3 Ways to Combat Health Reform Chaos

You v. that storm

(Photo: Allison Bell/TA) (Photo: Allison Bell/TA)

Anticipation can be a good thing, but that’s not the case for employers during seemingly ever-changing health care reform legislation.

The uncertainty has caused some to stay focused on medical insurance, with a wait-and-see attitude on other benefits. This distraction can be a problem for employees, and for employers as well. Because regardless of how health care reform turns out, it has and will continue to do little to directly impact employers top two concerns, health care costs and employee retention.  

(Related: Finding the Next Generation of Brokers)

Waiting to see what happens with one heavy-hitting-benefit is keeping some companies from implementing health care cost reduction techniques as well as building comprehensive programs now that can attract and keep top talent, an increasingly important skill during today’s relatively low unemployment rates.

Voluntary benefits can help Brokers encourage clients to get moving by showing them how these important products provide flexibility, control costs and set employees up with stronger, more robust financial protection. It can serve as a relationship-building tool for brokers as well, who will be able to deliver solutions instead of only dreaded news of yet another increase in health insurance premiums.

In case you’re wondering if clients would be interested, consider this: A third of employees enroll in every type of voluntary coverage offered, according to the 2016 Employee Benefits Enrollment Study by Customer Benefits Analytics and Lodestar Advisory Partners. And with 40% of surveyed Americans unable to cover a $400 emergency expense without selling something, there’s a clear need for that financial protection.

Here are three ways you can advise clients to improve or develop comprehensive benefits plans.

1. Redesign the benefits package with a higher-deductible health plan to reduce health insurance cost and pair it with voluntary benefits to offset employees’ increased financial exposure.

Voluntary benefits such as hospitalization, accident, critical illness and cancer insurance can help employees cover out-of-pocket medical costs, including deductibles and coinsurance.

Puzzle (Image: Thinkstock)

(Image: Thinkstock)

The benefits can also help pay expenses medical insurance doesn’t cover, such as transportation for treatment or even household bills while employees are out of work.

2. Offer customization. Voluntary benefits allow your clients to offer a more comprehensive benefits package with choices their employees can use to tailor their coverage for their unique needs. The newbie in her first job doesn’t want or need the same protection as a mid-career mom or a soon-to-retire empty nester.

3. Proactively and consistently communicate about benefits options. This is a big need for clients looking to boost participation. Nearly all employers in LIMRA’s 2016 “Help Employers Connect the Dots” survey said their communication approach is at least somewhat successful. But employees are saying, “Not so much.” Unum’s 2015 U.S. Worker Benefits Survey showed only a third of employees strongly agree they have a good understanding of all the insurance benefits offered by their employer.

One communication tool both groups agree on is one-to-one meetings. My company's post-enrollment surveys for the past eight years show that 95% employees who have participated in individual benefits counseling say it was valuable, and that 98% say the counseling helps them understand their benefits better.

Employers know a strong benefits program is essential to keep their talented workforce and bring new folks in the door. And the great news is their benefits package doesn’t have to hinge on changes to major medical insurance beyond their control. With guidance from brokers, they can quit the waiting game and take steps now to create a more comprehensive, flexible and affordable benefits package that will give their business a competitive edge.

--- Read Unum Enters Health Stop-Loss Market on ThinkAdvisor

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