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Feature: Page (1) of 1 - 02/15/17

Expect the Unexpected

Why You Need Emergency Health Insurance

By Wes Thompson, CEO of Emerge

Today, medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy in this nation and is responsible for more than 60 percent of all bankruptcies. These costs are prevalent for medical emergencies and in the case of critical illnesses such as, heart disease, stroke, or cancer.  The average healthcare cost to cover critical illnesses, with insurance, is $15,900 for cancer, $22,500 for heart attack, and $33,800 for stroke.

Many Americans are unable to save in case of emergencies or critical illness. The U.S. Federal reserve reports that nearly half of adults are ill-prepared for a financial disruption and would not be able to cover an emergency expense costing more than $400. However, many middle-income Americans select High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) for the lower monthly premiums, running the risk of significantly greater out-of-pocket costs in the future. Additionally, HDHPs are becoming an increasingly popular option for employers as a way that they can save on healthcare costs. Willis Towers Watson, a benefits consultant, surveyed 600 U.S. companies and determined that by 2018 nearly half of all employers will exclusively offer HDHP plans.

For 2017, an HDHP has a minimum annual deductible of $1,300 for an individual. This means that the consumer is required to pay at least this amount out-of-pocket before their plan covers any of his or her medical expenses.  In addition, HDHPs only cover qualified medical expenses and do not cover non-medical expenses such as lost wages, transportation, rehabilitation, and reduced coverage on out-of-network doctors. These expenses are 100% paid out-of-pocket, placing a major part of the financial responsibility onto the consumer and leaving many in ever surmounting medical debt. 

There is hope in avoiding financial debt due to health care costs. There are affordable alternatives to complement current health plans and lessen the financial risk of unexpected illness. One option is to purchase supplemental insurance coverage--also known as emergency or "gap" insurance. This insurance option can be a cost-effective safeguard. Typically, it pays a lump sum cash payment directly to the consumer in the event of a covered critical illness or accident. 

At Emerge, we want to disrupt the status quo in the insurance industry and help consumers alleviate the devastating financial impact of medical debt. With more than 30 years working in the insurance industry, I have held executive positions at top companies, such as Lincoln Financial Group, Aetna, Cigna, and, most recently Sun Life. In 2008, I was appointed president of Sun Life. Throughout my career, I strived to be a leader and a problem solver. My latest project, Emerge, is testament to this.

An experience with a former employee led me to seeing a dire need for an easy solution for consumers. This employee was struggling with paying his ailing wife's medical bills, despite having health insurance. He made me aware that many consumers were having difficulty understanding their insurance policies, and were uninformed of the critical gaps in those policies and what their options were. This insight led to the creation of Emerge.

Emerge is the first online platform that helps individuals find, compare, and purchase emergency health insurance. This platform makes emergency insurance accessible, comprehensible, and easy to buy.  With the help of Max, our platform's virtual advisor, visitors can secure coverage in minutes. Max asks you about your health, lifestyle, and budget and provides a free Personal Protection Plan and a Risk Report that includes insurance options.

Since our launch period began in late 2016, Emerge has generated hundreds of free Personal Protection Plans and Risks Reports for consumers.  Unlike the typical insurance website, Emerge has a live chat feature that is powered by a in-house team of licensed insurance brokers who can answer any questions you may have about your health insurance situation and help determine what gaps may exist in your health coverage.  Although we have Max, our virtual advisor, walking you along every step of the way, we also realize that some people just want a human touch, and that's the value of the team behind our live chat and phone support.  Since our launch we have learned that there is a lot of confusion around what people think they are covered for versus what is not covered.  This is why we also provide free calculators on our site such as the Premium Estimator that helps you figure out exactly how affordable emergency insurance can be and also the Risk Rater tool that helps you figure out your true out-of-pocket cost due to an emergency, even if you already have health insurance.

Your health is an important matter throughout every stage of your life, and that means affordable healthcare is a necessity for every individual. It's important that consumers are provided with comprehensible healthcare options that does not result in leaving them in financial straits. Consumers shouldn't fear healthcare and see it as a financial risk, but rather view it as investment for their long-term wellbeing.

Wes Thompson is the Founder and CEO of Emerge. He most recently served as president, Sun Life Financial U.S., where he was responsible for all aspects of the company's U.S. insurance businesses.

He has a strong track record of building profitable organizations focused on growth. As president of Sun Life U.S., he championed key initiatives such as expanding the business and positioning it for further success through sale of the U.S. domestic annuity business and transformation of the group benefits business into a customer-focused operating model.

He was recently appointed to Goldman Sachs Trust II Mutual Fund Board, and is an active board member of Hartford Hospital. Wes has also been actively involved in youth soccer programs for the past 30 years. Wes lives in West Hartford with his wife, Rosemarie. They have two sons, ages 25 and 22.

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