Author Archive

Spousal Health Coverage Costs Continue To Rise

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Guest blog from Joy Binkley who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

Spousal Health CoverageThe cost of health insurance continues to rise, but the cost of covering one’s spouse is looking to be quite expensive for those spouses that waive their own employer-sponsored benefits. According to a recent survey of U.S. employers, the use of spousal surcharges is expected to double by 2018, from 27% to 56%. The average spousal surcharge is $1,200 per year, which is tacked on the previously determined payroll deduction.

The surcharge is going on top of the fact that employers are just asking employees to pay more to cover spouses and dependent children. More than half (56%) of employers are increasing payroll deductions for spouses, while just under half (46%) are increasing the cost to cover children. This is a trend we are seeing here in North Carolina as well. The most recent CAI 2015-2016 North Carolina Benefit and Cost Survey shows the average medical cost increasing for family rates going up 6.2% versus the previous survey’s increase of 4.4%. Employers are consistently asking employees to pay roughly the same portion as last year, which is 47% of the total premium cost.

Employers are continuing to focus on ways to impact healthcare cost. Besides asking those to pay more that are waiving their own employer plans, some are considering dropping spouses all together. The elimination of spousal health coverage is permitted under the Affordable Care Act criteria. The rational to drop coverage entirely can depend on the underlying benefit strategy. Some employers are dropping coverage due to low (or no current) participation on their plans, therefore eliminating coverage just entitles those that may be subsidy eligible to earn those governmental credits. Other may be considering it due to a financial hardship. Regardless, of the reason the current landscape is quickly changing for spousal health coverage.

Look back on the trends in spousal health coverage in 2014 and 2015, and see how the numbers have changed over the past couple of years.

When Are You Required to Pay Interns?

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

With summer months fast approaching, many employers are considering employing interns.  CAI’s Advice & Resolution Team often receives questions regarding pay requirements for interns.  There seems to be one school of thought out there that says the employer can decide whether or not they pay interns.  Well in fact, the USDOL (United States Department of Labor) has issued guidance on this issue (Fact Sheet #71.)  This fact sheet Internspecifies tests that must be met to exclude interns from minimum wage and overtime requirements under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act).

The following criteria must be applied when making this determination:

  • The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment
  • The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern
  • The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff
  • The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded
  • The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship
  • The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship

If ALL of the above factors are met, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA, and the minimum wage and overtime requirements do not apply.

Of course, the decision to pay an intern goes beyond the legalities of such.  There are many differing opinions as to whether or not employers should pay interns.  Local columnist, Alice Wilder at the Daily Tarheel, has written an interesting article on the virtues of paying an intern, that may be useful in making your decision.

How to Create and Sustain a More Diverse Workforce

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

diversity

In today’s post, CAI’s HR Manager Melissa Short and Marketing Intern Andy Bradshaw discuss the strategies HR professionals should take in order to foster a diverse and inclusive organizational culture.

In 2013, Harvard Business Review conducted a survey of 1800 professionals that found a striking correlation between diversity and innovation in the workplace. The study examined what it terms “two-dimensional diversity”- which encompasses both inherent diversity, or traits you are born with such as gender and ethnicity, as well as acquired diversity, involving traits you gain from experience. The study referred to companies whose leaders exhibit at least three inherent and three acquired diversity traits as having two-dimensional diversity, and found that that companies with 2-D diversity out-innovate and out-perform others.

In fact, employees at these companies are 45% likelier to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70% likelier to report that the firm captured a new market.

Though it may sound intuitive, the evidence for the business case for workplace diversity is significant. Along with carrying the obvious social value of creating a more inclusive, tolerant workplace, diversity in the office really can improve profits and your bottom line, as evidenced above.

Of course, most HR professionals don’t need to be told that diversity is important to the workplace, as they are most likely aware of its many benefits. Where many in HR may struggle with the process, however, is how to get started on tackling diversity initiatives with limited time and money. That’s where we’re here to help. By dividing the process into these easily digestible phases, you’ll not only be able to quickly lay the groundwork for a more diverse workplace, but also put your office on a path to sustaining this diversity going forward.

