Author Archives: Steve Aldrich

10 tips for selling voluntary and new products

As you work with employers to help them expand their offerings and put together a best-in-class benefits plan, here are 10 tips to keep in mind.

March 6, 2019 | By BenefitsPRO Editors

Have you heard about the labor market? It’s hot, and employers are struggling to attract and keep top talent. This past year saw a significant change in employers’ benefits strategies, as their top priority shifted from controlling costs to competing for talent.

Health insurance, paid time off and flex scheduling continue to be major draws for candidates, but employers are also sweetening the pot with an array of voluntary benefits. The cherry on top might be the ease of access and use of these benefits, making a good benefits administration platform a must.

As you work with employers to help them expand their offerings and put together a best-in-class benefits plan, here are 10 tips to keep in mind.

1. The most successful brokers have long ago cast aside the assumption that employers are not interested in voluntary and have been tirelessly working to understand and align themselves towards employers’ most pressing voluntary-oriented needs. — Bonnie Brazzell, Eastbridge Consulting Group

2. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid): Negotiate high guaranteed-issue amounts for voluntary benefits. Then, limit choice to those G.I. options. Employees want simplicity in enrolling and employers want a streamlined process. — Kevin Kennedy, TriBen Insurance

3. When voluntary benefit programs are positioned as an integral part of the employee benefit experience, employees are more likely to understand the value. Communicate that voluntary benefits can be an integral part of a “total rewards package.” — Peter Marcia, YouDecide

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Let’s stop taking Life for granted

We tend to treat group term life insurance as a commodity, focusing on price instead of employee needs.

February 14, 2019 | By Marty Traynor – BenefitsPro

Group life insurance is one of the most common benefits offered by employers. When asked about the importance of benefits in a 2018 LIMRA study, employees rated life insurance only behind medical benefits, paid vacation and retirement plans. In the same study, a survey of employers indicated they think employees rank life insurance lower than they do. Perhaps these employers are taking life for granted.

Group life insurance doesn’t come across as a very exciting product, partly because it’s so familiar to employers and employees. Employers know employees want to provide financial security to loved ones. Basic group life insurance provides sufficient money to cover basic final expenses. Providing for dependents’ future financial security expands the need and amplifies the amount of necessary coverage. That’s where term and permanent voluntary life insurance provides a great solution.

It seems unlikely that group life is being overlooked, but let’s look at the facts:

• In a recent LIMRA study, 17 percent of employers indicated they plan to drop group life insurance as a benefit. The overall number offering group life insurance was down 14 percent between 2006 and the 2018 study.

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Voluntary Benefits: Getting the Most Out of Tech

‘A major appeal of voluntary benefits is the increased sophistication of #HRTech that can be used for payroll contributions, communications and enrollments.’ -Peter Marcia, @YouDecideCEO #HR

January 29, 2019 | By YouDecide CEO Peter Marcia – for The HCM Technology Report

Most benefits managers in the industry are exhaling a collective sigh of relief now that open enrollment is complete and the first deductions with the new benefit amounts have been applied without a hitch (we hope).

Now, ready or not, it’s time to start thinking about 2020 open enrollment. Escalating healthcare costs and increasing insurance gaps will again catapult voluntary benefits to the forefront.

Voluntary benefits help complement a total rewards plan and fill essential gaps caused by cuts in traditional benefit programs. As with core medical programs, employers can get better underwriting, pricing and plan designs than what an employee would typically find on the individual market. A major appeal of voluntary benefits is the increased sophistication of technology that can be used for payroll contributions, communications and enrollments.

During the 2019 open enrollment cycle, employers used technology in new ways to administer and communicate their voluntary benefits. We expect the “shift toward voluntary benefit delivery” to accelerate as carrier partners upgrade technology platforms, product portfolios, underwriting models, and communications methods to meet the needs of employers.

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Why voluntary benefits are good for employers

Products like accident insurance may help your clients get, and keep, the best workers.

