Author Archives: Steve Aldrich

Changing voluntary disability from an optional benefit to a necessity

January 27, 2017 | By Cort Olsen | Employee Benefit Adviser

Enrollment in voluntary benefits continues to grow, with products such as critical illness and accident insurance seeing double-digit rises in participation in recent years. However, voluntary disability appears to be trailing behind as one of the lesser understood and utilized benefits, say industry experts.

“Health products such as hospital indemnity, critical illness and accident solutions can help round out the healthcare plan. But I think when those conversations happen, quite often the life and disability plan may not get the full attention it deserves,” says Phil Bruen, vice president of group life and disability products at MetLife.

To assist with the enrollment and participation of disability benefits, Breanna Scott, director of product management at The Standard, is seeing the integration of voluntary disability into employers’ wellness programs.

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6 non-traditional voluntary trends for 2017

January 9, 2017 | By Elizabeth Halkos | Benefits Pro

Voluntary benefits are becoming a mainstay in the employee benefits package. I don’t think anyone – brokers, employers or even employees – doubt that today. Voluntary benefits are popular because even though employees are paying for these benefits, they can get what they want by customizing their benefits package for their own particular needs.

Traditional voluntary benefits include products that complement company-sponsored core benefits and round out a benefit portfolio that suits employees’ individual needs. With non-traditional voluntary benefits, employees can even further personalize their benefits package, choosing optional benefits that resonate the most with their needs and lifestyles.

So what should we expect in 2017 in non-traditional voluntary benefits? Here are six trends to look for:

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10 reasons why employees buy (or waive) voluntary benefits

November 17, 2016 | By Tom Nelson & Patrick Toner | Employee Benefit Adviser

Based on groundbreaking research, a new report – Who Buys Voluntary Benefits and Why: 2016 Employee Benefits Enrollment Study – yields important, and in some cases confounding, insights for employers, brokers, enrollers and carriers. The nationwide study captured attitudes and perceptions of 2,877 full-time employee respondents, drawn from a variety of industry verticals, and focused on three key questions:

1) What are the reasons (drivers) why employees buy or waive 10 types of voluntary benefits (medical, dental, vision, life, STD, LTD, critical illness, accident, hospital and wellness)?

2) Are there differences in buying behaviors across different types of employees?

3) How satisfied are employees with the benefits offered to them; how confident are they in their benefits-related decision-making, and, most importantly, is there a link between employees benefits behaviors and their feelings toward their employer?

In addition to the quantitative results generated through 23 survey questions, more than 10,000 verbatim comments were captured and content-analyzed to generated additional voice of the employee voluntary benefits insights.

Here are 10 key insights arising from the research:

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The IHC Group Inks Deal to Acquire Minority Stake in ABACUS Group, LLC

By Jeena Choi – NEW YORK, NY (PRWEB) | OCTOBER 19, 2016

The IHC Group Inks Deal to Acquire Minority Stake in ABACUS Group, LLC

Under the new agreement, Abacus will distribute IHC’s voluntary benefit products, including critical illness, gap plans, hospital indemnity, and telemedicine, in addition to their current offerings.

IHC Specialty Benefits, the specialty health marketing and distribution arm of The IHC Group (IHC) today announced its agreement to acquire a minority interest in The ABACUS Group, LLC (Abacus). Based in Knoxville, Tenn., Abacus is a managing general underwriter specializing in worksite marketing of voluntary benefits for over 35 years. Under the new agreement, Abacus will distribute IHC’s voluntary benefit products, including critical illness, gap plans, hospital indemnity, and telemedicine, in addition to their current offerings.
With the record and continued growth of voluntary benefits sales, this agreement comes at an optimal time. In 2015, voluntary benefits sales saw their largest year-over-year increase in the past five years. These sales are expected to continue rising 3- to 5- percent over the next several years, meaning that worksite marketing will remain an important tool for employers and employee benefits professionals as they strive to attract and retain top talent.
Additionally, a 2015 LIMRA (Life Insurance and Market Research Association) U.S. Worksite Sales survey found that 71 percent of employers believe voluntary benefits improve worker morale and satisfaction. And, as healthcare costs continue to increase, employees are looking for options. Nearly 40 percent of employees say that a wide selection of benefits would make them feel more loyal to their employer, and nearly 60 percent prefer to buy their health benefits at work.
“Abacus and MNL have worked together for three years, and it presented a great strategic fit for both organizations,” stated Robert Stubbe, Executive Vice President of Madison National Life Insurance Company, Inc. (MNL), an IHC affiliate and primary carrier for Abacus. He added, “Our new partnership will expand not only IHCs distribution channel, but also increase Abacus range of voluntary benefit products in the marketplace utilizing MNLs broad portfolio in the employer group market.”
“Abacus has built a trust and reputation in the industry by working with “best in class” partners, and IHC is definitely one of the best,” commented Jeff Sikora, President and Chief Executive Officer of Abacus. “We are looking forward to growing together with IHC and bringing the most competitive and flexible products to the marketplace utilizing MNLs broad portfolio in the employer group market.”
Hal Denton, Senior Vice President of Abacus remarked, “While we have been well known in the Guarantee Issue Voluntary Short Term (VSTD) and Long Term Disability (VLTD) market for years, the addition of the IHC product offerings will round out our product portfolio.”
For more information on Abacus or voluntary benefit products, please contact Jeff Sikora at 800-643-2212 or Jeff.Sikora(at)ABACUSgroupins(dot)com and Hal Denton at 800-653-5242 or Hal.Denton(at)ABACUSgroupins(dot)com.


