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Shopping for voluntary benefits? 5 ‘must ask’ questions

by on
in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources,Small Business Tax,Small Business Tax Deduction Strategies

As a way to cut costs, more organizations are replacing their company-paid benefits with voluntary benefits. However, choosing (or negotiating) the wrong voluntary benefits plan can result in extra fees, added paperwork and push-back from employees.

Use of voluntary perks is growing. More than 55% of employers offer voluntary benefits, says a MetLife survey, and insurers are cranking out new voluntary insurance products.

Employers typically don’t contribute to voluntary benefits. Employees pay the premiums through payroll deductions. The most popular voluntary plans include health care, cancer and critical illness, disability, dental, life insurance and long-term care.

To prevent unnecessary costs and time (and lapsed coverage), here are five key questions to ask when shopping for voluntary benefits:

1. Does the plan carry minimum employee participation requirements?
Plus, what is the participation rate in other workplaces, and what happens if the requirements aren’t met?

Some voluntary insurance carriers stop offering certain plans (or they charge an administrative fee) if a workplace doesn’t meet certain participation thresholds. Survey employee interest in the benefit before signing on to any threshold plan. If possible, push for plans with no minimum participation requirements.

2. How do you help enroll employees and educate them about the plan and services?
Choose voluntary insurance providers that offer several options for communicating with employees and enrolling them, including one-on-one and group meetings, call centers and online access. 

3. How do you handle payroll deductions, billing and the claims process?
Some voluntary benefits depend on employers to handle part of the administrative duties.

4. Are you willing to make enrollment visits at different times
and workplace locations to accommodate employee schedules and shifts?

5. What are the most popular voluntary benefits in my industry?
The answer can help indicate the types of coverage your employees want.

Final tips:
Use a voluntary benefits broker or an insurance broker that specializes in voluntary policies. Reason: Voluntary benefits insurers push their own products. Your current insurance broker may not be an expert on voluntary benefits. Also, use employee focus groups, interviews or surveys to find out what types of voluntary benefits your workforce wants.

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