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The Business Case for Voluntary Benefits

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What You Need to Know

  • Many employers want to extend the range of the benefits they offer.
  • Having the right mix of benefits can help an employer set a certain tone.
  • A menu of voluntary paid products can make benefits easy for employees to customize.

Employees are restless and job hunting again after more than a year of feeling stuck in place. The quits rate, which measures the number of employees who leave companies of their own accord, hit an all-time high in April 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With competition for talent becoming increasingly fierce, employers are stepping up their game to attract and keep good talent. Benefits packages are a key focal point. After a year of making employees’ health and safety a top priority, employers are now taking a closer look at how they support the overall wellness of their workforce moving forward.

How are things changing? MetLife’s latest U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study found that 66% of employers have plans to extend the range of employee-paid benefits, or voluntary benefits, they offer; and 75% are planning to provide greater customization of benefits packages.

Establishing the right mix of benefits sets a certain tone: when benefits packages meet employees’ needs, they are more likely to have trust in their employer’s leadership and feel more resilient, according to the MetLife study. Those factors can heavily influence how someone feels about their job.

Further, employees increasingly want the ability to customize their benefits. Voluntary benefits like vision and dental are a great opportunity for employers to demonstrate their commitment to employee wellbeing, while also enabling employees to select the benefits that best fit their needs.

The range of voluntary offerings is vast, but one of the most widely appealing is vision insurance. Its potential impact on overall health is worth closer examination.

A Window Into Your Health

Vision problems rank among the top 10 disabilities among adults 18 years and older and its economic impact in the U.S. is massive, totaling billions of dollars annually. One of the most prevalent causes of blindness is diabetes; yet as many as 9 out of 10 cases of blindness caused by diabetes could be prevented with early detection and treatment.

Giving extra attention to eye health right now is imperative, following a year during which many individuals pushed off routine eye and wellness appointments. An estimated 93 million American adults are at high risk for serious vision loss, but only half of American adults visited an eye doctor in the past 12 months.

Routine eye exams are critical to early disease prevention and detection; if conditions like glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy are caught early enough, it can help stop the progression of disease or sight loss.

Beyond early detection of more serious conditions, routine exams are critical for seemingly minor issues that can become problematic if left untreated. For instance, digital eyestrain is growing more pervasive because of the amount of time everyone spent on screens during the pandemic.

Eyestrain can negatively impact productivity over time, but it can addressed by taking preventative measures like wearing appropriate corrective lenses and practicing the 20-20-20 rule, or taking a 20 second break to look at an object at least 20 feet away every 20 minutes.

Preventative care is core to a thoughtful vision care benefits program, as is lowering out-of-pocket costs to encourage individuals to take full advantage of eye exams and corrective lenses. The potential outcome is a triple win for employers: keeping employees (and their families) in good health, reducing medical expenditures and reducing lost productivity due to absenteeism.

Voluntary Benefits Edge

With increased attention on overall health and wellness in recent years, current and prospective employees are closely scrutinizing benefits plans. In today’s competitive job market, a benefits package rich with voluntary offerings that address important health issues — like vision and dental care — will stand out.

The competitive value of health-related voluntary benefits is a bonus; the real value extends well beyond that. With solid evidence demonstrating the significant impact of preventative care, it’s also a smart investment in keeping an employer’s workforce healthy and productive.

Voluntary benefits are only expected to rise in popularity, as they did at the end of the Great Recession. Employees get the flexibility of customizing programs to their changing lifestyle, while helping employers’ maximize their benefits expenditures in a way that helps to improve long-term outcomes.

Now is a great time to encourage employers to evaluate what they’re currently offering to employees and consider adding voluntary benefits that focus on preventive care and holistic wellness to plug in the gaps.

(Photo: Monkey Business/Adobe Stock)


James Reid, CEO of Versant HealthJames Reid is the CEO of Versant Health, a vision care benefits company.