Several voluntary benefits vendors are reporting that it's been a tough couple of years, as employers and their workers are more focused on basic medical coverage than other options that cost extra. Yet other research supports a case for a greater, if gradual, acceptance of voluntary benefits as part of standard package design.

If, in fact, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has caused employers and employees to hunker down with respect to package design, that may just be the bump in the road to increased interest in—and greater sales of—voluntary benefits, says one voluntary products competitor. Benefits managers need to communicate more clearly and more often so that employees better understand the role voluntary products can play in their overall financial security.

Unum, a vendor of such products, has produced a Buyers Benefits Guide to help agents and benefits managers select and promote voluntary benefits options in a way that will increase the benefits package's appeal to current and prospective employees. Unum acknowledges the dampening effect of the PPACA but offers evidence that the longer trend line for voluntary sales is decidedly upward.

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.