When David Crane brought in a representative from Aflac to speak to his employees about supplemental insurance coverage, 75% of them signed up for at least one type of coverage. However, during the past few years, many of his employees have cancelled their coverage. “We found that our hourly people in the field see money coming out of their check every month, and they decide it does not have value,” says the owner of Crane Builders in Nashville, Tenn.

Crane says Aflac provides additional personal coverage over and above what is covered by health insurance. He describes it as a cafeteria plan that provides mini-policies covering items like intensive care, accident, short-term disability, and cancer. Currently, Crane's production manager and two lead carpenters pay for the extra coverage. He had one lead carpenter who dropped his disability coverage and just a few months later had a heart attack and double bypass surgery. “The policy would have paid him $1,500 a month for the time he was out,” Crane recalls.

Mechell Clark, a spokeswoman for Aflac, says the company is the largest provider of individual renewable policies. “It's a benefit to employees to have added protection that may not be offered by standard health group policy,” she says. Many of the company's policies cover expenses not typically associated with insurance; for example, travel to and from, and parking at, a medical facility. “We pay cash benefits directly to the employee,” she says.

Premiums vary from state to state, but it's typically very reasonable, Clark says. Aflac also makes it easy for employers to administer the payroll deductions. “It can be a great recruiting tool — especially for small business owners who can't afford a rich benefits package. Employees are looking for more than just a great salary,” she says. For more information about Aflac, call 800.992.3522 or visit www.aflac.com.

Personal Bankruptcy According to an abstract titled “Illness and Injury as Contributors to Bankruptcy,” by researchers David U. Himmelstein, Elizabeth Warren, Deborah Thorne, and Steffie Woolhandler, about 50% of surveyed families who filed for bankruptcy in 2001 cited medical causes.

Among those whose illnesses led to bankruptcy, out-of-pocket costs averaged $11,854 since the start of illness, and 75.7% had insurance at the onset of illness. The research found that medical debtors are 42% more likely than other debtors to experience lapses in coverage, and that even middle-class insured families often fall prey to financial catastrophe when sick.