Insurance carriers in the voluntary benefit market identified critical illness and disability insurance and limited-benefit medical plans as their top 3 growth products for 2006.

Eastbridge Consulting Group Inc. says its biennial study of the workplace market found a dramatic change from 2004, when its survey found close to 60% of carriers listed universal life as their top growth products in the workplace market.

But the change actually reflects a comeback for CI insurance, which Eastbridge listed as the top product in its 2002 survey.

In 2006, just 11% of carriers named UL insurance as a top growth product in the voluntary benefits market.

“In addition to the decrease in those selecting universal life, significantly fewer companies also chose term life as a growth product,” according to Bonnie Brazzell, vice president of Eastbridge. Term sales fell to 16% from 29% in 2004, she said.

Many respondents also said accident and dental plans were among the higher growing products for their companies this year.

Following critical illness were supplemental medical (gap) insurance, at 53%, and limited benefit medical at 34%.

“While there is a slight difference in this year’s list of industry growth products compared to the list from 2004, the most notable difference is the lack of consensus among the carriers,” Eastbridge president Gil Lowerre said. “The list of top 3 products varied significantly from carrier to carrier. In fact, critical illness was the only product named by more than half of the carriers as an industry growth product.”

Ironically, CI insurance was also the most frequently named “underperforming product,” Brazzell said.

“In fact, 32% of the carriers surveyed named critical illness as the product that has not grown as expected,” she said.