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

April 17, 2020 | By Rebecca Moore – PlanSponsor.com

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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