Many Americans are underinsured, survey suggests

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Many Americans are underinsured, survey suggests

A majority of Americans are operating without a financial safety net. Per a Policygenius survey, only 32% of Americans have life insurance — and even fewer people (12.5%) have disability insurance.

Both coverages are instrumental when it comes to protecting a family's income — life insurance in instances where the policyholder dies and disability insurance in instances where the policyholder becomes too ill or injured to work. They're becoming increasingly important as the cost of living — and, most notably, medical care — continues to rise and put pressure on Americans' financial health.

The results are based on a survey of 1,542 adults nationwide. It was conducted through Google Consumer Surveys in December 2018.

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This isn't the first time a Policygenius survey suggested people are underinsured. Last October, separate research found one in five (21%) Americans don't have health insurance. It was conducted ahead of the 2019 open enrollment season.

Getting covered

If you're among the subsets of Americans without life or disability insurance, there are ways to find affordable coverage.

  1. Shop around. Insurers price risk differently and some are more forgiving than others when it comes to certain health conditions, habits or applicant profiles. (Policygenius can help you easily compare insurance quotes across carriers.)

  2. Opt for term life insurance, as whole life insurance is often prohibitively expensive — and unnecessary for most people's needs. Learn more about term vs. whole life insurance.

  3. Lengthen the elimination period —  the amount of time you have to wait before the insurer pays out benefits — as a means to finding affordable disability insurance. Most elimination periods last for 90 days, but extending that to 180 days can lower your premiums.

Shortening coverage windows and removing certain riders can also help make policies previously out-of-reach much more affordable.

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If you are currently without health insurance, you could potentially get coverage through your state or federal health care exchange via a special enrollment period. (Open enrollment takes place annually from November 1 to December 15.) People who make between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level qualify for subsidies that can significantly lower the cost of a plan.

Low-income Americans could alternately qualify for Medicaid, which you can apply for all year. Almost every state has multiple Medicaid programs, so you can reference this state-by-state guide to Medicaid to see what's available where you live.

If you can't qualify for or find affordable coverage, there are a few back-up options, including short-term health insurance, health care sharing ministries, limited benefit plans and prescription discount cards.

Graphics: Phillip Blackowl; Image: Jill Heyer