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# Thursday, December 19, 2013
The Coming Boom in Voluntary Benefits

The Coming Boom in Voluntary Benefits


As employee benefits experts look forward to 2014, many are proclaiming it will be a big year for growth in voluntary benefits.


This is absolutely correct, but it is actually an understatement—for there is no end in sight to the growth.


Why? The expansion is being driven by another trend that clearly isn’t stopping anytime soon: employers moving to cheaper, higher-deductible health plans to cut costs. This shifts costs to employees and drives the need for voluntary benefits that help ease the burden on employees and make plans more palatable.


To make their offerings competitive, employers should offer the most-popular ancillary employee benefits (both voluntary and employee-paid) and also consider benefits that may not be common now but likely will be in the future.


SHRM recently published an article on the hottest voluntary benefits (http://www.weknownext.com/trends/growth-in-voluntary-benefits-expected-in-2014), and we’d like to highlight four voluntary benefits we feel are highly important.


1.      Dental: This is high on employees’ wish list, and with 74 percent of employers providing dental coverage, according to a 2013 United Benefit Advisors (UBA) survey, it’s an important part of a competitive benefits package.


2.      Long-term disability insurance: This is a critical safeguard for employees, as it typically pays a portion of their income if they can’t work for more than six months. And with 46 percent of employers offering long-term disability insurance according to the UBA survey, it’s a relatively common benefit, meaning not offering it can be a problem.


3.      Gap insurance: Gap plans, which we wrote about extensively in our last post (http://www.benefitwerks.com/blog/2013/12/13/GapInsuranceASecurityBlanketForThoseWithHighDeductiblePolicies.aspx), help protect employees from some of the largest medical bills they can incur from high-deductible policies by paying fixed-dollar benefits for hospital stays, outpatient surgeries and complex diagnostic procedures. Due to the growth in high-deductible policies, gap insurance is expected to become increasingly common.


4.      Flexible spending accounts: FSAs should be increasingly popular and important due the increase in employee health care spending and altering the use-it-or-lose-it rule to allow employees to carry over up to $500 each year.


It’s not enough, however, just to add voluntary benefits. Communicating effectively with employees (http://www.benefitwerks.com/blog/2013/09/19/DoYourEmployeesValueTheirBenefits.aspx) becomes imperative as an employer’s voluntary benefits offerings grow. Since employees pay most or all of the costs, it’s important for the employer to help them make smart financial choices based on their individual needs. For instance, if they choose to pay for voluntary benefits that don’t really suit their needs, those benefits can easily turn into liabilities—both for the employees and the employer.

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