The problem, as it so often does, begins with the name. Voluntary benefits aren’t voluntary; they’re necessary. The so-called supplemental products should always have been part of the core benefit package offered to employees.
They became voluntary accidentally, really. As the cost of health insurance increased, small employers made the tragic mistake of taking money away from life, disability, critical illness and other important benefits to put it all into health insurance. That created a void. Suddenly, employees were receiving health coverage, but nothing else.
Additionally, without online enrollment supported by decision support, the enrollment process is cumbersome and often split into two enrollment meetings, many times months apart. It should have always been one holistic decision. Making each choice separately leads to misaligning your money. When it’s all right in front of you, you can see that choosing the $1,000 deductible over the $500 deductible works for you and gives you an extra $10 a month for your 401(k) (or even twice that with a company match). We have to get to a place where these decisions are happening on the same system and not living in silos, so that people can fit the pieces together and create the best possible plan for themselves.
There seems to be a movement by some innovative carriers to simplify and even bundle their products. In fact, it’s almost back-to-the-future: A new breed of accident policies are returning the past, when an accident policy simply covered the cost of the medical plan deductible.
Why shouldn’t we bundle this accident policy with a critical illness policy, and make it a simpler purchase? Couple that with narrow networks — which get a bad rap, but are important for driving down the cost of healthcare — and an individual or family can save a lot of money. More money that can go into the 401(k) or college fund. Some carriers are unveiling large narrow networks and leading this change.