Author Archives: Steve Aldrich

Pandemic has employees rethinking the value of benefits

September 3, 2020 | By Emily Payne | BenefitsPRO

A recent survey from Prudential finds that employees are putting a lot more emphasis on non-health benefits.

As employers, HR professionals and benefits advisors gear up for another open enrollment season, one thing is clear: This year won’t be business as usual. The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a wakeup call for many employees who realize they need to be better prepared for the unexpected.

A recent survey from Prudential Financial surveyed employees on their needs and perspectives as we move toward open enrollment and found, among other things, that non-health benefits are playing a bigger role in their decision to stay at their current job or move to a new one.

“While we’re pleased to see workers increasingly recognize the value of a comprehensive, cohesive workplace benefits package, we also cannot ignore that this stems from the financial, physical and mental stressors of the pandemic, …”

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Why Employers Should Consider Adding Short-Term Disability During Pandemic

August 7, 2020 | By Ed Gussio – columnist | Flagstaff Business & Online News

Disability insurance is one of the most overlooked of all employee benefit plans. Think about it: who wants to think they are at risk for becoming disabled?

In normal times, this happens more often than we would like to think. Today, in the unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic that we find ourselves in, it is more important than ever for your employees.

As a reminder, disability insurance is income protection in case of disability due to accident or illness…

According to the 2019 SHRM Employee Benefit Survey, only 61% of employers offer STD insurance…

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Voluntary sales continue to grow

July 23, 2020 | By Erin Marino and Nick Rockwell | BenefitsPRO

Total voluntary sales for 2019 were $8.832 billion, up 4.5% over 2018 sales.

According to our annual U.S. Voluntary/Worksite Sales Report, new business annualized premium (voluntary sales) increased again last year. Total sales for 2019 were $8.832 billion, up 4.5% over 2018 sales.

The growth rate was slightly higher compared to what we saw in 2018 (4.5% compared to 3.8%).

Takeover business (i.e., business that moves from one voluntary carrier to another with a similar product) continued to show stabilization in 2019. The estimated percentage of sales that were takeovers (on an aggregated basis) was 56.4%, just slightly above 55.7% in 2018. In-force premium increased by 4.4% in 2019 to an estimated $47.1 billion.

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Over half of employers expect COVID-19 to increase voluntary enrollment participation, finds Eastbridge report

July 16, 2020 | Source: Eastbridge Consulting Group, Inc.

AVON, Conn., July 16, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — When asked about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on enrollment participation, just over half of employers surveyed believe more employees will enroll in voluntary products, finds Eastbridge’s latest study, Employer Perspectives on the COVID-19 Pandemic and Voluntary. In addition, almost a quarter do not think COVID-19 will have any effect on voluntary enrollments and another 12% are unsure. Only 12% of employers believe enrollment participation will decrease.

However, many employers anticipate making changes to their voluntary enrollment plans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Biggest Financial Risk You Don’t Know You’re Taking

June 25, 2020 | By Danielle Seurkamp – Forbes

Warren Buffett said, “only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” As Covid-19 came in, the proverbial tide went out and it exposed how few of us were prepared for an unexpected loss of income. There simply are not that many of us who can get by without our next paycheck, much less without a job.

When millions of people were drastically ejected from the workforce, the government stepped in with stimulus to keep people on the payroll and keep families afloat. It is a safety net that is only deployed when unemployment is so pervasive, and its impact on the economy is so detrimental. It is about protecting the whole, not any one individual.

Of course, as individuals, we always run the risk of losing our ability to earn a living, not only to downsizing or layoffs but to disability as well. In fact, disability is a far bigger risk than many of us realize. According to the CDC, one in four adults has a disability that impacts major life activities, such as a long-lasting sensory, physical, mental, or emotional condition that makes it difficult or impossible to leave the house and work. About 37% of people with a disability have jobs, as compared to 77% of people without a disability.

While there are some social safety nets in place like unemployment benefits or Social Security disability income, these programs are either short-lived or difficult to receive. Many people with disabilities find it difficult to qualify for Social Security disability income at all. That leaves it largely on us to protect ourselves from the potential loss of income resulting from a disability.

Fortunately, many employers provide long-term disability insurance to their employees, either as a company-paid benefit or as a voluntary benefit paid for by the employee.

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Gen Re: Individual Disability Issuers Post Mixed Results

June 24, 2020 | By Allison Bell – ThinkAdvisor

Both non-can and guaranteed renewable in-force premium increased.

Individual disability insurance issuers may have covered slightly fewer people in 2019, but their in-force premium revenue may have increased slightly.

Gen Re has reported figures supporting those conclusions in a summary of results from a voluntary issuer survey. Gen Re received data from 16 insurers.

The participants covered about 3 million people through in-force policies last year, or 1.1% fewer than in 2018, according to the Gen Re survey results.

