Experiencing a critical illness, such as cancer, a heart attack, or stroke, can reduce a family’s income by more than $12,000 in the first year alone — even with medical coverage in place — primarily due to the inability to work, according to newly released studies.

The pair of studies, from MetLife, also found that families experience out-of-pocket medical costs of about $3,000 in the first year after diagnosis. Yet nearly half (46 percent) of full-time working Americans have less than $5,000 in savings available to tap to cover expenses in the event that they, their spouse, or significant other was diagnosed with a major illness and more than one-fourth (28 percent) have less than $500.

A critical illness can have a long-term impact — even three to five years after being diagnosed, 60 percent of people experiencing these serious medical situations are still incurring out-of-pocket expenses.

While all patients surveyed had medical coverage, only 7 percent of respondents reported that they had critical illness insurance and 4 percent reported having cancer insurance. This isn’t surprising given that the MetLife studies also found that only 28 percent of full-time employees say they have heard of CII. Of these, three in five appeared to be confusing it with health insurance, and one in five confused it with either a government insurance program or disability insurance. 

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