There has been plenty of confusion related to COVID-19 around the country. Working remotely, schooling at home, shelter-in-place, social distancing and other factors have created a situation none of us could have planned for.
As head of Marketing & Consumer Strategy for Lincoln Financial’s employee benefits business, I am asked regularly by friends, family and even neighbors to help clarify how COVID-19 impacts benefits such as short term disability insurance (STD). I recently saw research stating that 45 percent of U.S. adults aren’t sure if STD would cover someone who becomes sick with COVID-19.
So I asked Lincoln Financial colleague Tracy Hendrickson, Director of Operational Initiatives in our claim area, to help clear up some of the confusion. Tracy is on the front lines talking daily with employers and employees about COVID-19 and STD claim coverage. She is also our company’s workstream leader for all claim activity, questions and procedural changes related to COVID.
“This situation adds another layer of complexity to disability benefits, because several benefits may be available for a COVID-19 illness,” Tracy says. “It can be difficult to navigate which benefits apply and/or run concurrently.”
“Another point of confusion is the fact that a doctor or public health official may recommend that a person stays home, but that person may not be eligible for disability benefits.”
The list of possible benefits for people with COVID-19 also could include federal or state mandated paid sick or paid family leave, workers’ compensation, company paid leave, unemployment or disability. Benefits are unique to an individual’s state and employer, so there’s a lot to know. (Here’s one helpful resource.)
Here’s what Tracy had to say about some of the common questions around STD and COVID-19:
Are individuals covered for short term disability if they are diagnosed with COVID-19?
COVID-19 is treated the same way as any other illness. An employee is considered disabled when they meet the definition of disability outlined in their insurance policy. If a person develops symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, an insurance company would assess their claim to determine eligibility for benefits based on the terms of their policy.
What guidance would you give someone who thinks they might have COVID-19 and needs to call their disability insurance company?
We recommend having your medical information ready when you make the call—information such as your current healthcare provider and when you were last evaluated by them. You may also be asked about symptoms specific to COVID-19, such as whether you have a fever and the date it started, if you have experienced a loss of taste or smell, if you have a cough and if you’ve been tested for COVID-19. Having a clear timeline of your symptoms and ongoing treatment plan from your doctor will help the disability claim consultant.
As with any disability claim, it’s also helpful for the disability consultant to understand any other medical conditions you are experiencing, and whether you have discussed options with your employer such as work from home.
What is the value of STD coverage as it relates to COVID-19? How can it help if you are diagnosed?
As with any disability, STD coverage provides income replacement to people who have an illness or injury that prevents them from working. Having this coverage may allow you to better focus on your recovery during a stressful time. Your disability consultant will also focus on your plan to return to work in coordination with your employer.
Should someone call their disability insurance company if they have symptoms but have not been diagnosed with COVID?
It is important to see a healthcare provider to assess your symptoms, whether in person or through telemedicine. Your healthcare provider can recommend testing or let you know if they suspect COVID-19 based on your symptoms. Your disability insurer should be able to assess your claim with or without a test result. But seeing a healthcare provider prior to calling will help the insurer process your claim more quickly and completely.
How does a policy elimination period weigh into STD coverage for COVID?
A policy elimination period—the time between the beginning of an illness or injury and when you begin to receive benefit payments from an insurer—typically must be met before STD benefits begin. Again, elimination periods are variable so it’s important to check your disability contract.
Quarantine periods leading up to the onset of symptoms may or may not be covered under your disability policy. The onset of symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test typically mark the beginning of a disabling illness.
Bottom line, there are lots of moving parts to this situation right now. Your Human Resources representative or a customer service representative from your disability insurance company can walk you through the information you need to know and help you with next steps.
©2020 Lincoln National Corporation
For public use.
Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name for Lincoln National Corporation and its affiliates, including The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Fort Wayne, IN, Lincoln Life & Annuity Company of New York, Syracuse, NY, and Lincoln Life Assurance Company of Boston, Dover, NH. The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company does not solicit business in New York, nor is it licensed to do so. Affiliates are separately responsible for their own financial and contractual obligation.
Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name for Lincoln National Corporation and its affiliates.
Affiliates are separately responsible for their own financial and contractual obligations.
CivicScience: Data gathered 4/7/2020 – 4/14/2020