In the fitness world, the slogan, "No pain, no gain," means if you work hard enough at your exercise and diet regimen, eventually it will pay off for you.

But in the world of managing employee benefits programs, the slogan should be revised to "Lots of pain, no gain." In reality, your benefits program regimen is a losing battle. You're working hard to recruit and retain quality employees. You're dealing with ever-increasing health insurance premiums. Or perhaps you're unable to offer health insurance at all. Whatever your benefits situation, you're undoubtedly enduring a lot of benefits aches and pains, yet you're not realizing any gains.

The good news is you're not alone. The health and fitness industry shares many of the same issues employers all over the country struggle with every day: high health care inflation, ever-increasing health insurance premiums and competition for quality employees. Yet there are creative solutions that can help you strategically manage your benefits program and compete for quality workers, whether you have a few employees or hundreds. Consider voluntary benefitsspecifically, supplemental health plans, or limited benefit medical plans if you don't offer a group health plan. This could be the benefits regimen to deliver the "painless gains" you're looking for. Let's talk about these powerful options.

 

Voluntary Supplemental Health Plans Help Fill Coverage Gaps

If you currently offer a major medical plan for your employees, then you know you're probably expecting more steep increases at annual renewal time. The only option to manage the increases has been to pass the costs along to employees in the form of higher premiums and deductibles. According to a recent Employee Benefits Market Survey, "despite the cost increases for group medical insurance, most employers are continuing with traditional coverage plans and shifting costs to employees in the form of higher deductibles and copays as opposed to limiting options or discontinuing coverage."

Employees are worried about rising health care costs, too. A recent Watson Wyatt Worldwide survey reports more than one third of respondents are concerned about how they'd pay the bills resulting from a major illness. "Many workers are also worried about the impact of rising costs in the near term. Two in three (68 percent) believe their deductibles and copayments will increase in the next two years; more than half are worried that their employer will reduce their health benefits coverage."

Voluntary benefits can help. They're designed to complement, not replace, the core benefits you already offer. Typical voluntary products include short-term or long-term disability, life insurance and supplemental health plans. You can make them available to employees at no direct cost to youa cost-effective way to expand your benefits program. Or you can let employees pay the premiums for the products they want through convenient payroll deduction. This way, the choiceand the costis up to them.

 

Voluntary Supplemental Health Plans

 A good strategy to better manage health insurance costs is to implement a high-deductible health plan and bring in a voluntary supplemental health plan to help fill coverage gaps. There are different types of supplemental health plans to choose from, depending on your employees' coverage needs:

·         Hospital confinement indemnity insurance. Helps employees pay for increased deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses related to hospital confinement. Some products also include coverage for doctor's office visits and outpatient diagnostic tests.

·         Cancer and critical illness insurance. Pays benefits when employees are diagnosed with cancer or another specified critical illnessbenefits employees could use to cover out-of-pocket expenses.

·         Accident insurance. Provides benefits employees can use to help pay for medical expenses and deductibles incurred as a result of a covered accident.

·         HSA-compatible products: Describes streamlined hospital confinement indemnity insurance plans that can be purchased by employees who want to be eligible to participate in a health spending account.

Voluntary supplemental health plans like these can help bridge the gap left by high health insurance deductibles and copayments. Employees can choose the level of voluntary coverage they want and which family members to coveran important feature at a time when people are seeking more control of their health care options. Insureds get a lump-sum benefit paid directly to them any time they have a qualifying treatment, such as hospitalization or outpatient surgery. They can use this money to pay for deductibles, copayments and other noncovered costs associated with hospitalization, outpatient surgery or doctor's office visits. Or they can use the benefits to pay for transportation to the hospital, family member lodging and child carewhatever they need. These benefits help employees better handle the financial consequences from an unexpected accident or illness, especially if they incur thousands of dollars in expenses not covered by their health insurance.

 

Limited Benefit Medical Plans Help Provide Basic Coverage

If you don't currently offer health insurance but you'd like to provide some sort of medical coverage for your employees, you may want to consider offering a limited benefit medical plan. This type of plan is designed for employees who don't have traditional group health insurance at the workplace. The plan provides limited, lump-sum benefits for medical services such as doctor's office visits, outpatient diagnostic tests and inpatient hospital stays. It doesn't provide coverage for catastrophic care.

With the limited benefit medical plan approach, you can provide a basic level of coverage for employees and pay all, some or none of the premiums. In addition, you could offer other voluntary products, such as life insurance and disability coverage, to give employees a variety of benefits choices.

 

Effective Benefits Communication

If you make the move to a high-deductible health plan, or if you currently don't offer a group health plan but want to provide a limited benefit medical plan, effective benefits communication is critical. A competitive benefits package can help with employee attraction and retention; however, you won't get the biggest bang for your buck if your employees don't understand their benefits or appreciate the value of what you provide. Statistics show the more employees understand their benefits, the more satisfied they are. In fact, in companies that don't do a good job communicating the value of their rich benefits programs, the average turnover rate is 17 percent for top-performing employees. On the other hand, in organizations that do a comprehensive job communicating the value of less rich benefit packages, the average turnover rate among top-performing employees is 12 percent.

Because you want to attract new employees to your company and keep the good ones you have, it makes sense to educate your employees on their benefits program. Comprehensive communication is especially important when you're making changes in your program, such as increasing the health plan deductible and adding a voluntary supplemental health plan to soften the blow. If employees don't understand why you're doing this, they may perceive the changes negatively. Some employees may even leave your company for one that offers the same or worse benefits but does a better job communicating their value.

However, comprehensive benefits communication can be labor-intensive, something you probably don't have the time or resources to do on your own. Instead, partner with a quality voluntary benefits provider that can offer a variety of products to enhance your benefits program, as well as communicate your benefits program to employees and enroll them in their benefits. Look for one that has a team of benefits professionals with different enrollment options to meet the needs of each employee. The carrier should be able to:

·         Communicate and enroll both your company's core benefits and voluntary benefits.

·         Accommodate any company location or work shift.

·         Provide capabilities to conduct new hire enrollments and annual re-enrollments and help resolve any service issues.

You're concerned about managing the bottom line and attracting good employees. Employees are concerned about their increasing financial risks for medical expenses. Voluntary benefits and effective benefits communication can help your company realize "no pain, great gains" in your benefits program and help your employees get the coverage they need. Maybe you've heard about voluntary benefits but just aren't sure how they can help you. It's definitely worth your while to find out how a good voluntary benefits partner can help both you and your employees achieve benefits goals.

Tom Snyder is a managing general agent based out of San Antonio Texas. He has more than 20 years experience in working with voluntary benefits. Tom works with market leaders to provide voluntary insurance products to employees and their families through the workplace, personal benefits communication, diverse enrollment capabilities and a continued commitment to service. These products include a broad portfolio of insurance coverages, such as disability, life, and supplemental accident and health insurance policies.

For more information about products and services, call Tom at 210-492-0000 or email him at Tom@texbenefits.com.

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