Category Archives: News

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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Enhancing the employee experience through choice, quality, technology, data

April 02, 2020 | By Peter Nieves – Benefits Pro

As we examine the evolving relationships within the benefits arena, we’re noticing the emergence of three distinct approaches.

As we embark on a new decade, employers are placing a greater emphasis on employee well-being by offering broader benefit packages that appeal to a more diverse workplace population. They are doing this through the increasing use of technology and data to support decision-making and facilitate effective use of allowable limits.

In the highly competitive employment market we find ourselves in, decision-making and simplicity has become the linchpin, as employees leverage work to gain more fulfillment, pursue their goals, and align their values and experiences more authentically. They also are looking to employers to help manage their newly redefined work-life balance and help them decide which benefit offerings can best accomplish this. Employers, on the other hand, are looking for ways to meet employees’ new and evolving benefit needs and obtain the most value for their benefit spending.

This “re-direction” in benefit choice and selection is forcing employers to realize that employee benefits can no longer be defined within a one-size-fits-all framework. For example, more employers are offering family-building benefits like fertility services and maternity leave, and are expanding these types of benefits to help employees address work-life conflicts while keeping them productive and engaged at work, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

As we examine the evolving relationship between employee and employer within the benefits arena, we’re noticing the emergence of three distinct approaches to employment benefit offerings:

1. Broader employee groups will be addressed by re-directing more personalized benefits to provide more inclusivity.

Siloed benefits, especially in the family-building category, aren’t always useful to a broad population.

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The relationship between short-term disability coverage and workers’ comp claims

March 12, 2020 | By Katie Kuehner-Hebert – BenefitsPro

High-deductible health plans have caused workers’ comp claims to spike, but accident and disability coverage can help even things out.

Employers that offer accident or short-term disability insurance to their workers might derive another benefit: a drop in fraudulent workers’ comp claims on injuries actually sustained outside the job because employees couldn’t afford the out-of-pocket costs, according to Guardian Life’s report, “Risk Redirect: Using Group Accident and Disability Insurance to Reduce Illegitimate Workers’ Compensation Claims.

Nearly half (46 percent) of the 1,500 employee benefits decision-makers surveyed by Guardian report a decline in workers’ compensation claims after offering accident or short term disability insurance. More and more employers are offering accident and/or disability insurance plans to help offset out-of-pocket costs and bridge gaps in high-deductible health plans – which also can deter workers from reporting an off-the-job injury as a workers’ comp claim in order to avoid paying for hospital or doctor bills, according to the report.

“Employers offering high deductible health plans are more likely to have experienced an unexpected increase in questionable workers’ comp claims,” Guardian writes. “They attribute at least part of their increase in illegitimate claims to workers misrepresenting off-the-job injuries or illnesses as work-related.”

Indeed, nearly one in five employers with an HDHP report an increase in illegitimate workers’ comp claims since 2017—almost three times as many as those without an HDHP, according to the report.

“Employers offering only high deductible medical coverage are even more likely to report increased workers’ comp abuse,” Guardian writes. “Larger organizations, which are more likely to offer HDHPs, are also more likely to report increased workers’ comp abuse in the past two years.”

Group accident and disability insurance plans help reduce questionable workers’ compensation claims–42 percent of employers report declines of 50 percent or more, while another 22 percent cite declines of 25 percent to 49 percent.

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How to help your employees close their income protection gaps

March 05, 2020 | By Paul Wickline – Employee Benefit News

Declining insurance offerings

Your January enrollments are done, your clients have their W-2s in the mail, and you’ve got their renewal meetings penciled in for next fall — time to sit back, right?

Not so much, especially if some of those clients have highly compensated employees or partners. In fact, now is the perfect time to pivot back to those clients and give them a clear look at whether they’re doing enough to help all their associates protect their most valuable asset: their ability to earn an income.

Three points of protection
Think of it as a triangle with three essential points to make it complete:

  • Savings and investments if they live a long time
  • Life insurance if they die early
  • Disability insurance if the unexpected happens and they can’t work

  • Your clients probably have 401(k)s and term or permanent life insurance in their employee benefit packages. They might have group disability coverage, too, but there are two key differences: access and portability.

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    An adviser’s pivot from HR leads her to voluntary benefits

    February 25, 2020 | By Evelina Nedlund – Employee Benefit Advisor

    Working in HR opened Whitney Ehret’s eyes to the impact voluntary benefits can have on an employee’s day-to-day life. Beyond just attracting and retaining top talent, Ehret says the deeper value of these benefits is how they help an employee get through life challenges.

    Ehret shares two real-life examples: For a teacher who gets cancer and is not able to work, cancer and disability insurance payments are what allows her to keep making payments on her mortgage. She also cites a father who unexpectedly passes away and was the sole income earner for his family; his life insurance policy provides enough for the family to keep their home and figure out a plan of action.

    Additionally, the millennial workforce is shaping the way companies are implementing voluntary benefits, which have a huge impact on the entire workforce, she says.

