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How Voluntary Benefits Can Help Employees and Employers Lower Health Care Costs



Workers value the financial security offered by voluntary benefits. Here’s how you can deliver what they want in a complete benefits package.​

What do a tooth filling, a new pair of eyeglasses, and lost wages due to a serious accident all have in common?

They all pose varying levels of financial uncertainty for your employees. Because traditional medical insurance doesn’t cover these unexpected needs, employees may find themselves in a stressful financial situation.

Fortunately, there is a way for workers and employers alike to find some extra bottom-line security: voluntary benefits. These insurance products, offered by employers but paid mostly by workers, do more than provide a financial stopgap for individuals. They can also help employers manage their overall health care expenses while maintaining a competitive edge in the market for talent.

A cost-efficient way to keep health care costs down

There are several reasons it makes sense for employers to offer – or expand – a portfolio of voluntary benefits:

Filling gaps. Popular voluntary benefits, such as dental, vision, disability, critical illness, hospital indemnity, or accident insurance help employees fill gaps in coverage left exposed by their core health insurance plan. By decreasing their own financial risk in certain areas, employees may be more comfortable choosing lower premium/higher deductible health insurance.

  • Greater employee flexibility. Every employee has different personal situations. Some may have young families and want to protect them from the financial impact of an accident or long-term disability. Some may not have been to a dentist in a while because they don’t have dental insurance. Voluntary benefits allow employees to tailor coverage to their specific needs, freeing an employer from offering the full range of products to all workers at their own expense.
  • Additional prevention. With voluntary benefits, employees will find it more affordable to seek preventative care. For example, a visit to the dentist or eye doctor for routine care can detect serious health issues – which, in the long run, can lead to the ER or major surgery if left unchecked. Giving your employees more opportunities to see a health care provider – not just a medical doctor – can ultimately drive down health care costs.

Employees are big fans of voluntary benefits

Employees also see the advantages of voluntary benefits. According to a recent survey by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), 95 percent of employees are satisfied with their voluntary benefits.

That’s because voluntary benefits help employees be more confident in their financial future and more satisfied with their jobs. In addition, when these benefits are offered through the workplace, employees can take advantage of more affordable group rates and convenient payroll deductions, often using pre-tax dollars.

The relationship is clear: a better benefits package means more engaged employees who will be more likely to stay at your organization and contribute their best work.

Helping employees see the value of voluntary benefits

Even though most employees already find voluntary benefits appealing, there are ways for you to encourage even greater participation.

Contribute to premiums. Picking up all or part of the cost will help make voluntary benefits more affordable for employees while adding relatively little to your total expenses. Also, by subsidizing some benefits like critical illness or hospital indemnity insurance – which can protect against huge, unexpected out-of-pocket costs – employees may be more likely to select a high-deductible health insurance plan.

In any case, as more and more companies offer voluntary benefits, the small price of subsidization will pale in comparison to the cost of going without a robust benefits package, which would put organizations in a less competitive position for talent.

  • Bundling benefits. Offering several voluntary benefits together – especially at the same time employees are selecting health insurance during open enrollment – allows workers to see their whole risk picture with more clarity. For example, if they see that a health plan could leave them with high out-of-pocket deductibles and co-insurance payments, they would be more likely to sign up for voluntary benefits that can help offset this financial exposure at mere pennies on the dollar.