The U.S. voluntary insurance market may be starting to emerge from a slump.
Sales increased 4.5% from 2010 to 2011, to $5.5 billion, according to analysts at Eastbridge Consulting Group Inc., Avon, Conn.
About 80% of the sales came from the top 15 voluntary products sellers, and sales at those companies increased an average of 5% in 2011, the analysts say.
Premium on in-force voluntary coverage may have increased about 6%, to somewhere between $20 billion and $26 billion, the analysts estimate.
The analysts have based the figures on survey data from about 60 carriers that sell individual products at the worksite, group insurance plans that are at least partly employee-paid, or both individual worksite products and employee-paid group products.
Eastbridge has been conducting the voluntary market survey for 15 years. For the first 13 years, voluntary sales always went up. Even in recession years, sales increased, possibly because employees were buying voluntary products to replace coverage that had been provided by traditional, employer-paid group insurance plans.
The situation changed last year. For the first time, Eastbridge analysts found that voluntary sales had dropped. Sales fell to $5.2 billion, down 2.9% from the 2010 total.
"The good news is that the voluntary industry rebounded very quickly in just one year," Bonnie Brazzell, a vice president at Eastbridge, says in a statement about the latest survey results.