January 8, 2019 | By Andy Glaub – BenefitsPro

Following eight years of job growth, the U.S. unemployment rate hit a nearly five-decade low in September, according to a recent U.S. Department of Labor jobs report. While this is good news for the U.S. economy, it suggests there is a smaller pool of active job-seekers and a high demand for workers.

As a result, companies are facing fierce competition when it comes to winning over new talent. While some companies are raising wages to woo job candidates, many companies cannot afford to do so. However, boosting benefits is another effective strategy for not only winning new talent, but keeping talent around. In fact, 55 percent of the 2,000 employees surveyed for the 2018 Aflac WorkForces Report said they would be at least somewhat likely to accept a job offer with slightly lower compensation but better benefits options. Additionally, more than one-third of employees said an improved benefits package would help keep them in their current job.

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Short-Term Health Plans Highly Profitable for Brokers and Insurers

December 21, 2018 | By Julie Appleby – Kaiser Health News

Sure, they’re less expensive for consumers, but short-term health policies have another side: They’re highly profitable for insurers and offer hefty sales commissions.

Driven by rising premiums for Affordable Care Act plans, interest in short-term insurance is growing, boosted by Trump administration actions to ease Obama-era restrictions and possibly make federal subsidies available to consumers to purchase them.

That’s good news for brokers, who often see commissions on such policies hit 20 percent or more.

On a policy costing $200 a month, for example, that could translate to a $40 payment each month. By contrast, ACA plan commissions, which are often flat dollar amounts rather than a percentage of premium, can range from zero to $20 per enrollee per month.

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Inadequate workplace benefits cause employees to jump ship

December 7, 2018 | By Terri Williams – MultiBriefs

Employee benefits might be more important than you think. Smart companies are using them to attract and retain talent, and employees indicate that they prefer workplace benefits over a salary increase.
A report by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) reveals that by a margin of 4 to 1, American workers favor workplace benefits over an increase in salary.

According to a Randstad US report, 61 percent of employees say a strong benefits and perks package is the most important factor when considering job offers — and 61 percent would be willing to accept a lower salary if the company offered a great benefits package. And according to that study, 55 percent have actually left jobs because they found better benefits or perks elsewhere.
Perhaps that’s why a recent Gallagher report reveals that 45 percent of employers chose not to increase their employees’ costs for healthcare benefits.

So, why are benefits so important to employees, and which benefits do employees want?

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2019 Forecast: 5 Trends to Expect in Voluntary Benefits

November 27, 2018 | By Elizabeth Halkos – Purchasing Power, LLC

ATLANTA, Nov. 27, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — In today’s tight job market with employers vying to recruit and retain top talent, it’s no surprise that voluntary benefits are now a “must-have” in the employee benefits package. In addition to explosive growth in the range of available voluntary benefits in recent years, their popularity among employees is reaching new heights as well.

“Gone are the days where voluntary benefits are simply a “nice-extra” for employee benefits. In today’s modern workplace with a diverse, multigenerational workforce that has varying characteristics, lifestyles and preferences, employers can no longer provide one-size-fits-all benefits even in the voluntary arena,” said Purchasing Power® Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Halkos. “A broad benefits package positions a business as a company that listens, cares and is worth working for. Voluntary benefits offer employees a variety of specialized benefits so they can choose the ones they want,” she added.

Whether it’s benefits that supplement their “core” benefits such as health, life and disability insurance, or the plethora of others that range from identify theft protection to pet insurance to employee purchase programs and even student loan refinancing arrangements and egg harvesting, voluntary benefits are a cost-effective method for employers to provide a broad benefits package that give employees options. “And that’s important,” Halkos continued, “because only 60 percent of employees believe their employer’s benefit plans are competitive with those offered by other organizations, according to the PwC 2018 Employee Financial Wellness Survey.”

What’s ahead in 2019 for voluntary benefits? Here are Halkos’ predictions on the trends for next year.

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How to handle gaps in health insurance coverage

October 15, 2018 | By Robert Grubka | CNBC StraightTalk

  • Open enrollment for employer benefits begins at many companies each fall.
  • This period is a good time to consider additional benefits to help cover the gaps in health insurance coverage.
  • Consider factors such as costs and your age, familiarize yourself with the rules of the coverage you’re considering, and avail yourself of all the tools your employer provides.

