Author Archives: Steve Aldrich

The evolution of voluntary: Expanding voluntary benefit offerings

July 5, 2018 | By Scott Wooldridge | BenefitsPRO

When it comes to voluntary benefits, the best defense is a good offense.

Although the growth of voluntary benefits has resulted in the vast majority of brokers offering some kind of voluntary benefit product, there are still agencies out there that are looking to expand in this area.
As we saw in the first installment of this series, the reasons for doing this are many. In addition to improving revenues, brokers are finding strong demand for these products, and can work with their clients to present a comprehensive set of benefits by carrying a full array of voluntary benefit offerings. For many, this approach is simply a necessary part of staying competitive.

“If you’re not doing this, somebody else is going to be,” notes Mike Estep, vice president of group products and worksite leader of Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. “A good defense is the best offense.”

The list of voluntary benefits is long; in addition to traditional offerings such as disability coverage, as well as dental and optometry insurance, carriers now have hospital insurance, accident insurance, and critical care insurance. These products are often popular with employees who have high deductible health plans such as HSAs, to fill possible coverage gaps. Other voluntary benefits can include long-term care, legal services, student loan reimbursement, protection against identify theft, and more.

Talk to your clients

Experts say an important step in expanding voluntary benefits is to talk to clients…

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Voluntary benefits: How they’ve become a must-have product for brokers

June 28, 2018 | By Scott Wooldridge | BenefitsPRO

In the first of a three-part series, we explore how voluntary benefits have become an important part of a complete benefit package.

Voluntary benefits have become one of the biggest stories in the brokerage world in recent years. With an expanding economy driving demand for workers, employers have needed the flexibility and added coverage that voluntary benefits provide. The growth of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), with their high deductibles, have also led to voluntary benefit plans that help with gaps in medical insurance coverage.
But another factor has been the growth of enrollment and administrative tools, including online platforms, which have helped make these products easier to manage and understand.

In this three-part series, we will explore how voluntary benefits have become an important part of a complete benefit package, how brokers can expand their voluntary benefits offerings, and how to find the best fit between product, carrier and client.

Voluntary benefits—the early years

The move toward nearly universal voluntary benefits offerings came about rather quickly, but experts remember when those products were considered a specialty insurance offering. Marty Traynor, senior vice president of voluntary benefits and workplace solutions at Mutual of Omaha, notes that at one point, voluntary benefits were considered separate from employer-sponsored benefits. “There’s been a trend toward overall benefit planning by employers,” he says. “In today’s marketplace, what we see is overall planning that encompasses both employer-paid or -sponsored plans, and voluntary plans, which employees paid for. So there’s been historically a separation of voluntary from other core benefits. But today, employers and their advisors are looking at it as a seamless benefit package.”

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What’s one thing that’s broken about health care or the benefits industry?

June 12, 2018 | By BenefitsPRO Editors

We asked our readers to share their solutions to fix some of the health care and benefits industry’s biggest problems. Here’s their action plan.

Clear the clouds

The overall transparency to the end user is still extremely vague at best, considering all of the tools and mechanisms in place today. Until this is resolved, we will continue to face an uphill challenge in providing quality treatment at a customizable level for a fair price.
To assist us, greater hands-on involvement and communication of the “how” and “whys” will bridge that gap and allow us to meet the potential customizable needs of each individual end user as well as the group as a whole.

Trevor J. Garbers, vice president, practice leader, HUB International Limited

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The line between voluntary brokers and employee benefit brokers is fading, report says

May 22, 2018 | By Valerie Bolden-Barrett – HR DIVE

Dive Brief:

The fight for employer business is growing fiercer as differentiation between voluntary brokers and employee benefit brokers continues to fade, BenefitsPRO had concluded following a recent survey. The number of brokers who say they actively sell voluntary benefits or cross-sell voluntary benefits to all their accounts rose 10 percentage points in the past three years, the survey revealed.

Dive Insight:

Voluntary benefits are no longer just “nice to have,” a new Willis Towers Watson (WTW) study concluded. They’re becoming a mainstay of employer benefits offerings, as companies increasingly work to address workers’ personal needs. Just 5% of employers in the WTW survey said voluntary benefits had little effect on their employee value proposition.

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Why Small Businesses Should Offer Voluntary Benefits

April 11, 2018 | By Joe Quintana – Corporate Wellness Magazine

Small business owners are continually faced with the perennial question of how to stay competitive with their larger counterparts. In every aspect of running a business, from pricing, to quality, to distribution, staying competitive can seem like a David and Goliath situation for small business owners.

This is especially true when it comes to attracting talent and hiring the right people. Simply put, large companies have deeper pockets. They have greater resources and can offer more in terms of benefits and pay. Granted, there are many advantages that come with working for a small company. Greater flexibility, a more personal connection with the overall vision and operations, and more opportunity are just some of the reasons people prefer to work for a smaller company.

Nonetheless, though someone may wish to work for a small company, when it comes down to it, they will often choose a larger company with larger pockets simply because they get more money and more benefits.

Managers in small organizations constantly think about ways they can recruit strong candidates. How can they sweeten their overall package? How can they wow a candidate, but not hurt their bottom line?

We’ll look at four reasons offering voluntary benefits can be a cost-effective solution for small businesses hoping to expand their benefits package and compete against larger employers.