Premium revenue from individual disability insurance policies already in force increased 0.7%, to $4.9 billion.

A summary of the Gen Re individual disability market survey is available here.

The number of new policies sold fell 5.9%, to 275,599, but premiums from the new policies that were sold increased 0.7%, to $426 million.

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COVID-19 expected to impact voluntary benefits

June 18, 2020 | By Erin Marino and Nick Rockwell – BenefitsPro

Despite challenges in the near-term, there appears to be a potential upside for voluntary benefits.

As COVID-19 continues to have far-reaching impacts on the workforce and in turn, the employee benefits landscape, brokers are concerned about the effects it will have on voluntary benefits. Eastbridge’s recent survey of brokers found that the top concern for voluntary was a potential for reduced enrollment volume, with 71% of brokers agreeing this was of concern. Around half of brokers expressed concern that employer and/or employee interest in voluntary may be reduced, while one-third felt that COVID-19 may divert their time towards answering coverage questions on existing business.

A few brokers noted the potential impact of a reduced workforce through business closings and/or layoff and furloughs. However, only 11% of brokers say they are not concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on their voluntary business.

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U.S. Consumers Need a Disability Impact Reality Check: LIMRA

May 7, 2020 | By Allison Bell – ThinkAdvisor

Many told a survey team that they thought the only way to get disability coverage was through an employer.

Consumers' Proposed Paycheck Substitutes
Here’s how many survey participants told LIMRA and Life Happens they would use some
suggested financial options to cope with the financial effects of a disability.
(Credit: LIMRA and Life Happens.)

LIMRA is participating in Disability Insurance Awareness Month 2020 by releasing a new disability awareness fact sheet — and a batch of data from a survey it conducted with Life Happens.

Life Happens, the Council for Disability Awareness and other organizations organize the annual awareness month campaigns to try to remind Americans that the ability to earn a paycheck is the most valuable asset that most of them have.

The LIMRA Disability Insurance Awareness Month fact sheet is available here.

LIMRA and Life Happens have joined to field the 2020 Insurance Barometer Study survey.

At one point, the participants were asked how they’d cope, financially, with a loss of the ability to work due to illness or injury.

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How to ready your employee benefit offerings for uncertain times

May 1, 2020 | By Ron Herrmann – BenefitsPro

A holistic benefits strategy allows you to provide employees with value beyond their paycheck and prepare them for whatever’s next.

HR managers, benefits professionals and business owners are grappling with a myriad of challenges brought about by the new coronavirus. But looking ahead, both employees and their employers will likely be focused on building greater resilience, so that they are better prepared for tough times–if and when they come.

As an employer or benefits manager, if you can offer employees access to coverage options, as well as equip them with educational resources to help them make smart decisions, you’ll provide them with value beyond their paycheck, making it easier for your business to attract and retain talent.

That’s where a holistic workforce benefits strategy comes in – one that takes into account a combination of both employer-funded and voluntary benefits and resources for work/life balance. These offerings can provide additional support for both you and your employees, both in our current environment and in the future:

Disability income insurance

Disability income insurance programs are in the spotlight as employers and employees comb through the options available to individuals who may be unable to work due to a medical condition associated with COVID-19. While pandemic-specific sick pay programs are being implemented at both the federal and state level, these don’t replace the broader coverage provided by private short- and long-term disability income insurance plans.

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Voluntary Benefits Provide Much-Needed Help During COVID-19 Crisis

April 17, 2020 | By Rebecca Moore –

Plan sponsors should consider an off-cycle voluntary benefits enrollment and prepare for a workforce that will pay more attention to voluntary benefits in the future.

Benefitfocus in Charleston, South Carolina, provides a cloud-based software program uniting health, wealth and lifestyle benefits on a single technology platform. Misty Guinn, director of Benefits & Wellness at the firm, says voluntary benefits can be very useful to employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She says telehealth options may be most helpful at this time to ensure employees are not forgoing medical care. Some employer group health plans have telehealth services as part of their offering, but some do not. And telehealth can be underutilized by health plan participants because they don’t want to pay the copay, Guinn says. But for those plans that don’t have it in their offering, telehealth options—such as Doctors on Demand, which Guinn cites as an example—may be offered as a voluntary benefit.

She points out that virtual office visits with psychiatrists may be a great need right now with COVID-19 also being a mental health crisis as families are stuck at home and many may be experiencing job loss.

Guinn explains that telehealth as a voluntary benefit could be employee-paid, or employers may decide to sponsor it or provide subsidies to lower costs for employees.

Considering voluntary benefits related to wealth, Guinn notes that short-term loan benefits offered by employers from providers such as Kashable may be used by employees instead of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act distribution and loan options that may affect long-term savings. “The difference between a voluntary short-term loan benefit and a payday loan is that since the voluntary benefit is offered by employers, employees can get a better interest rate,” Guinn says.

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