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Autumn is prime time for some of America’s favorite pursuits: college football, the World Series and… annual benefits enrollments.
We all have our traditions, like parades, picnics and fireworks. Or the family recipe that appears at every holiday meal, even if no one really likes it.
THE PANDEMIC IS mostly in the rearview mirror. And while it’s too soon to say we’re back to normal, research shows several major growth trends.
YOU MAY HAVE HEARD the famous French saying, “Vive la difference,” used to express appreciation of diversity—often between men and women, sometimes between cultures and opinions.
IF BUILDING A bigger client base is your plan, it pays to think small. U.S. companies with 10–99 employees account for more than 90% of businesses and 30 million employees, more than any market except firms over 10,000 employees.
TO PARAPHRASE AN old TV advertising campaign: When you talk, people listen.
WITH THE HOLIDAYS on hand, maybe you’d like to give your clients a great gift. As tempting as a fruit-of-the-month club membership might be, here’s a suggestion that’ll last much longer: a benefits technology partner with capabilities and services that match their needs and those of the benefits carriers you use.
Same old, same old? Not when it comes to benefits. According to our The Employer Viewpoint report, more employers — 62% compared to 44% two years ago — plan to make changes in the next 12–18 months.
Ahh, fall. The weather is getting cooler, college football is on the field… and benefits enrollment season is right around the corner.
If trends in voluntary sales were put to music, it would be a ballad with many verses, but a repeating refrain. We recently reported that the largest carriers continue to dominate the market, with the top 15 accounting for approximately 72% of total voluntary/worksite sales in 2021—unchanged from 2020.
“New and improved” is such a common marketing theme for consumer products that it’s gone beyond cliché
to become fodder for jokes and memes. Still, most companies in every industry—from laundry soap to luxury cars—are constantly looking for ways to make their products seem new and, well, improved.
“You get what you pay for.” It’s a Most important factors in choosing a carrier cliché because it’s true. Whether you’re choosing a restaurant, kicking the tires of a new car or trying on shoes, a lot more goes into your decision than price.
If “claim integration” was a social media topic, it would be trending right now. Integration is becoming increasingly common and is creating a lot of buzz in claims practices these days. According to recent Eastbridge Consulting Group research, a majority of carriers offer some type of claim integration service between medical, traditional group and voluntary product lines.
You've heard the saying about a tree falling in the forest when nobody’s there to hear it. Let’s apply that to benefits enrollment: If you wow your client with a comprehensive and affordable benefits package, but few employees sign up, is the benefits program a success?
Voluntary benefits are an increasingly important part of a competitive benefits program. But let’s be honest, compared to major medical and other group benefits, voluntary sometimes requires a little more work to make it, well, work.
The diversity of products offered atworksites continues to expand. While traditional life, disability and even supplemental health products are now mainstays in most brokers’ voluntary portfolios, “non-traditional” products like identity protection, pet insurance and legal plans are also now more commonly offered, desired and owned. More than 70% of brokers today regularly sell one or more non-traditional products, and between half and almost three-quarters offer identity theft protection.
The concept of voluntary benefit claims integration is generating a lot of buzz. More carriers are offering it, employers are seeking it, but what does it mean? And what do brokers need to be aware of as they discuss it with clients?
As we enter the peak season for voluntary benefits enrollments, it’s natural to wonder what to expect, given the continued disruption from the pandemic. What methods and communication/ education campaigns will be most effective for employees as we evolve into a diverse mix of in-person and virtual enrollment scenarios in the workplace?
This is the last in our series on voluntary sales results for 2020. The first article looked at overall sales for the year, while the second reviewed sales by product line and platform. This column spotlights distribution segments.
IN A PREVIOUS column, we reported that voluntary new business annualized premium (sales) for 2020 was $7.463 billion, down 15.5% over 2019 sales. This article highlights sales by product line and platform.
IT’S COMMON FOR benefits professionals to reference all the nuances between the large and small ends of the voluntary market. The number of carriers used per enrollment and the top products offered are just a couple of the easily discernible aspects of these market segments. However, the mid-market (employers with between 100-999 employees) is a distinct segment with particular preferences and characteristics.
AS COVID-19 CONTINUES to change the benefits landscape, employers anticipate continuing to make changes to their benefits packages. Eastbridge research found that, as a result of COVID-19 changes, almost a third of employers—a percentage similar to that reported in 2018—are planning to add new voluntary benefits and/or move employer-paid products to voluntary this year.
PARTICIPATION RATES FOR voluntary Most important factors limiting participation products have been stable in 2020, according to a survey of voluntary carriers. And although this survey preceded the results of the fourth quarter of 2020, the findings are still useful.
VOLUNTARY BENEFITS have become a very important part of an employer’s overall benefits program. New products and the latest features and innovations usually garner a lot of discussion, but it’s often best to come back to basics in planning for our end goals. Carriers and brokers certainly have beliefs for what the outcomes of a successful case should look like—and so do employers.
WHEN SELECTING A voluntary carrier, employers are now considering an expanded set of factors beyond price and product value. Recent Eastbridge research found that employers’ top two reasons for selecting a voluntary carrier are decision support (availability of tools, calculators and advice) to make decisions and support to enroll employees.
ALL RESEARCH LEADS us to believe that this voluntary benefits enrollment season will be significantly different from any other in memory. The impact of COVID-19 on our industry is still being measured, but as we move into the traditional enrollment season, we’re starting to see how the changes will shape out.
