In a nation where medical problems contribute to roughly half of all personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures, many workers aren't prepared to cope with a long-term disability, according to a study released today by Sun Life Financial Inc.

Entitled Will Workers In America Hope To Dodge The Bullet, Remain Blind To The Risks, Or Simply Hide? Perceptions, Misconceptions, And Best Practices About Long-Term Disability, the report is based upon a survey of over 2,000 workers across the U.S. conducted for Sun Life Financial by Kelton Research. According to the survey, a significant proportion of American workers remain unprepared for a shift in workplace benefits that has more employers giving workers the responsibility to decide whether to purchase group benefits such as disability, life, vision and dental insurance.

"We must educate the U.S. workforce to understand the financial risks of long-term disability and learn best practices to mitigate their risks," said Robert E. Klein Jr., vice president of Voluntary Benefits for Life Financial. "If 10 couples gather for a barbecue, we estimate that roughly three of them will have a partner who experiences a disability lasting one year or longer during their professional lifetimes."

Among the report's findings:

At least one-third of surveyed full-time workers lack long-term disability insurance.

Over one-third of workers whose employers offered them the option to pay for group long-term disability insurance declined to buy it.

Workers who don't buy group voluntary long-term disability coverage fall into three categories: The Gambler, who doesn't think the risk justifies the cost of premiums; The Mole, who hasn't considered the issue and so remains blind to solutions; and The Ostrich, who finds the thought of disability too unpleasant to face.

Workers under age fifty, minorities, men, and tech workers are more likely to have purchased long-term disability insurance than other respondents.

Many workers don't understand key features of long term disability insurance, and fail to anticipate how a disability may raise monthly living expenses.

"Because employers are footing less and less of the overall group insurance bill, workers in our country must take proactive steps to mitigate the financial risk of long-term disability," said Michael E. Shunney, senior vice president and general manager of Sun Life Financial's U.S. Employee Benefits Group Division.

-Jim McConville