Selection and Hiring

To create a truly diverse workplace, you have to start at the beginning. Hiring people with different backgrounds may be an obvious way to improve diversity, but it takes a conscious effort to broaden recruiting efforts to reach those candidates. Here are a few ideas as to where to start this process:

  • Think about where you look for candidates. Are you looking in markets or roles that seek out membership associations, clubs, and publications with minority or underrepresented community audiences? Right here in the Triangle, you could be looking at reaching out to minority publications such as Que Pasa and The Triangle Tribune in order to place job postings.
  • But go beyond just posting a job to engaging and networking with the owners and employees in order to build longer term-genuine relationships.
  • Train and educate hiring managers on the importance of organizational diversity, particularly the business benefits. By ensuring the hiring team is aware of both the social and financial need for diversity in the office, HR can lead the charge to finding more qualified and diverse minority candidates.

Enhancing Organizational Inclusion

Once you’ve moved past the selection and hiring of a diverse pool of candidates, how will you ensure they want to stay at your organization? It takes a company-wide commitment to cultivate a culture of organizational inclusion. Employees want to work in an environment where they feel supported and valued for their differences and Human Resources plays a large role in driving this culture. Here’s how HR can permeate inclusion throughout their organization’s culture:

  • Go beyond handbook policies that cover anti-discrimination laws and consider including an organizational statement that addresses the company’s commitment to an environment of support and inclusion.
  • Revisit your dress guidelines to ensure that you aren’t inadvertently excluding items that are cultural or religious in nature.
  • Demonstrate a company commitment to utilizing minority-owned or managed businesses for key vendor relationships.
  • Regularly review your pay system to identify and correct any pay inequities.

Sustaining diversity going forward

Now that you’ve planted the seeds of diversity within your organization, HR must do its part to ensure it continues to grow and prosper moving forward. Creating a diverse workplace is one thing, but what about keeping it that way? Here are a few tips to ensure your diverse workplace is here to stay:

  • Ensure your minority employees have equal access to opportunities through the use of a minority mentorship program. This will not only give minority employees a space for engagement and advancement but also breaks down barriers between generations and other boundaries at work
  • Train managers and all employees on cultural awareness and inclusion – this can be as simple as an online training course or even sharing an article or case study around this subject.
  • Educate your front line managers around the business and social benefits of diversity and teach them to recognize any signs that point otherwise.
  • Be transparent around your intent to create and sustain a diverse and inclusive work environment and the company practices that support it. By openly showcasing your organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, you will continue to create a culture that fosters these ideals and attract employees who are dedicated to fulfilling them.

Though the process may seem overwhelming, it is imperative that HR leads the charge for a more diverse and inclusive workplace. By following these phases, you can foster a sense of inclusion that will transform your business for the better, both culturally and financially. For any other helpful tips about how to create a more diverse workplace, please let us know in the comments!

Helping Managers Overcome Performance Review Anxiety

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

performancereview

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares helpful tips for managers looking to escape that dreaded performance review anxiety. 

Conducting performance reviews and discussions on a regular basis is a key part of a manager’s responsibility.  Conducting a performance review also carries a certain amount of anxiety, as any manager tasked with providing one can attest. There is always the potential of a dispute over the facts, a difference in perspective, or even an unplanned, unexpected, or premature discussion regarding compensation.

In order to effectively have performance discussions that identify employee accomplishments, address areas for improvement, and generate individual development plans, managers must get past any anxious feelings and move through the process confidently and deliberately. Below are some tips which will help managers overcome some of their apprehension:

Expect Some Negotiating 

Approximately one out of every five employees will work to negotiate some part of the performance review process.  It may be around the rating itself, the wording of the review pertaining to “areas for improvement” or even the compensation aspect of the review – even though this typically occurs in a subsequent discussion.   Expect it and be prepared for it.  Anticipating issues, understanding what latitude you have within your organization’s guidelines, and knowing your response(s) will go a long way towards you  being  successful in this part of the meeting.

Keep it Conversational 

Performance reviews should be conversational. Remember, this is also your employees’ opportunity to provide their input and feedback on the performance period under review.  By keeping it conversational, you will remain at ease as will your employee.

Know the Details 

Some performance reviews are conducted only once a year.  This makes it not only difficult, but imperative that details are provided during the review.  Recalling the specifics of something that happened ten months ago can be a challenge for both you and your employee.  Having accurate details can make things easier to discuss and avoid disputes. Moving forward consider meeting once a month to discuss progress towards goals and objectives. These discussions will benefit both you and the employee for the annual review meeting – which would now be more of a “year in review” format.

