News and Information
Aflac Engages a Black-Owned Film Company to Help Close the Gap in Health and Wealth Disparities Across America
Could Aflac’s initiative serve as a blueprint for corporate sponsorship of creative talent in Maywood?
Article by Dan Perkins
ALFAC TAKES A CREATIVE APPROACH TO CLOSING THE GAP
With all that is going on in our world these days, it is hard for a corporate news story to get much attention, even if the news involves something innovative and important to millions of Americans; but Aflac has launched an initiative that deserves attention. While Aflac is perhaps best known for its zany white goose, behind the memorable (and some would say lovable) icon is a company leading in the field of supplemental insurance.
On January 19, 2022, Aflac announced a national initiative called “Close the Gap,” which aims to address household disruptions caused by medical debt. The initiative also seeks to highlight disparities in health and wealth across America. According to the company’s press release, medical debt disproportionately impacts people of color and those living in under-resourced communities.
The problem of medical debt is most pronounced among households with limited or stretched incomes. These households are typically unable to cover expenses associated with a medical emergency, even if they have health insurance. The Close the Gap initiative is a multifaceted effort aimed at educating Americans about the financial risks, which often accompany a medical event. The company says the initiative will also advocate for measures designed to close the health and wealth gap in America.
To help drive awareness, Aflac now publishes an index highlighting real and substantial gaps in American society. When it comes to savings for unexpected medical events, The Aflac Care Index found the following:
- Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans’ savings are equivalent to or less than their health insurance out-of-pocket maximum.
- Nearly a quarter (24%) of insured Americans have $0 in savings, and just under half (48%) have $1,000 or less in savings.
- Two-thirds (67%) of insured Americans lack supplemental health insurance coverage to help cover that financial gap.
In addition to establishing the index, Aflac has taken several steps to reach Black consumers and Black communities throughout the United States. The company has teamed up with a prominent Black sports figure, former NFL legend Deon Sanders, who is not only admired among African Americans but highly regarded by most sports fans. Sanders is currently featured in Aflac’s television commercials and he recently shared his own experience with an unforeseen medical condition.
In a company press release, Sanders is quoted as saying “”When I was recently sidelined for months with my own unexpected medical emergency, I was not only reminded about how fortunate I am, but also saw firsthand the impact it had on both my families – my fiancé and sons, as well as my football family. Fortunately, I was able to focus on my recovery and not worry about the cost. However, too many Americans, especially those of color, are not afforded the same peace of mind and are one step away from a medical incident that could easily lead to financial ruin. I have a shared commitment with Aflac to help close the gap for those without a voice and to bring greater awareness of the medical debt disparity in America.”
As part of its Close the Gap initiative, Aflac is offering financial assistance to individuals who are most at risk of suffering substantial financial hardships due to a medical emergency.
In October of 2021, Aflac announced its intent to give away $1 million to families, individuals, and organizations throughout 2022. The following month, Aflac awarded the first 20 CareGrants to individuals who had overcome or were undergoing unexpected medical events. The $5,000 gifts were provided to help alleviate some of the financial hardships associated with a medical event. In February of 2022, Aflac expanded its CareGrants program and award grants to communities that have been greatly impacted by medical debt, as identified through data obtained via the Aflac Care Index.
Perhaps the most creative and colorful component of the Close the Gap initiative is a film project with Lion Forge Animation, a Black owned film company. Regarding the collaboration, Shannon Watkins, chief brand and marketing officer for Aflac said, “Aflac’s Close the Gap initiative is designed to not only provide immediate financial support to individuals and communities in need but also, through storytelling and data, aims to help educate consumers and advocate for closing the gap in what health insurance doesn’t cover. We’ve aligned with brand ambassadors and partners who share our vision for a future where hardworking Americans’ focus after a medical event is on recovery, not unexpected bills.” Watkins went on to explain that the initiative helps bring the Aflac brand purpose to life.
As part of the company’s recognition of Black History Month, Aflac introduced its first film, “The Park Bench,” which is an animated account of a real-life situation faced by many African American families. The short film highlights the impact of a medical event on a small family, as seen through the eyes of a young girl whose father has been diagnosed with sickle cell disease.
“The Park Bench” was produced by Carl Reed of Lion Forge Animation, written, and directed by Academy Award® and Golden Globe® nominee Rob Edwards, with musical direction provided by Grammy® award-winning artist Nas. Aflac announced the film was named an official selection in two film festivals: Brand Storytelling 2022, a sanctioned event of the Sundance Film Festival; and the Sedona International Film Festival.
About the Film
ALFAC’S FILM MERGES CORPORATE MISSION WITH COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Could something like this happen in Maywood?
BLACK ANIMATION FIRM SHOWS HOW AFLAC CAN HELP PROTECT BLACK FAMILIES FROM FINANCIAL RUIN DUE TO A MEDICAL EMERGENCY
Might a Business in Maywood Adopt Aflac’s formula?
BRANDING CAMPAIGN + COMMUNITY FOCUS = BUSINESS & FAMILY SUCCESS