For the 12th year cancer is the top reason for long-term disability claims for Unum (NYSE: UNM), followed closely by back disorders, according to 2012 claims data.
Cancer claims were nearly 16 percent of the company’s long term disability claims, while back disorders made up 15.1 percent of claims. The leading reasons for Unum’s short term disability claims in 2012 were maternity (18.9 percent of claims) and non-back injuries (10.5 percent).
Disability Insurance Awareness Month in May is a good opportunity to highlight the value of disability coverage, not only for the financial benefit it provides, but also for the support that employees receive as they recover and return to work. Recovery and return to work play a particularly significant role for cancer patients.
“Most people who have been diagnosed with cancer are very motivated to get back to work,” said Kristin Tugman, senior director of Health and Productivity at Unum. “It helps create a sense of normalcy and control at a time when people often feel understandably overwhelmed.”
Advances in cancer treatment have lead to much higher rates of survival from diagnosis. The American Cancer Society estimates that the number of cancer survivors in the U.S. will grow to nearly 18 million by 2022. The Cancer Society also observes that the transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor is the next critical area of attention for families, care givers and employers.
“We work closely with employers whose employees are out on disability because of cancer,” Tugman said. “When a cancer patient is ready to resume some work responsibilities, we can help the employer offer the necessary support and accommodations their employee needs to return to work in a productive and safe manner.”
Cancer patients experience a wide range of side effects from treatment, including fatigue and cognitive issues that are the result of “chemo-brain,” Tugman said. As the employee transitions back to work, possible accommodations could include:
- Clearly defining work expectations and limitations
- Creating a flexible or reduced work schedule
- Modifying work stations to avoid having to stand or sit for too long
- Allowing extra time for breaks to combat fatigue
- Coaching and providing feedback on performance
Through research and education Unum offers employers guidance on how they can support workers through cancer diagnosis and treatment, and help those employees return successfully to the workplace.
“Although cancer remains a significant area of focus for our disability claims professionals,” Tugman said, “we are seeing some dramatic trends in recovery and return to work. And we recognize the importance in helping the customer – and their employer – learn to see beyond the diagnosis and to understand the important role that returning to work can play in a cancer survivor’s overall recovery.”
Other leading causes of long term disability claims for Unum in 2012 were:
- Back disorders (excluding injury) (15.1%)
- Injuries (9.8%)
- Behavioral health issues (9.8%)
- Circulatory system disorders (9.0%)
- Joint disorders (8.3%)
Leading causes of short term disability claims were:
- Normal pregnancy (18.9%)
- Injuries (10.5%)
- Complications from pregnancy (8.4%)
- Digestive disorders (8%)
- Back disorders (7.1%)
- Cancer (6.8%)