Working to lower costs
Most voluntary insurance plans cover a small percentage of employees who experience catastrophic events, but the plans do not address most expenses incurred when an employee accesses care before they have met their deductible.
Most voluntary benefit plans were designed to cover the 10 percent to 15 percent of the population who experience high claims, leaving 85 percent without significant coverage and with deductibles they cannot afford.
Voluntary products that may work alongside an underlying major medical program can help brokers and employers satisfy two critical goals: lower employer premium costs without significantly impacting an employee's out-of-pocket expense.
Scott Mardis, territory manager, Kemper Benefits
Related: Better benefits, lower cost
Protecting financial futures
Ninety-two percent of organizations in the U.S. report voluntary benefits will be important to their value proposition to employees over the next three to five years. Benefits like LTC and critical illness will continue to hold sway while options such as pet insurance and ID protection become popular choices for broker consideration.
We see ID theft and fraud prevention as a growing voluntary benefit for several reasons. The number of fraud victims hit a record high in 2016 at more than 15.4 million victims. More organizations see financial wellness as a pillar of their voluntary benefits programs, and ID theft and fraud prevention services protect employees from financial harm.
Employees in their 20s and 30s, who spend more time online than any other generation, are at highest risk of financial misfortune, social and reputational damage, and cybercrime. For this group, benefits like student loan repayment plans and social monitoring products will be attractive. Meanwhile, more senior employees and board members who are more security-concerned can take advantage of concierge style identity protection services alongside other premium benefits.
Matt Cullina, CEO, CyberScout
Choice is crucial
Choice has become a vital component of a strong benefits package. I hear many brokers and employers asking about options to help recruit and retain millennial employees, who now make up the majority of the workforce. Millennials are an “on demand” generation—they want to be given lots of options and then have the power to pick only those they deem useful. This mentality has driven demand for a wide variety of benefit options.
Moving forward, technology and choice will continue to play a role in making a wide variety of benefits more accessible to people, meeting them where they are— which is increasingly online.
Dennis Healy, chief sales officer, ARAG Legal Insurance
Voluntary benefits have evolved from should-offer to must-offer products. Here's why, according to MetLife's 15th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study:
The notion of the workplace is changing. The majority of employees are interested in “gigs,” with over half saying they are interested in contract or freelance work for more flexible hours, the ability to work remotely and project variety. This is highest among millennials, with two-thirds expressing interest.
Employees expect employers to meet their personal needs. Nearly three-quarters of employees say having benefits customized to meet their personal situation is important when considering a job.
With personalization prevalent in every aspect of employees’ lives, workplace benefits must follow suit. As employers focus on retaining talent in the gig era, with more than 80 percent saying retention is an important benefits objective, it's certain to fuel continued growth in voluntary offerings that can be tailored to meet employees’ unique needs.
Randy Stram, senior vice president, MetLife
EAPs improve outcomes
Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are quickly expanding beyond their traditional boundaries. With increased demand from employers that EAPs help boost productivity while reducing costs, brokers can suggest innovative approaches such as bundling customary EAP services with concierge work/life, wellness coaching, stress management and well-being programs. EAPs can also support mindfulness, resiliency and positive psychology programs, which can help employees eat healthier, lose weight, quit smoking and manage chronic pain.
Integrating EAPs with behavioral health services is another strategy to improve employee health and productivity. Mental health issues, such as undiagnosed and untreated depression, often exacerbated by substance abuse or other health conditions, take a heavy toll on the workplace. An integrated employee assistance/behavioral health program can help detect and address these conditions early, leading to improved outcomes, lower costs, and a better member experience.
Zachary J. Meyer, senior vice president, Optum
Related: 5 things your EAP might be missing
Fifteen years ago, voluntary benefits included supplemental life insurance and dental. How the landscape has changed since then. With legislative changes to health care and attempts to curb skyrocketing costs, employers and insurers are emphasizing voluntary benefits.
Voluntary benefits enhance core benefits. For example, with the rise of consumer-driven health care and its high out-of-pocket expenses, group worksite benefits (critical illness, accident and hospital indemnity insurance) offer financial relief to plan participants. Worksite benefits offered in conjunction with product purchase programs can address the challenge many employers face regarding overutilization of loan and withdrawal features of 401(k) plans. In effect, voluntary benefits are critical financial wellness tools for your workforce. Financial wellness reduces employee anxiety and can increase productivity, all at no cost to the employer.
Insurance carriers have expanded and enhanced their voluntary products to address changing demographics and shifts in employment trends. Many group products are portable to allow people to change jobs seamlessly. Group legal plans have recognized an aging workforce by including estate planning and eldercare assistance in their programs. Increased reliance on technology has opened the market for identity theft protection plans. These monitor financial, medical and social media identities of employees.
While the future of voluntary benefits will include both new products and a refinement of existing plans, the key will be to effectively communicate and present metrics demonstrating the value they provide to their employees.
Peter Marcia, CEO, YouDecide