What are the current trends in today’s worksite marketplace?
For one thing, life insurance continues to be one of the most popular voluntary benefits. In fact, at Unum, a Chattanooga, Tenn. insurer that has been in the voluntary market for 25 years, voluntary life is the top seller, said Debra K. Cecil, Unum’s director of marketing and product development.
Still, the voluntary market–and Unum also–has now expanded into many other product lines as well, Cecil told a breakout session here at the 6th annual life insurance conference of LIMRA International, LOMA, Society of Actuaries and American Counsel of Life Insurers.
Chris Morris, marketing consultant with Benefit Consultants, Inc., Nashville, Tenn., agreed. “The worksite market is not just life insurance anymore,” he said. Now there are 30 voluntary products and services available to fill gaps in coverage, depending on needs of the employer.
LIMRA’s list of voluntary products supports that. It identifies these voluntary products: cancer, accident, supplemental medical, short term disability, dental, critical illness, accidental death and dismemberment, long term disability, supplemental life, vision, life, prescription drug, LTD buy-up, mini-medical and hospitalization/medical.
Furthermore, voluntary market penetration is increasing, according to LIMRA. Overall, 83% of employers with 10+ employees offer one or more voluntary benefits, said a background sheet distributed by LIMRA at the session.
And employee participation rates now range from 15% (for worksite CI insurance) to as high as 50% (for worksite prescription drug), LIMRA figures show.
“Insurance agents have moved to upscale markets, so the mid-market has become the sweet spot for firms in voluntary sales,” said Morris, in explaining reasons for this market expansion.
Another factor is the impact of the rising cost of medical insurance benefits on group benefits, indicated Cecil.
So is rising awareness about worksite products, said Cecil. She gave a competitor, AFLAC, credit for helping get the word about what voluntary benefits mean.
Public awareness is such that employees now go to the employer actually asking for voluntary products they’ve heard about, said Morris. They’ll say, “I want one of those policies” advertised on TV, he said.
Distribution is a factor too, said Cecil. Today’s channels include not only career agents who specialize in the voluntary market, she said, but also independent agents, direct response and banks.
“In the last 5 years, employee benefit specialists or true consultants have become active in the market, too,” said Morris.