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Voluntary benefits and wellness programs are hot trends in employee benefits right now, bothwellness programs and voluntary benefits driven by rising health care costs and the added complexities created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  Even the smallest companies are adopting voluntary benefits, surveys find. Integrating the two into a unified strategy can help improve employees’ overall well-being and job satisfaction, while bolstering the organization’s bottom line.

Here are a couple of interesting developments in the industry that can help companies looking to freshen up their benefits strategies through voluntary benefits and wellness:

New Voluntary Insurance Products

Smart employers have long known that voluntary benefits can help workers reduce their overall stress levels by allowing them to buy tailored coverage to protect against the financial risks that worry them most.

Common voluntary employee health benefits options that can help reduce employees’ stress about financial matters include:

  • Voluntary Life Insurance
  • Voluntary Disability Insurance
  • Critical Illness or Cancer Insurance
  • Accident Insurance
  • Group Legal Plans

Insurance companies are further recognizing this need with new products that address modern problems. For example, Transamerica Employee Benefits has partnered with LifeLock, Inc. to provide identity theft protection as a voluntary benefit. “Voluntary benefits are becoming an increasingly important part of the overall employee benefits package as they enable employers to expand and diversify their offerings at the workplace. By offering LifeLock’s identity theft protection services, we are able to provide our customers with access to a wide array of insurance and non-insurance protection options,” said Randy Clarkson, president of TEB, said in a statement.

Employers have a stake in this issue because dealing with identity theft can be a serious drain in productivity, TEB said in a statement. “An employee who has been a victim of identity theft will spend hours trying to resolve the issue and, many of those hours occur during work. With this new partnership, TEB and LifeLock hope to facilitate a productive and efficient environment in the workplace.”

Bringing Discipline to Wellness Programs

The common wisdom about wellness programs is that they save money for employers in the long run, by making it less likely that employees will develop expensive, preventable illnesses.

Popular initiatives include:

  • Gym memberships
  • Weight loss support.
  • Incentives for quitting smoking.
  • Personal health assessments.
  • Apps that send personalized health alerts, tailored to individual needs.

The trouble is, these programs cost money upfront -- money many benefits administrators may feel they just don’t don’t have. And they worry that the payoff may not actually be there.

But now that many of these programs have been around a while, more research is available on calculating their ROI.

For example, Mercer's National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans found that employers that demonstrated a greater commitment to wellness and health management experienced annual cost increases that were 2 percentage points lower than those of other employers. A study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that start-up costs for a comprehensive wellness program meant a negative ROI in the first year, but things turned positive in years two and three, producing a 2.45:1 ROI for the full three years.

What role are wellness and voluntary benefits playing in your benefits strategy?


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Winston Benefits is a HR solutions company that helps businesses automate and streamline their employee benefit programs. Custom designed and developed client specific solutions help enrich their total compensation and rewards programs while optimizing processes such as benefit communications, enrollment and administration.

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