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The link between Covid-19 and heart damage makes critical illness coverage more relevant than ever

More than two-thirds of Americans know someone who has contracted Covid-19.1 And given that the majority of people who get sick from it have mild symptoms,2 it’s easy to think that unless you’re in a high-risk group, chances are it’ll be akin to a nasty cold and you’ll be good as new in a couple of weeks.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen that the coronavirus can lead to lasting heart damage.3 Even among people whose Covid-19 symptoms were mild enough that they could be treated at home, or who had no symptoms whatsoever.3,4 And even among people with no underlying heart disease.4

What we know about heart damage and Covid-19

Most of us aren’t total strangers to heart disease. It’s the leading cause of death in the United States,5 and nearly half of us will contract some form of cardiovascular disease.6 We’re also not strangers to the coronavirus: At the time of writing, 8% of Americans had contracted Covid-19,7 and all of us have been affected by measures taken to stop the spread.

But where the two connect is relatively new territory. In April 2020, early reports began to trickle in about otherwise healthy people under 40 who had survived the coronavirus and later suffered strokes. “This is crazy,” one neurologist told The Washington Post at the time.8

It quickly became clear that while the rise of cardiac events might be “crazy,” it also wasn’t unusual. Over the following months, researchers began to understand that the virus prompts a condition known as myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart. It’s unknown whether it stems from the virus directly attacking the heart or from inflammation triggered by a zealous immune response. But the result is a heightened possibility of heart failure.9

Not all people with heart damage from Covid-19 had symptoms of the virus in the first place.4 But nearly a quarter of people who have been hospitalized with Covid-19 have been diagnosed with heart complications. These complications aren’t abstract, either: They contribute to about 40% of all deaths related to Covid-19.9

It’s no wonder that even people in their prime—college athletes—are being asked to take caution. One in 7 college athletes who recovered from Covid-19 had heart damage, leading sports doctors to urge this otherwise vigorous population to have cardiac screenings.10

Critical illness insurance helps provide financial protection from health events that may occur due to Covid-19 complications

Aflac critical illness plans include heart attack and stroke as covered conditions, both of which have a connection to Covid-19. Let’s say that a certificate holder contracts a seemingly mild case of Covid-19 that does not require hospitalization, meaning that she doesn’t file any claims related to her diagnosis—but that she then has a stroke. Regardless of whether her doctors single out Covid-19 as the cause of the stroke, she would receive a lump-sum benefit from her critical illness plan, unless otherwise assigned. Depending on her coverage that benefit could range anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 or more.

We are working now on enhancements to help address Covid-19 more directly in our critical illness plans. For now, our Aflac+ Rider is another option. It can be added onto a number of policies, including hospital indemnity and short-disability, and it pays benefits for hospital confinement due to the human coronavirus.* (Other carriers have a higher threshold for hospitalization time—Aflac’s benefit payments start to kick in after just four days of confinement or in ICU, compared with five to 14 days with other insurers.)

As a nation, we’re inching toward the day when we can safely gather again, largely free of Covid-19 worries. But until then, your clients owe it to themselves—and to their workers, their families and their communities—to offer options that can help protect against the spectrum of ways the virus affects them.