Critical illness insurance is forecasted to be a major fast growth opportunity for insurance brokers next year, according to Dan Steenerson, principal, Disability Insurance Services, San Diego.

"Although most people think disabilities are caused by accidents, the majority of long-term disabilities are due to illness," Steenerson said in a statement. "Medical advances have improved the chance of surviving heart attacks, strokes, and cancer–but survival comes with a hefty price tag."

For those who suffer a critical illness prior to age 65, the probability of surviving is almost twice that of dying, according to the American Heart Association’s 2009 Heart and Stroke Statistical Update.

"We’re in a new health insurance era. More than ever before, the patient is now expected to fund a portion of medical costs," Steenerson said. With rising medical costs, deductibles, coinsurance, and coverage exclusions, Americans now have increased need to avoid financial hardship due to the out-of-pocket medical costs. Medical bills are the main cause for more than 60% of personal bankruptcies in the United States, according to a 2007 study conducted by Harvard University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. More than 75% of these bankruptcies were middle-class families with health insurance who were still overwhelmed by medical debt.

Disability Insurance Services markets a suite of disability insurance and critical illness insurance products through a nationwide network of brokers and affiliates. The products provide income when an insured is disabled due to illness or injury.

Critical illness insurance pays a lump sum benefit upon diagnosis. The coverage allows policyholders to use the money where it is needed most–to pay for medical bills, the mortgage, or daily living expenses. Critical illness coverage is just gaining popularity in the United States. Brokers can offer the product as a stand-alone or supplemental income protection solution. The lump sum benefit can be helpful in closing the income gap during disability waiting periods.

[Source: Disability Insurance Services]