About The IHC Group
Independence Holding Company (NYSE: IHC) is a holding company that is principally engaged in underwriting, administering and/or distributing group and individual disability, specialty and supplemental health, pet, and life insurance through its subsidiaries since 1980. The IHC Group owns three insurance companies (Standard Security Life Insurance Company of New York, Madison National Life Insurance Company, Inc. and Independence American Insurance Company) and IHC Specialty Benefits, Inc., which is a technology-driven insurance sales and marketing company that creates value for insurance producers, carriers and consumers (both individuals and small businesses) through a suite of proprietary tools and products (including ACA plans and small group medical stop-loss). All products are placed with highly rated carriers.
“IHC” and “The IHC Group” are the brand names for plans, products and services provided by one or more of the subsidiaries and affiliate member companies of The IHC Group (“IHC Entities”). Plans, products and services are solely and only provided by one or more IHC Entities specified on the plan, product or service contract, not The IHC Group. Not all plans, products and services are available in each state.

About ABACUS Group, LLC.
The Abacus Group is an experienced and effective managing general underwriting firm dedicated to forging long lasting relationships with our clients. With products backed by the worlds largest reinsurers, The Abacus Group specializes in the design and pricing of Disability and Group life plans. With 38 years of experience, we maintain underwriting authority and discretion to bring to you a product that is fundamentally sound. We are not driven by Wall Street trends, stock prices, or corporate management whims. We are rooted in the belief that quality doesn’t just happen; rather it is a result of high expectations, intelligent direction, and skillful execution.


  • Yes, it is exciting times. The opportunity was initiated by Sun Life buying Assurant Health, which included Union Security (USI) and DRMS; one of the insurance carriers we issue policies through and the reinsurance carrier that covered the risk. Sun Life wants to keep the reinsurance on the block, but they want the carrier paper for other products. In searching for a home for this block, we went to carriers that we had already built specialty products with. We approached Madison National Life (MNL) which reinsures a large block of trucking business. The timing was perfect in that their parent, Independent Holding Company (IHC), had just sold their stop loss plans and was redefining their marketplace. While they had some products filed through their various insurance companies, they were not really in the voluntary market and needed a block to jumpstart their knowledge and exposure.
    MNL wants to be a aggressive player in the voluntary market and this investment includes moving the paper from USI to MNL to grow a good solid base of VSTD and VLTD premium. In addition, they are building out the Life offering, Hospital Indemnity (limited Medical, HI, and Accident all in one flexible filing), and CI plans. IHC also owns several other carriers with compatible products that they hope to push through our distribution (Pet insurance-type offering). However, while this is happening, it does not interfere with our current plan offerings that are reinsured through Group Reinsurance Plus (GRP – owned by Hartford) or any of the other plans we have developed. In fact, it eases the entry into the market as we have multiple reinsurance treaties, that allow MNL to take as little or as much risk as they desire.
    Finally, by offering these products through NABCo, we are able to combine all of the voluntary products onto one bill; giving ABACUS a full product portfolio of voluntary and employer paid products.
    We still don’t need a census to quote most groups of less than 1,000 employees. Just give me the group’s name, address, and number of employees and I can run a quote for you.

    Hal Denton
    Senior Vice President
    ABACUS Group, LLC.

  • The workplace benefits migration

    September 16, 2016 | By Nick Thornton |


    Two-thirds of insurances carriers experienced an overall increase in voluntary sales in 2015, with half of carriers reporting sales increases of 12 percent of more, according to the LIMRA U.S. Worksite Sales survey.

    That marked the fifth consecutive year of increased sales across all voluntary lines. Life insurance led the growth, with an 8 percent sales increase – the largest jump since 2010. Supplemental health lines were up 4 percent.

