Liberty Mutual Insurance Company says this might be a good time to approach the group disability market with a carefully designed product.

Employers responded to the recession recession by laying off hundreds of thousands of workers. 

The U.S. unemployment soared to 10% in October 2009, up from 4.7% just two years earlier.

Group insurance carriers talked about “in-group attrition” and “shrinking case sizes.”

But the unemployment rate fell to 8.3% in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Liberty Mutual executives say they believe some employers are now looking for affordable products that can help them attract and retain the employees they do want to keep.

Jean Scarrow, chief operating officer at the company’s group benefits unit, says some midsize employers seem to be willing to accept a standardized group disability plan design in exchange for lower prices. But even the most budget-minded employers still insist on solid customer service and claim management services, Scarrow says.

Employers also are starting to think of access to Web-based tools for filing and managing claims as a basic plan feature, Liberty Mutual says.

In the short-term disability market, midsize employers may prefer to economize by self-insuring against claim costs and hiring a carrier mainly to administer and manage the claims, the company says.