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The Employee Benefits Blog

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How Voluntary Benefits Can Help Employers Meet Workers' Needs

voluntary benefits help workers fill gaps in coverageEmployers are more likely to provide health insurance coverage for full-time employees than in 2005, but they are also asking workers to pay a larger proportion of premiums for personal health insurance, the National Study of Employers found.

The latest edition of the National Study of Employers, designed and conducted by the Families and Work Institute (FWI) and released jointly this week by FWI and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), found that employers are having to make a number of adjustments to their benefits strategies in response to a changing economic and regulatory environment.

"It is clear that employers continue to struggle with fewer resources for benefits that incur a direct cost," said Ken Matos, senior director of employment research and practice at FWI and the lead author of the report. "However, they have made it a priority to grant employees access to a wider variety of benefits that fit their individual and family needs and that improve their health and well-being."

HR Administration Outsourcing Is Working, Deloitte Finds

HR Administration Outsourcing

Managing the cost of employee benefits while still attracting, motivating and retaining top talent continues to lead human resources professionals’ list of concerns, a new Deloitte study suggests. The same study also found that employers were pleased with the performance of their outsourced HR solutions, with 25 percent of respondents saying they planned to increase their use of outsourced HR services.

Top Priorities
Participants in the survey, which was conducted by Deloitte and the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists, ranked their the top five priorities for 2012 as follows:

How employees gain from online benefits enrollment and communications software

benefits enrollment and communications software

Employers’ migration to online benefits and communications systems has continued even during the recession. Organizations of all sizes are finding that such systems help them immediately save time and money.

However, employers aren’t the only ones that benefit from the move away from manual and paper-based systems.  Here are four ways online benefits enrollment and communications software can benefit your workers:

How a Comprehensive Voluntary Benefits Program Can Support Wellness Initiatives

the relationship of wellness programs and voluntary benefitsRising 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:

How Outsourcing Benefits Administration Can Help Your Business

Outsourced HR

A growing number of companies are making the choice to outsource benefits administration, attracted to the opportunity to save on labor and technology, while providing superior service to their employees.

Here are some of the key ways that outsourcing benefits administration can aid your business.

Lower Costs

Outsourcing employee benefits administration can save employers a great deal of money compared with managing employee benefits programs in-house, studies find.

5 advantages of outsourcing benefits administration

Outsourced Benefits Administration

Employee benefits administration can generate significant cost savings and improve levels of service throughout an organization, experts say.

"Outsourcing through technology can be a benefit for employees,” Dave Ulrich, professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, said in “Weighing the pros and cons of outsourcing,” a recent article in Employee Benefit Adviser. “Think of banking. Few go into banks to transact directly with tellers today and we do our banking through technology. This gives us 24/7 access to those services."

Personal Counseling Improves Benefits Communication, Survey Finds

Group Benefits Enrollment Meeting
Workers who participate in individual benefits counseling during open enrollment say they have a greater understanding of their employee benefits, a recent survey by Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Co. found.

At such sessions, employees meet with a benefits representative and review their individual benefit status, discuss various retirement scenarios, evaluate different benefit payment options and review voluntary benefit options. Such services can be managed by in-house HR staff or outside employee benefits consultants.

The Colonial Life survey of more than 15,000 workers in the U.S. found that 96 percent of workers who take part in individual benefits counseling sessions say they better understand their benefits. The survey also found that the vast majority of employees believe having annual one-on-one benefits counseling sessions is important.

“Today, more than ever, employers need to gain maximum value from the benefits they provide,” says Randy Horn, president & CEO of Colonial Life. “The investment made in providing a strong benefits package is lost if employees don’t understand and appreciate what they’re offered. These surveys show that personal counseling during a benefits enrollment session clearly enhances understanding, which is good news for employers and employees.”

Here are three tips for making the most of individual benefits counseling sessions:

  • Start with group meetings. A general presentation by a knowledgeable benefits expert can help set the stage for more focused individual conversations. Then, benefits consultants can personally meet with each employee and explain plan details, walk through individual benefit options and help them enroll in their benefit selections.
  • Think beyond open enrollment. Workers often have questions about their employee benefits plans, including their voluntary benefits, throughout the year. Life events such as marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of children, or job changes for family members can lead to new questions about hospital indemnity insurance, critical illness insurance, short term disability insurance, and long term disability insurance. Consider making one-on-one counseling available throughout the year to meet those needs.
  • Incorporate technology. An off-site benefits counselor using a modern employee benefits management platform can co-browse workers’ benefits profiles online, helping answer their questions and make changes to their plans in real time. This can lead to faster resolution and greater employee satisfaction than phone service alone.

Winston Benefits has more than 25 years of experience providing employers with technology solutions and high touch human services that streamline enrollment and benefits administration for group medical and voluntary benefits programs.

Redesigning Your Voluntary Benefits Program in 2012

Voluntary Benefits Redesign 2012

The vote by the House of Representatives to repeal the long-term-care part of PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) last week means it’s a good time for employee benefits professionals to take a fresh look at their voluntary benefits programs.

“The elimination of the CLASS Act has created an opportunity for employers, brokers and consultants to rethink long-term care as far as employee benefits,” said Craig Butler, senior vice president of voluntary benefits at Winston Benefits, explained in a post on this blog earlier this week.

If you’re thinking of redesigning your voluntary benefits program, here are 4 tips to get you started:

How voluntary benefits reduce overall health care costs

voluntary benefits reduce health care costs

Rising health care costs and the added complexities created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- PPACA are driving more employers to add or expand their voluntary benefits program, a recent survey by Colonial Life found. Such programs can be particularly appealing to small and mid-sized businesses looking to control costs.

A voluntary health insurance program can help make a number of insurance products more accessible for workers at a lower cost than if they sought similar insurance on their own. Both the worker and employer also enjoy the tax advantages that can come with paying premiums through payroll deduction.

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