    While the news of continued growth likely surprised few brokers and industry experts, a closer look at the degree to which traditionally core benefit offerings have migrated to a completely voluntary model – in which the employee pays the entire premium – reveals some counterintuitive results, according to Kim Landry, a senior analyst of workplace benefits research at LIMRA.

    Landry and her team looked at data on eight core benefits, for the period spanning 2009 to 2013. Here, they compared the rate at which each benefit was offered on a strictly voluntary basis.

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    Data suggest more employers shifting DI to employee-paid

    September 15, 2016 | By Nick Thornton |

    According to the Social Security Administration, nearly seven out of 10 workers, or about 100 million people, do not have long-term disability coverage.

    Independent and insurance industry data suggest far more workers will need the protection than have it. The SSA estimates that more than one-quarter of 20-year-olds will be disabled at some point in their working careers. The Insurance Information Institute, a provider of industry-funded research, says 43 percent of workers age 40 will suffer a disabling event lasting 90 days or more by the age of 65.

    Evidence of employers shifting disability to a voluntary offering

    Data from the Council for Disability Awareness, a nonprofit funded by the majority of disability insurance providers, suggests fewer employers are providing long-term disability as a core benefit.

    A tool for brokers

    So why do tens of millions of workers go without disability protection? The simple answer is, they dont think they need it.

    According to the Social Security Administration, two-thirds of wage earners say they have a 2 percent chance or less of being disabled for three months or more during their working career, far less than the 25 percent chance the SSA says workers actually have.

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    Who Needs What When It Comes To Voluntary Benefits

    September 2, 2016 | By Stephanie Shields |

    Our lives are in constant motion – we’re continually reaching new milestones and passing into new stages. Because our needs shift as much as our lives do, it’s important to consider whether we have safeguards in place for ourselves and our families as we pass through each stage. Voluntary benefits provide financial protection that can be tailored based on a number of personal factors to give just that.

    Insurance isn’t one size fits all. A product thats crucial for a young adult just starting out in the workforce might not be as important for a middle-aged employee with children, let alone for an older worker staring into the face of retirement. That’s why its important for benefits experts to emphasize the continual need for employers to assess their benefits offerings and for workers to be certain their insurance combinations provide the best protection possible.

    Here are some key types of insurance that workers can rely on to help them make it through the worst of times, as well as the types of workers who need this protection and at what life stages – or more specifically, at what career stages – they need the coverage.

    So what types of coverage are most needed by workers and why? And at what life stages do they need the coverage and how does it work? Let’s break it down.

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    How Dawn Sheue became a voluntary evangelist

    July 26, 2016 | By Mike Nesper | Employee Benefit Adviser

    When Dawn Sheue entered the insurance industry 30 years ago, she solely focused on building the best possible core medical plan for her clients. Voluntary benefits weren’t a consideration. “I sold against voluntary benefits for years,” says Sheue, president of Summit Insurance Services, Inc., based in Jackson, Wyo. “It was an unnecessary ‘add on.'”
    Then, her neighbor was diagnosed with cancer. She had medical insurance via the local school district – a plan Sheue managed. Still, Sheues neighbors were forced to file for medical bankruptcy.
    “I felt personally responsible,” Sheue says. “It was painful.” That experience sparked Sheue to investigate voluntary benefits. “I was just relentless about researching these carriers who handled what I always thought were these ‘extra add-ons,'” she says. Now, incorporating voluntary products into the core medical plan is standard operating procedure for Sheue – an approach she has been taking for the past 15 years.

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    How can brokers prepare for the millennial surge?

    July 22, 2016 | By Gene Raymondi | Benefits Pro

    In todays fast-paced and competitive landscape, brokers often struggle to provide the support and ongoing communication that their valued clients demand. Many employers expect brokers to assist them in achieving their human capital and benefit objectives, including addressing the communication needs of the largest generation in their workforce, the millennials. So, how can brokers remain responsive and connected to their clients while aggressively pursuing new business opportunities?

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    Q&A: Voluntary benefits are surging; so is the technology to support them

    July 11, 2016 | By Kathleen Koster | Employee Benefit News

    The voluntary market continues its rapid growth trajectory, as employers increasingly turn to these employee-paid for benefits to fill gaps in the coverage that they offer.

    To learn more about the latest voluntary trends, Employee Benefit News sat down with Jeff Smith, assistant vice president in Unums National Client Group, which recently expanded its own lineup of voluntary offerings.

    EBN: Whats new in the voluntary benefits market?

    JEFF SMITH: The benefits industry in general, and especially voluntary benefits, has seen a surge of new technology that informs and educates consumers more effectively about their benefit options.

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