Category Archives: News

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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How to Break Free From Living in the Age of Benefits Past

January 29, 2018 | By Matthew Owenby | Corprorate Wellness Magazine

There is an adage that says living in the past will kill your future. It is true of life, and it is also true in the workplace: Companies that want to remain strong and retain their best assets – talented employees – continually assess their health insurance options to ensure they are right for today, not for yesterday.

Staying on top of the latest benefits trends is especially important in today’s climate. Workers who were leery about making moves during a tough economy may now be seeking new opportunities. To keep them in place – and to attract the cream of the crop of new employees – companies that were once “employers of necessity” must become “employers of choice.” One way to do so is by ensuring benefits offerings are plentiful, competitive, affordable and innovative. With that in mind, here are a few of the trends we see for the coming year….

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Voluntary Benefits Add a New Layer for Brokers

January 9, 2018 | By Cyril Tuohy | InsuranceNewsNet

For benefit brokers, connecting employee groups to insurance benefit platforms has never been easy and the popularity of employee-paid voluntary benefits has made it more tricky, experts say.

Voluntary benefits is very high touch, said Ginger Bates, director of research for Eastbridge Consulting Group, a research firm that tracks the voluntary market.

Compared with traditional employer-paid basic medical and group insurance products, enrolling in a voluntary benefit program isnt necessarily more difficult, Bates said, but it is different and creates more issues.

For brokers and insurers new to the growing voluntary market, its a learning curve for both, she added.

Employers that offer voluntary benefits like to do so because employees pay for a benefit to fill gaps left by gradually retreating major medical insurance coverage.

For their part, employees see value in paying for these supplementary benefits, which they can buy at a group rate.

Voluntary benefits also help employers retain employees, who gravitate to the customization options available with voluntary benefits packages, said Greg Callahan, national director of voluntary benefits for CBIZ, which helps companies manage employees.

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Emerging Workplace Benefits Heading into 2018

December 21, 2017 | Peter Marcia | HR Technologist

With the new year approaching, HR managers are shifting their focus to benefit planning for the 2019 plan year. While questions loom about what direction healthcare benefits will take, the stability of voluntary benefits continue to be top of mind for many employers. Savvy benefit planners recognize that these programs round out compensation packages and contribute to their employees financial wellness.
Understanding potential gaps in medical plans, HR managers are working to decrease out-of-pocket expenses for employees by offering worksite benefits that complement the core medical plan. Employers are also using voluntary benefits to enhance their benefits offerings to attract and retain competitive talent.
Here are three voluntary benefits offerings that gained traction in 2017 and we expect will continue the momentum into the coming year. When properly communicated, these benefits, can add tremendous value to your employees and drive overall engagement within your workforce.

2. Worksite Benefits:
To confront the challenges of the cost shift in core medical plans from employers to employees, voluntary benefits are designed to help employees cover the out-of-pocket costs from unexpected medical issues. The most widely provided programs tend to be critical illness insurance, accident insurance and hospital indemnity insurance. These programs generally pay a cash benefit directly to the employee regardless of existing insurance for a covered accident or hospitalization.

As healthcare benefits evolve and the workforce changes, the flexibility of voluntary benefits will continue to play a role in employers overall benefit packages. Voluntary benefits are the weapon that employers can use to differentiate themselves and attract and retain an engaged workforce. Financial wellness will be more achievable for employees with a well thought out voluntary benefits strategy.

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Group whole life soars at the workplace

December 14, 2017 | Jon Shuman | Employee BenefitsPRO

The first supersonic flight was welcomed with a huge booming sound across the California desert as pilot Chuck Yeagers X-1 became the first manned airplane to reach Mach 1. The five-minute flight in 1947 was a historic moment celebrated in the film, The Right Stuff.

Another historic milestone occurred in the insurance industry last year but was greeted with considerably less fanfare. Like the flight of the X-1, though, last years event marked a watershed for Americans, at least for their financial futures.

For the first time ever, more people owned group life insurance rather than individual policies in 2016, according to LIMRA (Life Insurance Ownership in Focus, 2016 LIMRA Ownership Study). While no sonic boom accompanied the milestone, the preeminence of group life insurance spoke volumes about the credibility that Americans place in their employers as a source of financial security and wellness.

