior to co-founding River Horse Communications, Heather offered freelance editorial services to a variety of outlets, including serving as volume editor and lead author for SAGE Publications' Historic Documents series and editor-in-chief of The Kanter Journal. Heather also blogs for two government-focused publications, GovLoop and NEOGOV, covering issues of importance to federal employees. Heather is the author of the book Retire Rich With Your 401(k) Plan. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The George Washington University.

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