If voluntary insurance benefits are a way for employers to provide a little extra to employees, benefits manufacturers themselves are trying to sweeten some products to build interest and hopefully foster enrollments.
MassMutual, for instance, recently added an employee assistance package from a third-party administrator to its worksite disability insurance policy.
The program, GuidanceResources, provided by ComPsych Corp., Chicago, extends counseling and information to disability income insurance policyholders and their families to help relieve stress and anxiety. The idea is to help employees keep control of the often emotionally trying situations that accompany a disabling injury or illness, says Larry Hazzard, vice president of marketing for MassMutual’s disability products.
The program offers health assessments to help spot early signs of depression, a common problem when a disability strikes. It also provides eldercare referrals to help fill the gap when the person who is disabled had been giving care to another.
“The idea is to help people avoid stress- related complications,” Hazzard says. “Claimants have access to live local counseling programs, because many physical disabilities have an accompanying bout of depression. This offers much more holistic service to the claimant. For us, it provides a higher level of disability support. Our hope is to return claimants to productive lives sooner.”
MassMutual applies what it calls a “Build-to-suit” program to worksite benefits, by trying to tailor them to meet the needs and culture of each organization it serves, he says. “It includes an extensive variety of resources that range from daycare search services to information on parenting, depression or an adolescent’s use of drugs, just to name a few.”
He says the program has had an “incredibly positive reaction,” according to company agents.
“We’ve had in the first two weeks of the program four people referred to our rehabilitation services and roughly 1,000 folks using consultative services. Most were traditional assistance, and another 33% used the financial counseling component, while about 15% used its legal advisory service to get help dealing with credit or other legal issues arising from their disability.”
As another improvement, MassMutual is trying to expedite its traditional application process to make it less time-consuming, Hazzard says.
“Most of the process is built to screen out the tiny fraction who intend to commit fraud, so everyone is subjected to the rigorous application,” he says. “We are trying to be more user friendly, so the whole application is much more streamlined and less intrusive.”
UnumProvident distributes its worksite products through employee benefits brokers, so it positions them to fit the overall benefits package the broker offers, says Neicee Durrence, a company vice president.
“They are interested in flexibility of offerings, particularly in support of health and non-life offerings, such as disability, accident and critical illness,” she says. “We’ve seen the market looking for more employee choice and the ability to maximize premium dollars by making sure product features support the direction the employer wants to take.”
As a result, UnumProvident has increased its use of wellness benefits to accommodate the increasing number of employers that want to promote preventive care. These add-ons to its supplemental health policies pay for routine examinations like mammograms.
UnumProvident also recently beefed up its accident insurance plan, adding a disability income sickness rider.
“Basically, it streamlines our standard short-term disability plan,” Durrence says. “So, it’s a combination approach that offers what best suits the employer and the needs of the employee.”
By and large, UnumProvident has seen more interest than ever in a menu of benefits, she notes.
“Everybody is aware of fundamental life and disability insurance, and employers are now more open to consider others, such as critical illness, a single product that offers a lump-sum benefit for the big three: cancer, stroke and heart attack,” she says. “The ability to maximize a benefit across broad needs is at the forefront in decision-makers’ minds today.”