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Help Employees Plan Ahead – Top Voluntary Benefits for 2021

Help Employees Plan Ahead – Top Voluntary Benefits for 2021
Posted on Monday, May 11, 2020 by Businessolver Team
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Even during a pandemic, benefits and HR pros need to prepare for Annual Enrollment.

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An important part of that process is thinking critically about what options you offer employees. In this “new normal,” voluntary coverages should be top of list.

Over the past few years, there has been an increasing focus on voluntary benefits, much of it related to employees’ desire and ability to create suites of benefits they are able to customize themselves. Buying a house next year? Maybe you could use legal coverage. Have pets and want insurance for them? No problem, that’s available. Concerned about a family history of cancer? You might want to pick up critical illness or a hospital indemnity plan—or both.

That desire employees have to customize isn’t going away. In fact, it might be stronger than ever as employees deal with reimagined short- and longer-term needs in the context of the uncertainty engendered by a global pandemic, widespread job losses and an almost overnight recession. Employees may be rethinking needs that were previously on the back burner or considered less important. Additional coverage to address these needs may be exactly what employees are looking for when they enroll in their 2021 benefits.

What voluntary options should employers consider adding to their suite of benefits?

Here are our top three suggestions:

  1. Identity protection. In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, hackers and scammers have been working overtime to get their virtual hands on stimulus payments and unemployment benefits. They’ve also been luring people with coronavirus-related emails and texts in an attempt to introduce malware or gather credit card and other personal information. Even the most vigilant consumer can fall prey to identity theft, especially in an environment where people are fearful and potentially more vulnerable than usual.
  2. Legal insurance. As the situation with coronavirus evolves, it’s possible that legal challenges may arise that people aren’t prepared for. There could be issues associated with eviction, mortgage and other loan payments, bankruptcy or property matters. Legal insurance is generally a modest monthly cost and it may be something employees are more interested in during uncertain times.
  3. Hospital indemnity. Hospitalization rates for under-65 patients with COVID-19 has been relatively low, between 2.5 and 7.4 per 100,000. However, for those people ending up as inpatients, the stay is around 20 days and it carries an estimated price tag of $30,000. This can be financially catastrophic. Even when the patient has insurance and most or all of the healthcare cost is covered, there is still loss of income from missing work.

    This type of coverage protects employees from the economic costs of unforeseen illness, and it’s often touted as a companion coverage for those with high deductible plans to protect from out-of-pocket costs before the deductible is met. However, even with traditional healthcare plans more employees may be concerned about the financial implications of a serious condition that requires an inpatient stay since payments from hospital indemnity coverage does not have to be used for actual hospital costs.

One of the key considerations when offering these and other voluntary benefits is to ensure employees understand what is available to them so they can make educated decisions based on their individual needs. Including comprehensive information in benefits communications can help, but many employees don’t understand benefits well, nor do they always spend the time to review all their Annual Enrollment materials.

To help connect people to the benefits choices that make sense for their financial situation and their state of mind, offering traditional and voluntary coverages within a single enrollment and delivery platform offers the best experience. The solution should include a decision guidance tool integrated into the enrollment process along with the option for real-time support. This helps employees understand all the options and choices available to them and it provides the guidance necessary for them to make what can be complex financial and emotional decisions.

As employers think strategically about their benefits offerings for 2021 as Annual Enrollment planning begins, voluntary coverages should be part of the approach. Now is the time to talk with your broker or advisor about adding the options employees might well be looking for this fall.

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