Author Archives: Steve Aldrich

Voluntary benefits: 3 key insights on purchasing behavior

July 7, 2017 | By Dan Johnson | Benefits Pro

Some might believe being a good salesperson is all about talking, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s actually all about listening to the customer. I’ve found that a great challenge of working in voluntary benefits is that one-size-fits all solutions don’t exist. Each customer comes with their own set of needs, wants and challenges, and you need to adjust your approach based on the client. And this requires listening.
As part of our ongoing efforts to listen to customers, we partnered with an independent research firm and surveyed more than 200 employers to understand what drives purchasing behavior for voluntary benefits. I believe what we heard was insightful and would strongly consider it as you evaluate whether to sell voluntary benefits. Heres a look:

1. 83 percent of employees with healthcare coverage and no voluntary benefits say they’re open to enrolling in voluntary benefits through their employer – and they don’t expect their employer to pay for them.

2. 87 percent of employees in companies offering voluntary benefits feel they matter to their employers because of those benefits.

3. Finally, 62 percent of employees under 50 years old wouldn’t consider taking a job that doesn’t offer voluntary benefits.

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No end in sight for voluntary sales growth

June 12, 2017 | By Phil Albinus | Employee Benefit Adviser

The percentage of employee benefit brokers selling voluntary grew nearly 12% in 2016 compared to the previous year with the segment now owning 62% of the market, according to Eastbridge Consulting Group. Last year, voluntary sales reached $7.63 billion with $4.75 billion being generated by benefit brokers, the voluntary benefit consulting firms U.S. Voluntary/Worksite Sales Report found. Gil Lowerre, president of Eastbridge, does not expect the voluntary sales market to cool down soon.

Benefit brokers generated $4.75 billion in new sales in 2016. For the second year in a row, career agents scored the second highest sales at $1.17 billion. Voluntary brokers – what the studys authors call classic worksite brokers and worksite specialists – accounted for $879 million and $658 million in sales, respectively.

For the study, the Avon, Conn., consultancy profiled 65 individual and group insurance carriers.

These numbers are a continuation of a trend that has been underway for years, according to Lowerre.

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Why voluntary benefits are a win-win

May 8, 2017 | By Greg Guidos | Benefits Pro

According to a survey, three out of four Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings. Meanwhile, a poll conducted by NPR, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, shows even with year-round health insurance coverage, more than a quarter of adults face major financial problems, even bankruptcy, because of the medical bills they cant pay off each year. Further, health care reform in the U.S. has placed more of the burden of health care costs on employees, as employers adopt high deductible health plans.

We dont know where the health industry is going, says Mike Wargo, national benefits director for Allstate Benefits, a Jacksonville, Florida-based provider of supplemental insurance to companies across the country. But we know health insurance premiums have risen and employers and employees have chosen higher premium plans.

Its a Catch-22 thats squeezing employees and the economically conscious companies where they work. But its also presenting an opportunity for companies to recruit and retain top talent through voluntary benefits programs that dont impact their bottom line.

A voluntary benefits program – which once may have been considered a nice-to-have option for employees and employers – has become an increasing necessity for many.

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A Big Workplace Opportunity for Employee Benefits Advisors

February 23, 2017 | By Cyril Tuohy | Insurance News Net

When it comes to supplemental insurance coverage, workers dont know nearly as much as what they think they know.
The gap between what employees know and what they think they know was published as the second set of findings from the fourth annual Guardian Workplace Benefits Study issued by Guardian Life Insurance in New York.

A few sample questions and answers from a quiz reveals employees tenuous grasp of supplemental coverage:

Question: In a critical illness policy, can payouts reimburse caregivers for lost income? Answer: False. Percent of respondents who answered incorrectly: 57 percent

Filling the Support Gap

The gap between what employees know and what they think they know represents an opportunity for advisors, said Gene Lanzoni, assistant vice president of thought leadership with Guardian Life Insurance Company in New York.

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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.

    (Read more…)

    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.

    (Read more…)