More mid-market employers eligible for group voluntary benefits plans

Originally posted November 03, 2013 by Joanne Wojcik on www.businessinsurance.com

Many mid-market employers that previously could offer voluntary products to employees only on an individual or multi-life basis may now be eligible for group plans.

Perhaps the only exception is long-term care insurance, which is available primarily on an individual basis due to the recent spate of insurer withdrawals from the group LTC market.

“Now many insurers are offering voluntary benefit products on a group basis to make it possible to enroll on self-serve platforms,” said Bruce Sletton, senior vice president and national elective benefits practice leader at Aon Hewitt in Dallas.

“The trend has been toward group insurance products in the voluntary space,” said Beth Grellner, St. Louis-based co-chair of Towers Watson & Co.’s national voluntary benefits and services group. “For the third year in a row, we’ve seen group insurance (voluntary benefits) grow at a faster rate than voluntary products offered on an individual basis.”

Group voluntary benefits provide guaranteed issue, regardless of employees’ health status or age, and often come at a lower price than if the benefits been underwritten on an individual basis.

The downside, however, is that group products are guaranteed to be renewable only on a one-, two- or three-year basis, Mr. Sletton said. “The insurer has the right to review the products and then make price adjustments,” or drop the group altogether, he said.

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