Like the X-1, sales of life insurance have gone on to notch several other remarkable milestones:

  • The number of people who own some form of life insurance has grown to a record 172 million (2016 LIMRA Ownership Study). The increase in life insurance ownership is being driven primarily by people ages 18 to 44 – the prime time for starting and raising families – as ownership by people age 45 and older declines.
  • Sales of group whole life policies, typically available on a voluntary or employee-paid basis, increased by 19 percent in the first two quarters in 2017 (LIMRA U.S. Worksite/Voluntary Sales, 2017 Second Quarter Review).
  • Premiums for individual whole life insurance have grown every year since 2006 as consumers have gravitated to the products straight-forward design, built-in guarantees, and dividend potential (U.S. Retail Life Insurance Sales, Third Quarter 2016). Whole life now accounts for 37 percent of the entire individual life insurance market, the study finds.
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    3 factors driving the growth of voluntary benefits

    November 7, 2017 | Dennis Healy | Employee Benefit Adviser

    The high cost of healthcare and consequential evolution of insurance plans with high deductibles have created an improved market for voluntary products. Employers are eager to provide a more comprehensive and competitive benefits package that fills the gaps created by the risk-sharing approach of high-deductible programs.

    Additionally, commissions generated by voluntary can be used to fund overall benefits administrative costs and project work done by TPAs and consultants that would otherwise be borne by employers. The increased demand has also helped brokers replace income lost due to shrinking healthcare revenues.

    However, there are three areas in particular that are actively driving growth for voluntary benefits:

    1) Support for physical and financial wellness.

    2) Personal, on-demand preferences.

    3) The importance of technology.

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    Why A Long-Term Disability Policy Is More Important Than Pet Insurance

    October 11, 2017 | Michelle Andrews | Kaiser Health News / NPR

    “It won’t happen to me.” Maybe that sentiment explains the attitude of many employees toward long-term disability insurance, which pays a portion of your income if you are suddenly unable to work for an extended period because of illness, injury or accident.

    Sixty-five percent of respondents surveyed this year by LIMRA, an association of financial services and insurance companies, say that most people need disability insurance. But the figure shrank to 48 percent when people were asked if they believe they personally need it. The proportion shriveled to 20 percent when people were asked if they actually have disability insurance.

    Long-term disability insurance generally has a waiting period of three or six months before benefits kick in. That period would be covered by short-term disability insurance, if you have it.

    As the annual benefits enrollment season gets underway at many companies, disability coverage may be one option worth your attention.

    Some employers may be asking you to pay a bigger share than before, or even the full cost. That can have a hidden advantage later, if you use the policy.

    Or you may find that your employer has automatically enrolled you – or plans to – unless you opt out. A growing number of employers are going that route, to boost coverage that they feel is in their employees’ best interests, not to mention their own, since insurers usually require a minimum level of employee participation in order to offer a plan.

    Benefits consultants agree that although long-term disability coverage lacks the novelty appeal of some other benefits that companies are offering these days (Hello, pet insurance!), but it can prove much more valuable in the long run.

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    New Data Uncovers False Sense of Confidence Regarding Benefits Choices Among American Workers

    October 9, 2017 | PRNewswire.com

    76 Percent of Workers are Unsure about Health Coverage Specifics

    COLUMBUS, Ga., Oct. 9, 2017 — Aflac … today announced results from two studies that analyzed the trends, attitudes and use of employee benefits among the U.S. workforce. The 2017 Aflac WorkForces Report (AWR) shows that American workers may feel more confident about benefits choices, while admitting a lack of understanding regarding the choices being made. A separate Aflac study found younger workers who may be making benefits decisions for the first time also lack knowledge of health insurance coverage but want to branch out and make independent benefits decisions.

    American Workers May Have a False Sense of Confidence
    Benefits enrollment findings from the 2017 Aflac WorkForces Report, a national online survey of 5,000 U.S. workers, conducted between Jan. 26 and Feb. 17, 2017, by Lightspeed GMI and released by Aflac, found that more than half (55 percent) of American workers who receive benefits from their employer agreed that completing their annual health benefits enrollment made them feel secure, like being tucked in at night, or accomplished, like they just finished a marathon. And 67 percent said they are confident they understood everything for which they signed up.

    However, these results may indicate an underlying false sense of confidence. The survey also uncovered that 76 percent of workers are making benefits decisions without a complete knowledge of the overall plan. When asked specifically about understanding their overall policies, like deductibles, copays and providers in their network, only 24 percent of these workers could answer they understood everything. And this result has been on a steady decline since 2015, when nearly half (47 percent) believed they knew everything, and then down to 39 percent in 2016.

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