It is interesting the seeming cyclical nature of voluntary and wellness benefits. I remember back in the 80s when my step mother, who was a VP of Human Resources in a large local company, devised a wellness plan for their employees. It was ‘new’ and hopefully going to help with premiums. It didn’t seem to last long even though top management were supportive.
In come the 90s and the 00’s and although still around and available the voluntary benefits didn’t seem as powerful. We are now half way through the teens, six years into the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare and all other acronyms) and the hot topic for 2017 are again voluntary benefits and wellness.
Deductibles and out of pocket maximums are painfully high for most small employers and individuals. Voluntary benefits like accident coverage, critical illness and cancer plans have become ‘hot’ because they provide money to the insured to use for the high deductibles and everyday expenses.
Wellness today is not only focusing on activity and weight loss, but financial and legal well being. Included in financial wellness can be fiscal education, employee purchase plans, parental leave when taking care of elderly parents or sick children and even retirement planning (different than offering retirement plans like 401k or a SIMPLE IRA). Telemedicine, although often related to the medical plan, can also be another aspect of voluntary benefits. Being able to see a doctor for a minor concern via skype or phone can get employees back to work and quick comfort.
Voluntary benefits, no matter what is offered need to be well designed and integrated. “Understanding how the different solutions work together is critical, especially if paired with a high deductible health plan,” says Paul Goedde, Executive Vice President of the Voluntary Employee Benefits board and product management lead for Cigna. This understanding assists with retention of great employees as well as mange the bottom line with more satisfied employees.
Footnote: This utilizes details from an article by Alan Goforth in volume 15 No 1 January edition of Benefits Pro