“Uncertainty” is a word that has consistently been mentioned in outlooks for 2010 and beyond. To make a sale, it will likely require more prospects, longer lead times, alternative strategies, and patience. However, for as many challenges as you’re likely to face, this is a great opportunity to provide much-needed education and customer service.

Adequate insurance coverage is a critical aspect of financial health for Americans, but is often one of the first budget items sacrificed when times get lean. As individuals across the country try to attain financial security, education about the value of voluntary insurance in the event of sickness or a life-altering event, such as an accident or disability, is critical.

Consumer sentiment

According to a recent study titled “Why Supplemental?” conducted by RTi Market Research, current economic conditions have changed the way consumers feel about their security and ability to survive financially in the event of illness, medical emergency, or job loss. In fact, unexpected illnesses and injuries cause 350,000 bankruptcies each year

To add to this problem, out-of-pocket medical costs continue to rise, and the nation is still undecided (as of press time) on a plan to reform the national health care system. According to a 2008 Kaiser study, working Americans pay, on average, more than $3,000 per year in out-of-pocket expenses toward family coverage – more than double what they paid a decade ago.

Consumers should have a financial safety net in place to offset rising health care costs. One way to help them achieve that is by educating clients about the value of supplemental insurance – a voluntary benefit that provides cash benefits in the event of accident or illness, leaving the policyholder to decide the best way to spend it. Cash benefits can help to cover expenses such as mortgage, rent, car payments, and utility bills. Voluntary insurance will also help eliminate multiple financial burdens and related stressors.

In fact, in the “Why Supplemental?” survey of 1,200 consumers, respondents without supplemental or voluntary health insurance coverage were more concerned about their finances, job security, and insurance than those with supplemental coverage. Many individuals without voluntary insurance are taking drastic steps to save money, including skipping doctor visits and foregoing necessary medical procedures. They are heightening their financial risks because they are unaware of alternative options for expanding coverage to help with copayments, wellness visits, increased deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs.

Adequate coverage

Voluntary benefits help provide clients with a safeguard against unexpected health events, associated expenses, and potential time out of work. Also, well-protected, financially secure individuals often make for more effective employees because with less time to worry about how to pay the bills, there’s more time to focus on getting the job done – resulting in better job security, with one less thing to worry about.

An online poll titled “Health Care Reform and Enrollment,” also conducted by RTi Market Research, surveyed more than 1,012 consumers who receive health care benefits through their or their spouse’s employer. More than half of the respondents revealed that they are not satisfied with the information they receive from their company on enrollment options. The majority (62 percent) of consumers said that their employers do not solicit input to help make the right selections for health care plans and carriers.

In the face of the new economy, many Americans will have to take it upon themselves to fill insurance gaps and understand their options.

To that end, the best role you can play in uncertain economic times is as an individual benefits solutions provider. Increase your value to your clients by presenting the best possible solutions for their needs. To present the best voluntary insurance options, start with these three sales tips:

  • Choose a trusted brand.
  • Choose products that provide income replacement.
  • Choose an insurer with a strong infrastructure.

By helping your clients achieve financial security, you not only expand your business, but you build trust and rapport with those who will be a great source of future references. With Americans searching for answers, you can uncover unlimited opportunities by stepping into the role of educator and advisor – providing advice and solutions to your clients.

is vice president of Wingspan and National Relationships at Aflac. He can be reached at 888- 861-0251.