5 workplace benefits trends for 2012

According to experts at Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company, there are five workplace trends that employers, HR professionals and brokers should be aware of in order to be prepared for 2012.


5. Economy: Government-sector employers will emphasize cost containment measures for their benefits plans.

After several years of lower tax revenues, government employers must reduce benefits or raise their employees' share of the costs.

"The good news is there's a huge opportunity for government employers to control costs by changing their benefits plan design," says Pat McCullough, Colonial Life's public sector practice leader. "Government employers have been slower than other industry segments to shift away from the more comprehensive, paternalistic benefits models of the past, but there are solutions to help them offer strong packages and still save money."

(Photo: In this Feb . 19, 2011 file photo, Neporsha Hamlin, center, of Madison, Wis, protests the governor's budget bill at the State Capitol in Madison. Polls show the majority of Americans are siding with state and local government employees in Wisconsin and elsewhere who are trying to maintain their collective bargaining rights and their pensions and benefits. AP Photo/Andy Manis, File)

4. Technology: Online technology will give employees more options for decision-support tools.

Employers are more often placing the responsibility of benefits decision-making on their employees, and more websites and interactive tools will be available to help them comprehend different types of coverage and how they meet their needs.

(Photo credit: jscreationzs)

3. Services: Wellness programs will become more popular.

As employers grapple with rising health care costs, they are progressively realizing wellness programs, including health screening tools and online nurse services, can help control those costs. Still, in order to see true cost-saving measures, there must be employee awareness and engagement.

"Good communication about wellness programs is essential for them to be effective," says Steve Bygott, Colonial Life's assistant vice president of marketing analysis and programs. "Without a focused effort to ensure employees understand the program and its value to them, participation tends to be low."

(Photo: Linda Jackson laughs at her dancing while participating in a stretching routine while at work at Replacements, Ltd. in Greensboro, N.C. Twice a day the warehouse staff is encourage to stretch and loosen up their upper body to counteract their repetitive routine on an assembly line. AP Photo/Sara D. Davis)

2. Sales: Voluntary insurance sales will see a strong recovery.

By increasing diversity in the workplace and offering choices to employees, sales will grow. Group products are expected to grow within the voluntary sales segment, but life insurance sales could continue to drop.

"There's a big need for better education of workers about the need to protect their most valuable assets with life and disability coverage,” says Jeff Koll, Colonial Life's assistant vice president of life and disability products.

(Photo credit: Idea go)

1. Products: Critical illness insurance will still appeal to new customers.

Given the costs of treating expensive medical conditions, such as cancer, heart attacks and strokes, critical illness insurance can offer out-of-pocket protection when faced with the medical and nonmedical costs that come with treatment and recovery. Although critical illness is a fairly new product, updated versions are available that include benefits for multiple occurrences of a critical illness.

"One way to think of critical illness insurance is as 'living life insurance,'" says Randy Finn, assistant vice president of supplemental health products at Colonial Life, where critical illness sales grew 24 percent from 2009 to 2010. "If you get a serious illness, such as cancer, and die, life insurance helps with that. But what if you survive? You're likely to have years of financially crippling bills to pay."

(Photo: Cancer patient Kristin Rosenqvist, left, and Teresita Ladrillo stretch during a yoga class at Houston's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)





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