Brokers writing business in the small employer market have typically deployed simplified carrier selection and enrollment strategies, such as using one carrier for all voluntary products and conducting enrollments with paper forms. However, employers' changing expectations suggest that these go-to practices may become less successful.

Consider, for example, the number of carriers used in offering voluntary products. An Eastbridge broker survey found that 38% of brokers focusing on cases with fewer than 100 employees recommend one carrier to simplify administration or to receive premium discounts, a percentage that is significantly higher than brokers focusing on larger cases.

However, the recent Eastbridge Voluntary and the Small Case Market report found that the number of employers using a single carrier for all their voluntary products has dropped from nearly half in 2016 to 37% in the 10-49 employee category and to 28% in the 50-99 size group in 2020. Use of multiple carriers to offer voluntary products is now the norm across size segments.

Another example where strategy is changing is in administration. As an industry, we have assumed that smaller groups are not interested in or cannot afford the technology often used by larger groups for administration and enrollment. However, the same report found that almost a quarter of small employers say they will not select a carrier that does not offer online administration. Small employers also prefer online self-service enrollments that utilize their benefits administration system (if they have one).

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