A broker working with a client to expand benefit offerings will often find a gap between the benefits he knows are most needed and those that are of most interest to the employer and employees.

This gap is most apparent among smaller employers just beginning to expand their benefit offering beyond medical, often by sponsoring voluntary, employee-paid benefits.

Attempting to design a benefits package that meets the immediate needs and desires of everyone (including you, the broker) can be daunting. In these instances, you may want to change your focus temporarily from what they need and instead consider what they really want. Specifically, a successful long-term approach may be to start with highly used benefits such as dental and vision and follow up later with the life and disability offerings that so many employees desperately need.

On the whole, Americans are drastically underinsured for the impact of a premature death or loss of income. According to LIMRA International, only 61% of adult Americans have life insurance, with 59% of those covered by some form of group insurance tied to their employment. Even among those covered by life insurance, LIMRA reports that four out of 10 believe their coverage is insufficient. Yet they seldom seek out additional coverage. The old adage, “Life insurance is sold, not bought,” is just as true with voluntary benefits sold at the workplace as it is for insurance sold around the kitchen table.

The trends in disability insurance are just as alarming. The number of employers offering disability benefits has been declining. In some employer size segments, the percentage of employers sponsoring disability benefits has fallen more than 20% in the last four years. But, while sponsorship of disability coverage is on the decline, the chances of becoming disabled during ones working years remain staggeringly high. The Society of Actuaries says a 25-year-old has a 58% chance of becoming disabled for more than 90 days during his working years. In addition, 50% of home foreclosures are due to a disability16 times more than those resulting from a premature death.

As a benefits broker, you are likely aware of such facts and use them to educate your clients on the tremendous need for both life and disability insurance. In the interest of customer satisfaction, however, you may often find yourself recommending solutions that more directly address the benefits that employees have been most vocal about.

For example, dental insurance is the nonmedical benefit most commonly offered. Among employers that dont already offer dental, it is employees most requested voluntary benefit.

There are a number of strong reasons to install dental as the first voluntary benefit you sell to a group.

First, almost every dental insurance buyer will make use of their policy, reinforcing the value of buying benefits at the workplace.

Second, every time they use their benefit, it provides an opportunity for the carrier and the broker to make a good impression.

Finally, offering a benefit with such high popularity directly addresses one of your clients most primary concerns: attracting and retaining quality employees.

To use dental insurance to help increase sales of life and disability, consider the following suggestions:

–Keep offerings affordable, possibly requiring deferrals for major services or offering coinsurance that increases over time.

–Keep in mind that a strong provider network is a driving factor in overall affordability.

–Ensure the dental insurance carrier you choose has a reputation for good customer service, because the ease of installing and maintaining the benefit likely will be the basis for your next voluntary benefit sale.

The demand for dental insurance is not going away. Its a benefit employees feel good about, especially since a structured, preventive approach to oral health can be shown to reduce long-term dental costs. Dont forget to point out to employers, too, that regular dental exams can help detect other major health conditions, such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.

So, if you are looking for ways to provide valuable protection to your customers while increasing sales of voluntary life and disability coverage, your best bet may be to start with the end in mind. A low-cost dental program may provide the appropriate introduction to voluntary benefits for both the employer and employees.

Employers will experience the ease of enrollment and administration of a voluntary dental plan. And employees will have a chance to experience the value and convenience of purchasing through payroll deduction. Once that is achieved, you confidently can recommend expanding their program with additional benefits. With the right carrier partner, an excellent voluntary dental program can be a great start to a long, fruitful client relationship. That ultimately will result in your ability to offer the life and disability benefits employees truly need.

Christopher T. Swanker leads the worksite strategic business unit for the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York. He can be reached by e-mail at chris_swanker@glic.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, March 25, 2005. Copyright 2005 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.