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AFLAC Disability Insurance: That Duck Has Kept Me Afloat!
I Love The AFLAC Duck!
In 2005, I purchased an AFLAC disability policy through my employer. I had the choice of a one year or two year disability policy and chose the one year policy. At the time, I was 52 and my medical issues were controlled diabetes, high blood pressure and minor arthritis that required no treatment. The one year policy was $115.00 per month and the two year policy was $150.00. I was making well over $65,000.00 per year, so the premiums for the one year, short term disability policy didn't seem like too much money to me. I knew that nothing relating to the existing medical conditions I had would be covered for 12 months, but they were well-controlled and I had faith that my doctor and I could manage those conditions
Because I have worked in the medical field for many years, I know that an unexpected illness can destroy you, even if you have a medical insurance policy. Sure, your doctor, hospital and medications might be paid for, but if something happens and you get sick and cannot work, you usually end up on state disability, which in California is roughly 55% of your pay.
Most people find it difficult to live on 55% of their income, so that AFLAC policy would provide me with $1700.00 per month in additional tax free money if I got sick. God Knows, I didn't want to get sick! I finally had my dream job, my kids were all on their own and I was even able to start putting money away. By 2006, I was on course to make over $75,000.00 a year and my dream job was still everything I wanted!
A Pain in the Neck!
Towards the end of February, 2006, I woke up one morning and had a stiff neck. It was the kind of stiff neck that you get from going to bed with your hair wet or from getting caught in a draft or even sleeping funny. No problem! A couple of ibuprofen and that pain in my neck would be gone. Well, it wasn't gone. Two weeks later, I couldn't turn my head, I could barely walk and the pain was unbearable! I couldn't even drive!
My doctor rushed me in for an MRI and the news was not good! She told me that without surgery, I would end up in a wheelchair. She immediately referred me to a neurosurgeon; one that she said was among the best in the country and she put me out on disability for 8 weeks. Okay, so everything is still going to be fine. My job was protected because I would be covered by FMLA and I would have a surgery and be back to work in no time.
The wonderful neurosurgeon had a 2 month waiting list, so I opted to see the only other one on my plan. He was in his late seventies and only partially senile. He told me the pain would just go away in a few weeks. No surgery required. In the meantime, I applied for and began to receive state disability. The doctor and my employer filled out the AFLAC forms and within a week, I had a check from AFLAC for the entire 8 week scheduled absence from work. That little duck actually paid in advance!
To make a long story short, the pain did not disappear and several months later, I was wheeled into surgery to have a 7 and 1/2 hour surgery to replace 3 or 4 vertebrae in my cervical spine (neck). The surgery was not performed by the senile doctor. I was able to finally get in to see the neurosurgeon that was originally recommended and he was as good as promised!
AFLAC Lived Up To Its Promise!
I was fired from my dream job because I was gone for almost a year. I understand their reasoning and the company's need to make that decision. It was not unexpected. What was unexpected was how fast AFLAC was in processing and paying my claims! Every 90 days during that year, my doctor would fax in an updated claim form and within a week, I would have a payment to cover the next 3 months of my disability. They made an unbearable situation less tenuous. I had the income required to pay my bills without being worried.
Sure, I was unable to walk, needed help with all daily activities, and was in extreme pain, but I had the money I needed to live.
Complaints About AFLAC And Other Disability Policies!
I have seen complaints on the internet about AFLAC and other companies' disability policies. They almost all refer to non-payment of claims, and those complaints almost always go back to pre-existing conditions clauses, meaning that if you had an illness before the policy went into effect, the policy would not cover you for that illness for a specified amount of time.
For example, if you apply for a policy and know that you are going to need surgery on your knee in 3 months, the policy will not cover you for anything related to that knee. In my case, if my known diabetes had caused me to need a kidney transplant, the AFLAC would have denied payment for that. The diabetes, like the knee, would qualify as a pre-existing illness and caused them to deny payment.
The pain in my neck was paid for because it was unexpected and there had never been any history of neck pain. There was never any reason to suspect that the bones in my neck had disintegrated. It just happened. If I had awaken that morning to pain in my stomach and a tumor was discovered, that would have been covered. Sometimes pre-existing clauses are difficult to understand. To simplify it: If you have ever complained of something before and you were seen by a doctor for it, chances are it will be considered pre-existing. If it is on a doctor's chart anywhere, it is usually pre-existing.
In the case of AFLAC, it should be known that my policy will now cover my diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis. A clause in my policy stated that after one year of coverage, pre-existing conditions will be covered. That is a major clause to look for when purchasing a short term disability policy.
An AFLAC short term disability policy is not medical insurance. It is a supplemental income policy. It is not designed to pay for your hospitalization or your doctor. It is designed to take the place of some of your regular income in case you become too sick to work. You are allowed to use the money for anything.
I have only praise for AFLAC. As a health insurance professional, I have very little praise for any insurance companies, but I DO LOVE THE AFLAC DUCK! If you have the opportunity and the extra income, I highly recommend that you research this product.