Rising health care costs and the added complexities created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)
continue to drive employers to add or expand their voluntary benefits programs. Progressive employers are also finding that well-designed voluntary insurance programs can also help support wellness initiatives by reducing workers’ stress, making it more affordable for workers to seek preventative care, and freeing up money for employers to invest in wellness programs.Reducing Financial Stress
Voluntary benefits allow workers to tailoring their coverage to meet their personal situations, reducing their overall stress levels. For example, workers with young children may be concerned about replacing their income in case of death; others may be more worried about the consequences of a long-term disability. Still others may be more worried about protection again legal expenses.
Allowing individual workers access to such voluntary benefits can help reduce their stress, which leads to improved health overall, as well as increases in productivity and engagement. (Case in point: Employees who used a group legal plan resolved their issue in just 4.4 weeks, compared with more than 6 weeks for those who did not, a study by MetLife’s Hyatt Legal Plans found
. The same study found increased employer loyalty among those workers with access to group legal plans.)
Some employers, including the state of North Carolina
, have even begun developing formal financial wellness programs integrated with their traditional benefits communications.
Common voluntary employee health benefits options that can help reduce employees’ stress about financial matters:
- Voluntary Disability Insurance
- Voluntary Life Insurance
- Critical Illness or Cancer Insurance
- Accident Insurance
- Group Legal Plans
Promoting Preventative Care
Voluntary benefits can help make it more affordable for workers to seek preventative care -- reducing the likelihood that they will need to seek costly emergency room care or develop preventable chronic illnesses later..
For example, dental health is a crucial part of overall wellbeing, but most treatments aren’t covered by traditional medical insurance. Without dental insurance, people often neglect routine care, which can eventually lead to serious health issues that require a warrant a visit to the emergency room or even major surgery. In the long run, this drives up health care costs for workers and employers
The routine eye exams supported by vision coverage have a similar effect, making it more likely that serious conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts or diabetic retinopathy are caught early enough to manage effectively.
Freeing Up Resources for Wellness Programs
Research suggests that wellness programs save money in the long run, by making it less likely that employees will develop expensive preventable illnesses later. That may be true in many cases, but adding such programs costs money upfront -- money many benefits administrators may feel they just don’t don’t have.
Voluntary benefits can help fill this gap, particularly when packaged with high deductible health plans, or HDHP's. Many employers are reluctant to adopt such programs, out of concern that they will make workers nervous. Employers can address that concern through a well-designed voluntary insurance package.
Then, the employer can take some of those savings and invest in powerful wellness initiatives, including: