Tag Archives: Heidi tenBroek

Employer-sponsored coverage: “Expanded” voluntary benefit offering

Voluntary benefits are products offered through an employer but paid for partially or solely by employees through payroll deductions. The attraction of these benefits is that they can offer group rates to employees that they would likely be unable to obtain on their own. Voluntary benefits can also help fill coverage holes when an employer cuts back on or eliminates a specific benefit program. Voluntary benefits are a good way for employers to enhance their employee benefit offerings at little or no cost.

Voluntary benefits have historically encompassed a few basic policies. Today, however, many employers are expanding their offerings to consider their employee demographics (age, marital status, family members), lifestyle, and financial habits. Decisions regarding which benefits should be offered should be made with care. Voluntary benefits should provide clear and convenient options that are easily accessible by employees when needed.

Milliman recently conducted an employer-based survey focused specifically on the menu of “expanded” voluntary benefits. Across a range of voluntary benefits, employers indicated which benefits they were currently offering in 2017 as well as those benefits they planned to offer in 2018.

Voluntary benefits already offered in 2017
As shown in the table in Figure 1, accident insurance options, standing desks, and critical illness insurance options were the top three offered voluntary benefits in 2017. Others also leading the pack included paid leave for new parents and to care for dependents, telemedicine, financial education/counseling, and wearable fitness devices.

Voluntary benefits planned to offer in 2018
The table in Figure 2 shows that the top three voluntary benefits where employers planned to expand in 2018 were financial education/counseling, student loan repayment program, and pet insurance. Other options of interest included paid leave for new parents and to care for dependents, telemedicine, standing desks, and identification of insurance options.

Health insurance (i.e., medical, Rx, dental) still makes up the main health and welfare offering. However, an ever-expanding range of voluntary benefits gives employers more flexibility and employees more options. As a general rule, the selection of a voluntary benefits programs must be strategic. These benefits must be chosen, managed, and communicated with care, keeping in mind the employer’s overall financial goals as well as its employee population needs. There are many voluntary options available but an employer should only choose those that will provide the most relevance and appreciation to its employees.

This article first appeared in the March 2018 issue of Health and Group Benefits News and Developments.

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The power of personalization

tenBroek-HeidiKernich-DanaMaking decisions about health coverage is difficult. Medical jargon, network limitations, and vague pricing contribute to the minefield of confusion experienced by even educated employees. According to a recent survey, only 14% of Americans can accurately define basic healthcare terms such as deductible, copay, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximum.1 In order to be smart consumers of healthcare—making the best decisions for themselves and keeping costs in check for employers footing the majority of the bill—employees must be able to understand the coverage offered to them. Personalizing health coverage communications can help employees, and ultimately their employers.

Marketers have demonstrated for years that personalization works:

• Personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates (customer actions such as sales or subscriptions) than non-personalized emails2
• 73% of consumers prefer to do business with companies that use personalization to make their shopping experience more relevant3
• 86% of consumers say personalization plays a role in their purchasing decisions4

If it works, use it! Personalized materials provide more focus for better decision making and leave employees feeling less overwhelmed by confusing information. Creating these materials isn’t as difficult as employers might think. Here’s an example of how an employee enrolled in a standard preferred provider organization (PPO) plan could be introduced to the potential cost savings of a high-deductible plan:

The power of personalization

1Lowenstein, G. (September 2013). Consumers’ misunderstanding of health insurance. Journal of Health Economics 32, no. 5: 850-862.
2Experian Marketing Services (December 2013). 2013 Email Market Study: How Today’s Email Marketers Are Connecting, Engaging and Inspiring Their Customers. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.experian.com/assets/marketing-services/white-papers/ccm-email-study-2013.pdf.
3 Nasri, G. (December 10, 2012). Why consumers are increasingly willing to trade data for personalization. DigitalTrends.com. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/why-consumers-are-increasingly-willing-to-trade-data-for-personalization/#ixzz2g8dgrqko.
4Infosys (December 2013). Study: Rethinking Retail: Insights From Consumers and Retailers Into an Omni-Channel Shopping Experience. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from https://www.infosys.com/newsroom/press-releases/Documents/genome-research-report.pdf.