THIS IS THE last in our series of columns on the voluntary industry sales results for 2019. The ﬁrst article looked at overall voluntary sales for the year, while the second reviewed sales by product line and platform. This column spotlights sales by distribution segment.
IN LAST MONTH’S column, we reported that voluntary new business annualized premium (sales) for 2019 was $8.832 billion, up 4.5% over 2018 sales. This article highlights sales by product line and platform.
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 top graph below shows the industry’s sales since 1997.
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.
EMPLOYERS CONTINUE TO promote wellness programs and beneﬁts as an integral part of their overall beneﬁts strategies to encourage employees to adopt healthy behaviors and to reduce long-term health care costs. In addition to employee wellness programs (e.g., weight loss, tobacco-cessation), wellness beneﬁts are commonly offered with today’s voluntary supplemental health products to encourage employees to receive preventative health screenings.
GENERATIONAL demographics are shifting quickly, and your employer clients expect you to know how these changes will impact vol-untary beneﬁt strategies. They want to know which products they should offer in order to meet the needs of their increasingly diverse workforce, and they want to offer their employees personalized enrollment communications based on age, gender or life stage. These desires require a solid awareness of generational demographics so that you can appropriately guide employers to make the most informed decisions for their unique employee populations.
IN THE 2019 BenefitsPRO/Eastbridge survey, brokers said that, increasingly, their “goto” voluntary products are accident, critical illness and hospital indemnity, rather than just life and disability. But despite this finding, 72 percent of all employers do not offer a hospital indemnity/supplemental medical plan. Maybe more important, just 27 percent of employees currently own a hospital indemnity plan. That means 73 percent do not own it, but when asked about products they might like to purchase on a voluntary basis, 43 percent of those employees are interested in buying one.
THE VOLUNTARY BENEFITS market has, at times, seen certain trends that overshadow market realities. It was just a few years ago that there was still an expectation of growth in private exchanges. For a time, it was frequently forecast that such platforms would be the most common destination for benefit enrollment. While this concept may see more adoption in the future, the original forecast for growth has not yet come about. It’s important that we recognize that sometimes getting ahead of the market might have us living in “future possibility,” rather than “present reality.”
BROKER RECRUITMENT IS considered a pivotal factor in a voluntary insurancecompany’s success. Historically, employee benefit brokers preferred to source a client’s voluntary products from one carrier to streamline administration. This is a preference that many insurance carriers have catered to in their recruitment efforts. However, a recent Eastbridge report, Voluntary/Worksite Marketing: An Executive Perspective, found that producers are increasingly likely to seek “best-of-breed” products, resulting in less business going to any one carrier. This statistic almost doubled from 12 percent in our 2017 study to 22 percent this year. These changes suggest that the ease of one-carrier administration is becoming less important than having the right product design.
WITH THE ABUNDANCE of technology service providers vying for your employer clients’ attention, making decisions using bad data or alluring sales propositions can leave employers vulnerable. Payroll vendors, enrollment and benefits-administration platform providers and billing services promise cost-effective, efficient and effective solutions to ease an employer’s pain points. It’s not to say that these technologies will or will not deliver what they promise, but an important element in the decision-making process must be the preferences of employees.
MORE AND MORE we find that employers want to use the same system to enroll voluntary that they use for other benefits. In fact, 63 percent of the 1,000 employers surveyed last year in our Market-Vision: The Employer Viewpoint survey, said they want all benefits enrolled on one platform regardless of whether different carriers are used. More than half said that they want online enrollment to be part of their ben admin system rather than a separate system.
YOU’VE MADE THE sale and the employer has said, “Yes, let’s add the newly proposed voluntary benefit.” But of course, we haven’t sold anything until we get employees to elect. The most successful brokers make sure that when selling a product into a case, they include the enrollment method to be used.
THIS IS THE last in our series of columns on the voluntary industry sales results for 2018. The first article looked at overall voluntary sales for the year, while the second reviewed sales by product line and platform. This column takes a closer look at sales by distribution segment.
LAST MONTH, we reported that voluntary new business annualized premium sales for 2018 was $8.5 billion, but since that time, the results have been updated to $8.513 billion, up 4.5 percent over 2017 sales. This article spotlights sales by product line and platform.
ACCORDING TO OUR annual U.S. Voluntary/Worksite Sales Report, new business annualized premium (voluntary sales) increased at a rate of just over 4 percent in 2018, while total sales for the year were $8.5 billion. The first graph below shows the industry’s sales since 1997.
TECHNOLOGY IS becoming more critical each day to a broker’s success in voluntary benefits. One technology trend that producers must navigate is the prevalence and growth of “platforms.”
THE 2018 BenefitsPRO/East-bridge Broker Survey found that the most frequently sold products were very similar for benefit brokers and voluntary brokers, and that both broker types are selling more supplemental health products today than they have in the past.
RECENT EASTBRIDGE research has found that while just over half of carriers offer a universal life/whole life (UL/WL) product today, almost a quarter of carriers see UL/WL as a growth product for the industry over the next few years. In addition, UL/WL was the top product (tied with hospital indemnity) listed as most likely to be added to carriers’ voluntary portfolios in the next two years.
EVERY BROKER HAS his or her own set of features that top the list in voluntary carrier selection. For some, it’s brand, ratings or perhaps familiarity, while for others it might be the price and benefits found in specific products. For many, they simply expect ease in working through a carrier with an array of products and services under one roof.