Sellers of term life insurance benefits and critical illness insurance may have more opportunities to increase sales than sellers of some other benefits.

Researchers at a unit of MetLife Inc., New York, have published tables supporting that conclusion in a summary of results from a survey of 1,514 benefits decision-makers at companies with a minimum of 2 employees and another survey of 1,202 full-time employees ages 21 and over.

MetLife prepared the report to help promote a new employer benefits benchmarking tool it has developed using the survey data.

Penetration rates for many of the benefits products included seem to be similar in different regions of the United States and in all company size categories except for the smallest, 2-49 employee category.

Even in the 2-49 employee category, for example, 94% of the participating employers said they offer medical insurance. The participating employers in that smallest category were actually more likely to say they offer medical insurance than employers in the categories for employers with 1,000 to 25,000 employees. For the 4 size categories in that range, self-reported medical insurance penetration rates range from 86% to 89%, MetLife researchers say.

The researchers found much wider variations in penetration of term life insurance and critical illness insurance.

Penetration of term life ranges from 64% to 72% in the Midwest, South and West, but only 58% of the participating employers in the Northeast said they offer term life, MetLife researchers say.

Term life penetration was noticeably lower in the services industry and the retail trade industry than in other industries studied. Penetration rates for that product ranged from 69% to 73% for the financial-insurance-real estate industry, the technology industry and the manufacturing industry, but only 64% for services and only 54% for retail trade.

Critical illness penetration peaks at 47% in the South but falls to 35% in the Northeast.