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In simple terms, a zero-sum game is one in which the victories of one competitor are exactly matched by the losses of another. The total market changes very little, while the competitors trade business and shares of the market.

Is the benefits marketplace a zero-sum game? There is evidence that it is. Look at the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for several ancillary benefit products. The 10-year CAGR for life insurance sales based on premiums sold was 1 percent. For short- and long-term disability income products, it was zero. For dental insurance, the sales CAGR based on numbers of subscribers was actually negative, at minus 3 percent. The only products showing positive CAGRs were the relatively new lines of critical illness (+17 percent) and accident (+11 percent).

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