Spring has arrived. Though it still feels like January in the northeast, we have finally reached the time when HR teams and benefits administrators can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Open enrollment has come and gone. By now, hopefully, you are done organizing everything on the back end. Many of you have spent the entire past quarter answering questions about the new coverage, tracking down ID cards, auditing carrier bills, and cleaning up incorrect enrollments.
The good news is that you should be pretty much in the clear with those first quarter to-dos. But the flip side is that you need to start thinking strategically about what you want to do next year. How did open enrollment go? What should we do differently next year? What are our goals for the upcoming year? How are we going to execute on those goals?
Believe it or not, if your benefits renew on January 1, it has likely been six months or more since you last thought strategically about your benefits programs. You’ve been so inundated with the administrative processes surrounding implementation and enrollment that you haven’t had the time to focus on strategy. The beginning of spring is a great time to schedule your first planning check-in with your benefits broker.
What should be on the top of your strategy discussion list? Voluntary benefits.
The employee benefits landscape has changed drastically over the years, and there has been much made of the emergence of voluntary benefits. At this point, voluntary benefits have become an integral part of any employer’s benefits program. With the cost of medical insurance on the rise, employers must find new and creative ways to make their benefits programs more competitive and comprehensive. Voluntary benefits are a smart way to add value at little to no cost to the employer.
Here are the top voluntary benefits to consider this year:
1. Supplemental Health
Supplemental health products are not new to the market, but they continue to gain in popularity. Why? It comes down to two main reasons: the shifting burden of cost from employer to employee and the relatability of the products.
As costs have risen, more and more employers have moved towards higher-deductible health plans, which shifts the cost burden onto the employees and away from the employer. As a result, employees’ out of pocket costs have continued to rise, leaving them with large deductibles to pay when they need care. Supplemental health products help fill in these gaps in coverage. Critical Illness, Accident, and Hospital Indemnity are the most popular; these plans are all designed to help employees with out-of-pocket costs associated with medical plan deductibles and copays.
Additionally, the need for supplemental health plans is relatable for many employees. Critical Illness insurance, for instance, covers employees with lump sum payments for illnesses such as cancer, heart attack, and stroke. Almost everybody knows someone who has faced one of these diagnoses. Accident Insurance provides coverage for things like broken bones, stitches, burns, etc. The benefits are easy to understand and in a country where 62.1% of all bankruptcies are related to medical bills, employees are eager to enroll for the very low monthly premiums.
2. Financial Wellness
Now more than ever, employees are entering the workforce with tremendous amounts of debt. The average student loan balance of 2015 graduates was $30,100, which means many employees in their first job end up putting a large portion of their paycheck toward student loan repayment. As a result, student loan repayment programs have become a very popular benefit for employees struggling with debt.
From an employer perspective, financial wellness offerings often fit into a larger wellness initiative. Given that money is a leading cause of stress, providing support in this area can have a ripple effect into productivity and engagement.
Telehealth programs have been gaining steam for awhile now, but more options are emerging that are better than ever. When there is engagement with telehealth programs, there is a proven ROI for both employers and employees.
For employers, telehealth programs can lead to fewer claims on the company’s health insurance plan. In turn, lower claims can translate into lower renewals. Plus, when employees use telehealth instead of visiting a doctor or urgent care, the claims don’t always go against your plan.
For employees, they get to experience an easier way to interact with healthcare. Chatting with a doctor via video, text, or email can be a much more pleasant experience than dragging yourself all the way to the doctor. Additionally, some telehealth vendors are now opening brick and mortar offices where members receive exclusive access to modern facilities and a better medical experience.
4. Employee Perks
Perk programs are another form of voluntary benefits that have gained in popularity. There are many vendors out there who offer discount programs on everyday items and experiences like shopping, movie theater tickets, concerts, and more.
Though these perk programs are not necessarily related to the core medical programs, they are a great way for employers to boost employee engagement and satisfaction in the company’s benefits programs overall.
By leveraging a robust mix of voluntary benefits offerings, you can be confident you’re approaching the year ahead with a smart strategy in place. Learn more about how Namely can support your benefits strategy here.
For more information on health coverage and employee benefits in general, take a look at our comprehensive Employee Benefits Guide.
Rob LaHayne is Vice President of Employee Benefits at Namely. With over 10 years of experience in the employee benefits industry, his specialties include enrollment services, benefits design strategies, and employee engagement. Connect with him and the Namely team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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