1. Doesn’t cost the employer anything

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To connect millennials and Gen Z to the right employee benefits, know their story

April 2, 2018 | By Ryan Golden – HR Dive.com

HR conferences host a wide range of discussions on how to hire, support and retain younger workers — often reflexively referred to as millennials — and one critical component of these efforts is benefits. Employers can’t afford to overlook the unique requirements and inclinations of key segments of the multigenerational workforce when it comes to the benefits offered and how they are administered.

The so-called millennial generation (defined as those born between 1981 and 1996) is now the largest segment of the U.S. workforce, according to the Pew Research Center. The needs of millennial employees are also generally shared by their colleagues born after 1996, known by the “Generation Z” moniker. But these two generations are more than curiosities — they are a growing force to be reckoned with. Experts are advising employers to re-evaluate their employee benefits strategies accordingly.

A world of difference

No two generations experience the same life events in the same order. That applies when speaking of the differences between the lifespans of, say, the generation called either traditionalists or the silent generation (born before 1946) and Gen Xers (defined as those born between 1965 and about 1980). HR should apply this same thinking to their younger peers, said John MacPhee, CEO and executive director of The Jed Foundation, a nonprofit focusing on the mental health of young adults.

“It’s important that we understand that things are changing fast, and the world that emerging adults are growing up in today is quite different than even 10 years ago, arguably more than five years ago,” MacPhee said during a webinar presented by the Disability Management Employer Coalition. “There’s heightened risks around sustainable employment [and] the gig economy — it feels less settled.”

This changing landscape has revealed key differences in how millennials select and consume employee benefits, Emily Bailey, principal at OneDigital, told HR Dive in an interview.

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Workplace Benefits Influence Employee Feelings Of Financial Security, Study Says

March 9, 2018 | By Jadah Riley – Financial Advisor

Most Americans feel more financially secure because of the financial and insurance benefits they receive through their employer, according to a study by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual).

However, this perspective changes depending on the income level of workers. Fifty-eight percent of middle-income workers and 65 percent of upper middle-income workers say they feel more secure because of benefits from their employer. Only 42 percent of lower-income workers reported feeling the same security. A lack of financial education among workers may be contributing to lower levels of confidence.

Individuals who report feeling less financially secure are less likely to have access to benefits such as a 401(k) or other retirement savings vehicles, or life, disability, accident or dental insurance, according to the report.

Employees are interested in their benefits and how to protect their finances in emergencies. Workers showed the highest level of interest in specific benefits including disability insurance (78 percent), continuing retirement contributions while disabled (74 percent), insurance for critical illness (74 percent), accident insurance (67 percent), and low cost emergency loans (57 percent) among all income levels.

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What advisers need to know about today’s critical illness insurance

March 8, 2018 | By Pam Jenkins, Employee Benefit Adviser

Critical illness insurance is turning 35 this year, but it’s still growing and evolving to meet the ever-changing needs of your client’s employees.

Sales of critical illness saw double-digit growth each year from 2010 to 2016, according to the Eastbridge U.S. Voluntary Worksite Sales Report. Overall, sales during that time grew approximately 175 percent to more than $550 million and voluntary sales of critical illness policies have now exceeded the sales of long-term disability, universal/whole life and cancer, according to Eastbridge.

But if advisers aren’t familiar with how CI can help their clients meet their goals and objectives, they should be. And they should also know how much flexible and robust these offerings are becoming.

Among CI’s advantages:
· Simplicity….
· Flexibility…
· Simplified underwriting options….
· Creates distinction in your portfolio….
· Meets an important need….

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Hospital indemnity: meeting today’s workforce needs

February 28, 2018 | By Danielle Lehman, The Standard | BenefitsPRO

It’s important for employees to know before they get hurt about products like hospital indemnity that can help offset coverage gaps, and how technology solutions have been created to better prepare for the unexpected.

For an employer, few things are more unsettling than receiving an unexpected call or email that an employee has been hospitalized. Often, when someone is admitted to the hospital unexpectedly, many questions start going through a supervisor’s head. What happened? Will he or she be OK? How long will the recovery take? Are there long-term implications?

An employee may have many of the same questions, with the added burden of financial concerns. How long will I be off work? What about my family’s needs? How will I cover my deductible? Will all of the treatment or medicine be covered by insurance? How much will subsequent treatment and medicine cost? The list goes on.

These questions may intensify with the increased popularity of high-deductible health plans (HDHP) as participants are required to pay the deductible, which can be thousands of dollars, before their insurance starts paying. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that among people with health insurance, 1 in 5 working-age Americans reported having trouble paying medical bills in the past year. Of those insured with medical coverage, 63 percent reported using most or all of their savings to cover the costs. Fortunately, these gaps in coverage can be reduced through the purchase of voluntary insurance benefits….

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Employees cite affordability as the top reason for buying voluntary products in Eastbridge Consulting’s latest report

February 27, 2018 | By Ginger Bates | EconoTimes

AVON, Conn. — Reasonable cost is the top reason cited by employees for buying voluntary products, according to Eastbridge’s MarketVision™ – The Employee Viewpoint Spotlight™ Report, followed by the product filling a personal need. A large percentage of employees also listed the reputation of the carrier for service and claims payments, the convenience of payroll deduction and being able to purchase products at work. Around 80% of respondents rated filling gaps in primary medical coverage and having a well-known insurance company name as important.

In addition, a majority of respondents prefer to complete applications electronically in the future either on their own via the internet/intranet or through a computer with a sales rep or benefits counselor. This preference has increased for every employer size compared to the 2015 study. One-third still prefer to use paper in future enrollments.

Today, more employees enroll through the Internet than any other method. Almost half enrolled for benefits electronically through a website or mobile device….

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