    “Beyond these examples, the changing demographic of the workforce to millennials is telling us that these benefits are going to be increasingly more important — not only are millennials interested in working for an employer that offers them, but they also plan on using these benefits,” Ehret says.

    After a few years of working in HR for a hospital, she was eager for a bigger challenge and transitioned to the brokerage side. Today, she works as a voluntary benefits consultant at Burnham Benefits, a California-based employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm, where she drives revenue for the firm by managing the entire enrollment process, from sales to implementation. Burnham’s client base includes school districts, local government and large companies.

    To find the right fit for her clients, she has to look at the whole picture of what voluntary benefits can provide for the employer, from medical coverage to wellness programs.

    “At the end of the day, my job beyond revenue and anything else is to focus on making voluntary benefits easy for [employees] and improving their lives by utilizing those benefits,” says Ehret, one of 2020 Rising Stars in Advising. “Because I started in human resources, I have a passion to make this [process] easy for my clients.”

    (Read more…)

    Life insurance: Not enough have it, and many don’t have enough

    More than 60 percent of workers have either no life insurance or less than industry-recommended coverage amounts.

    January 17, 2020 | By Katie Kuehner-Hebert – BenefitsPro

    Workers might have life insurance policies, but the coverage is often not enough, according to Guardian Life’s report, (“Protecting Those We Love: The Role of Life Insurance in Financial Wellness.”)

    Guardian Life surveyed 2,000 employees and 1,500 employee benefits decision-makers, and found that while the vast majority of workers say it’s important for a family’s primary wage earner to own life insurance, more than 60 percent have either no life insurance or less than industry-recommended coverage amounts.

    “Life insurance ownership in the U.S. has been trending lower the past 40 years, and the average coverage amount is declining as well,” the authors write. “In the 1990s, employer-based or group life insurance surpassed individual life insurance (purchased outside the workplace) as the primary distribution channel. This contributed to lower coverage levels because group plans tend to offer smaller face amounts compared to policies available outside the workplace.”

    Nearly two-thirds of employers offer group life insurance coverage of only two times annual salary or less, compared to conservative industry guidelines that suggest persons should have enough life insurance to replace at least five to seven times their annual salary.

    Moreover, a third of employers offer life insurance benefits that cover just one times an employee’s annual salary. Another one in five offer a flat amount of coverage, typically either $10,000 or $20,000.

    “Workers who own individual life insurance are twice as likely to have recommended coverage levels compared to those with only employer-sponsored coverage,” the authors write. “Among working adults with only group life insurance, one in four have coverage equal to one times their annual salary or less.”

    (Read more…)

    Key to employee retention: build your own benefit plans

    December 03, 2019 | By Kayla Webster – Employee Benefit news

    Customization is the key to building a benefits package that appeals to all ages, according to the CEO of a national benefits advisory firm.

    Five generations are currently working side by side in the U.S. workforce, and that’s unlikely to change in coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that a quarter of the workforce will be age 55 and up by the year 2028. Around 22% of the workforce will be between the ages of 25-34. With so much age diversity, employers will have to get creative if they want to appeal to their entire workforce.

    “Employers who want to be competitive in a tight labor market have to stop using one-size-fits-all benefit packages,” says Elliot Dinkin, president and CEO of Cowden Associates, a Pittsburgh-based benefit adviser firm. “Different generations have different priorities and goals; the most competitive packages will reflect that.”

    Dinkin spoke with Employee Benefit News about how employers can develop flexible benefit offerings.

    How can benefit offerings be flexible?

    You can tinker your offerings to be specific for individuals. Employers can do this by creating trade-offs that give employees more of, or redirect, a benefit based on where they are in their career.

    (Read more…)

    Use annual enrollment to help your workforce facing financial stress

    Here are three relatively simple, low-cost steps you can take to help workers focus on work instead of worrying about their bank balance.

    November 15, 2019 | By Ashley Shope – BenefitsPro

    It might not quite rank up there with public speaking and going to the dentist, but a lot of America’s workers are pretty anxious about their finances.

    In fact, 50 percent of workers experienced stress or anxiety about their finances in the past year, according to a recent Unum poll of 1,512 full-time U.S. employees. Those numbers are even higher among Gen Z (76 percent) and millennial (62 percent) workers. And it’s not only those who are relatively new to the work world and perhaps earning less who say they’re suffering: More than a third of those with a household income of at least $150,000 feel financial anxiety.

    Paying the mortgage or rent, paying monthly bills and making credit card payments lead the stress list — but paying for health care isn’t far behind, the survey showed. Nearly one in four workers are worried about out-of-pocket health care costs.

    And with good reason. The average health care deductible for single coverage was nearly $1,500 last year, and almost twice that for family coverage. Add in co-pays, coinsurance and other non-covered costs, and an average family has more than $4,700 in out-of-pocket medical costs each year — and that’s not counting the cost of health insurance premiums.

    At the same time, most workers don’t have a financial cushion to fall back on. Only 40 percent would use savings to pay an unexpected $1,000 expense, such as a car repair or emergency room visit. Not surprising, then, that two-thirds of all bankruptcies are tied to medical issues.

    (Read more…)