NEW YORK, Aug. 21 The Guardian Life Insurance Company ofAmerica (Guardian), a leading provider of employee benefits for small tomidsize companies, today announced the launch of what the company is billingas the next generation of critical illness coverage. Unlike traditionalcritical illness insurance, Guardian's employee benefit coverage includes ahospital admission rider that provides a per-diem lump-sum cash benefit forhospital stays for conditions not covered under the company's base criticalillness insurance plan.
This new feature was designed to answer concerns that previous generationsof critical illness policies were too restrictive because they only coveredspecific illnesses.
Guardian added an extra layer of protection in response to feedback frombrokers and clients who wanted a product that could help people cope with awider range of illnesses, not just the most common ailments. The hospitalrider supplements Guardian's base coverage for six serious illnesses andhealth events: cancer, heart attack, stroke, major organ transplant, end stagerenal failure (kidney failure) and coronary artery bypass graft.
Guardian enables employers to provide their employees with a benefitranging from $1,000 to $50,000 upon the first-ever diagnosis of the sixcovered ailments. A recurrence feature provides further protection should aperson experience a second serious illness. If the employer selects ahospital admission rider with a critical illness policy, a per-diem amount(customizable up to $500) is provided for hospital stays for illnesses andinjuries other than the covered critical illnesses. Members are able to usethe critical illness or hospital admission benefit payments any way theychoose.
Employers also have the choice of establishing an optional wellnessbenefit -- customizable from $25 to $100. It can be used for a variety ofroutine screenings and procedures designed to promote health and detectcritical illnesses in the early stages.
In the face of perennial low national savings rates, increased employeecost sharing and higher health deductibles, many experts predict that thepopularity of critical illness insurance will continue to grow and morecompanies will offer this protection as an employee benefit in the future.
Group critical illness insurance generally has simpler underwriting thanindividual protection and is usually offered at a discounted group rate. Thiscan help to provide affordable protection against typical out-of-pocket costsnot just related to medical expenses like alternative and out-of-networktreatments but also indirect ancillary costs including travel to treatmentcenters, lost wages from a spouse taking time off and household bills on adecreased income.
Guardian believes that the perfect storm of economic conditions creatingthe need for critical illness is augmented by the fact that survival rates forwidespread illnesses such as cancer, heart attacks and stroke are on the rise.
"People who have comprehensive health and disability coverage are oftensurprised by out-of-pocket medical and unanticipated non-medical expenses,"said Barry Petruzzi, second vice president, Group Benefits, Guardian. "Itisn't surprising that critical illness insurance is prevalent in Europe andCanada where universal health care coverage is available because even whenmedical coverage is very low or free, there are significant costs associatedwith experiencing a serious illness. Group critical illness insurance wasdesigned to provide an affordable solution."
Guardian expects to rollout its critical illness coverage nationally overthe next few months. The product is currently available in 26 states.
Guardian specializes in providing employee benefits to small and midsizecompanies. Guardian serves more than 120,000 employers, and 6 millionemployees and their families. The company has iss