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3 top industry targets for non-medical benefits

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Sudden changes in the labor market tides may have a big effect on which employers are adopting, and dropping, non-medical health benefits.

Aflac Inc. (NYSE:AFL) has published data supporting that conclusion in a batch of facts drawn from a survey of 1,977 U.S. decision makers of employers with at least three employees. An outside firm conducted the survey in early 2015.

Aflac also commissioned an online survey of 5,337 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, who work at an employer with three or more employees, and an online survey of 306 insurance brokers and producers.

Aflac sells products at the worksite, often to low-income and middle-income workers. One way it sliced and diced the data was to show how poorly many lower-income workers felt they understood the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) when compared with higher-income workers.

The company found, for example, that only 49 percent of the lower-income workers said their employers had prepared them well for the impact of health reform, compared with 61 percent of the higher-income workers.

See also: S&P puts spotlight on middle-market sales

In another set of analyses, Aflac showed how benefits packages changed between 2014 and 2015 in 10 industry sectors.

Analysts gave industry-by-industry benefits package statistics for 2014 and 2015. For each industry, for each year, the analysts gave the percentage of participating employers that offered major medical coverage, life insurance, voluntary products and three types of non-medical health benefits: dental insurance, vision insurance and disability insurance.

See also: Healthcare reform FAQ: Which benefits are not governed by PPACA?

In the interest-rate-plague financial services sector, for example, the percentage of employers offering major medical coverage increased slightly to 83 percent, from 80 percent, but the percentage that offering dental insurance increased only slightly, to 81 percent, from 79 percent.

The percentage offering vision insurance fell to 71 percent, from 73 percent, while the percentage offering disability insurance increased to 70 percent, from 68 percent.

We created a simple non-medical health benefits growth indicator for the industry sectors Aflac included by adding up the percentage-point changes in the offered rates for dental insurance, vision insurance and disability insurance, then dividing by three.

For the financial services sector, for example, the sum of the percentage-point changes in the offered rates for those three products is a 1 percentage-point increase. The average of those three offered-rate changes is about 0.3 percentage points.

The average non-medical benefits offered-rate changes ranged from negative 4.7 percentage points, for manufacturing, up to more than 10 percentage points, for a sector on the rebound.

For a look at the three sectors that looked best in the Aflac data, read on.

Classroom

3. Education

Dental change: +6 percentage points 

Vision change: +5 percentage points

Disability change: +6 percentage points

AVERAGE: +5.7 percentage points

A few years ago, education majors had trouble finding jobs. Students stopped getting degrees in education. Now, schools are hiring again, and competing hard for a small pool of qualified candidates.

The percentage of employers in the sector offering major medical coverage rose to 90 percent, from 83 percent.

See also: Ideas: Assurant, StanCorp

Wholesale facility

2. Wholesale trade

Dental change: +11 percentage points

Vision change: +6 percentage points

Disability change: +12 percentage points

AVERAGE: +9.7 percentage points

The wholesale trade may be benefiting from the modest rebound in the job market and healthy businesses’ efforts to do something with all the cash they’ve been piling up.

The percentage of employers in the sector offering major medical coverage rose to 89 percent, from 78 percent.

See also: Amazon’s 401(k) plan is pretty brutal, too

Image: LHP Photo/Allison Bell

WTC site

1. Construction

Dental change: +11 percentage points

Vision change: +13 percentage points

Disability change: +7 percentage points

AVERAGE: +10.3 percentage points

The Great Recession threatened to kill construction dead. The Federal Reserve responded by holding interest rates low enough to put a crane on every block. Now, construction companies need qualified workers to operate the cranes.

The percentage of employers in the sector offering major medical coverage rose to 86 percent, from 76 percent.

See also: Disability benefits may cut workers’ comp costs

Image: LHP Photo/Allison Bell