Many companies in the next few weeks will offer employees a chance to review and enroll in workplace benefits for the following year. During this open-enrollment period, many people focus on their health insurance, which makes perfect sense.

Insurance offers financial backing for annual wellness doctor visits or visits to the hospital if you get sick or injured. Some employers might also offer additional benefits that can help cover some of the unexpected costs not covered under a specific health insurance plan.

The financial impact from uncovered health-care expenses can be a shock and even affect a person’s financial wellness. But there are ways to alleviate the stress.

Anyone can be injured or become sick unexpectedly. Accidents, sports injuries and diagnoses of serious illnesses are common, and the costs can add up. An average family has more than $4,500 in out-of-pocket medical costs each year, according to 2017 Milliman’s Medical Index.

Many people can’t absorb that cost. A recent study by the Urban Institute found that 4 in 10 Americans are struggling to pay for basic needs, such as groceries or housing. Unexpected costs can compound that and also derail retirement planning.

Your company’s annual benefits open-enrollment period is a good time to consider additional benefits to help you cover the gaps in health insurance coverage.

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Employees Seek Personalized Perks During Open Enrollment

October 4, 2018 | By Stephen Miller | Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

Voluntary, nontraditional benefits meet needs at different life stages

Employees’ desire for benefits tailored to their own needs is changing the mix of offerings this open-enrollment season.

“There is clear incentive for employers to get their benefits right and focus on the individual,” said Chris Bruce, managing director at Thomsons Online Benefits, a benefits management software firm. “Employees today don’t want to be just another number; they want to feel listened to, understood and cared for by their employer,” he added. “Delivering a personalized benefits scheme, which is able to accommodate an individual’s interests and life goals, is instrumental in achieving this, helping to ensure [employees] remain at the organization and have the support they need to work at their best.”

For example, next January General Mills is increasing fully paid time off for new birth mothers to 18 to 20 weeks, up from six weeks, and parental leave (for fathers, partners and adoptive parents) to 12 weeks, up from two weeks. To help employees at all life stages, the company is also introducing or improving other benefits, such as:

  • Caregiver leave. General Mills will offer caregivers two weeks of paid leave to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition.
  • Bereavement. The company will provide up to four weeks’ paid time off for employees following the death of an immediate relative.
  • Short-term disability. Employees will receive 100 percent paid time off for up to eight weeks and 65 percent of pay for up to 26 weeks.
  • These new benefits apply to both salaried and nonunion production workers in the U.S.

    “We spent a lot of time talking with employees at different life stages and asking questions about their pain points and what contributes to feeling torn between work and home,” stated Jacqueline Williams-Roll, chief HR officer at General Mills. “Out of those discussions, we developed a strategy to focus on those moments when employees really need support the most.”

    Nontraditional Benefits

    A 2018 survey by TriNet, an HR services provider, found that 91 percent of employees at small and medium-size businesses view nontraditional benefits as important to their job satisfaction.
    Nontraditional benefits include perks such as flexible work schedules, expanded paid time off, commuter benefits and remote-work options.

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    68% of Employees Would Purchase a Group Life Insurance Plan If Offered to Them

    September 6, 2018 | By Michael Guta | Small Business Trends

    A survey conducted on behalf of OneAmerica by Harris Poll revealed 68% of workers would be somewhat or very likely to purchase voluntary group life insurance if it was offered by their employer.
    The survey comes as Life Insurance Awareness Month is being recognized in September, which highlights the need for this type of coverage. With voluntary life insurance, businesses give their employees optional life insurance which they have to pay for.

    Whether it is the workforce of small or large businesses, oftentimes employees don’t consider life insurance as an option. However, with a tight labor market more organizations are making provisions to make life insurance available in different forms as an incentive.

    As Jim McGovern, senior vice president of employee benefits at OneAmerica said in the press release, “For most employees, the workplace is the only opportunity they have to purchase life insurance.”

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