Take Time to Consider 

There may be questions or considerations which arise during a review that need some additional thought.  This may include an employee request about a different job assignment or perhaps a promotion.   If the answer is not obvious or if you are not prepared to have that conversation at the moment, advise the employee that you need additional time to consider his/her request.  This is reasonable, but make sure you get back the employee within the stated time allotted.

Time to Re-evaluate Process/Approach? 

If you have reviewed tips above and your managers still feel somewhat anxious about conducting a performance review, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your approach or the process in general.  Maybe the reason they are so uncomfortable is because something about the process leaves them with a lack of conviction in some area of either evaluating the employee’s performance, measuring improvement, ability to have a “critical conversation”, or some other aspect of the review details.

Maybe it’s time for a critical review of your process.  CAI can help – give our Advice & Resolution team a ring at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746!

Please be sure to share below any tips you have about overcoming the pressure and anxiety of performance reviews.

Can We Control Healthcare Cost By Utilizing Medicare?

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

hcwhealthcarepicThe post below is a guest blog from Dax Hill who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

Did you know Medicare reimbursement rates for healthcare are typically lower than reimbursement rates paid by insurance companies?  Some employers are taking notice and indexing their employer reimbursement rates to the Medicare rates in hopes of trying to control their medical claims spent.

This arrangement is typically called “Reference Based Contracting” or a “Cost Plus” program.

There are many flavors of these types of programs, but here’s how these funding arrangements generally work….

  • An employer self-funds their medical insurance plan utilizing a Third Party Administrator (TPA)
  • The TPA partners with a network of doctors to provide discounts on medical services for “professional” charges. The medical reimbursement rates are based on the negotiated charges agreed upon by the network and doctors….this is similar to most of the current arrangements.
  • For “facility” charges, though, things get interesting. Instead of using the typical insurance carrier’s negotiated rates, reimbursements are based on Medicare reimbursement rates. For example, the TPA agrees to reimburse the medical facility at 120% of the Medicare allowed amount.  Medicare reimbursement rates are generally much lower than the typical insurance carrier negotiated rates.  These lower reimbursements (indexed to Medicare) can lead to claims savings to both the employer and employee.

All of this sounds good so far – who doesn’t want to pay a lower price?  There must be some catch, right?  The main concern for these programs is this: what happens if the hospital or medical facility push back and do not accept the employer/TPA reimbursement rates?  The amounts over the employer’s allowed price gets transferred to the employee.

For example, let’s say an employee receives a $5,000 medical procedure and the employer’s allowed amount is $1,000.  In this scenario, the hospital may decide to “balance bill” the employee for the $4,000 difference.  It is important for the employee to appeal this balance bill.  Most TPAs that focus in this market partner with legal counsel that represent the employee at no additional cost to the employee.  The attorney handles the appeal for the employee.  The attorney will send the medical facility a letter stating the reimbursement is adhering to the employers ERISA plan document and the employee should not be balanced bill.  The attorney explains that the employer and employee are paying above what’s normally acceptable (since most of the facility’s patients are covered by Medicare).

At some point, hospitals and facilities will become more aggressive in trying to 1) collect the balance bill from the employee 2) refuse to provide healthcare to individuals that are enrolled on these types of insurance plans or 3) negotiate on the allowed amount.  In the meantime, these plans are getting attention of employers as they try to best manage their healthcare cost.

Take a look at the pros and cons of Reference Based Pricing and the key considerations employers should look at prior to implementing these plans in this white paper.

Here’s How HR Earns a Seat At the Business Table

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

In today’s post, Advice & Resolution Manager Rick Washburn discusses how HR professionals can earn their seat at the table by building a bridge between their role and the larger purpose of the company.

Do you have a “seat at the table?”  This is an age old question in HR circles and it is basically asking if you are an HR business partner and as such are you and your team delivering maximum results to help your business achieve its goals and strategy?  If you do not have a seat at the table what are you doing to earn it?  If you are just waiting for it to happen I’m afraid you may be out of luck.

HR professionals must ensure that there is a direct connection between the policies, programs, and services they offer and the organization’s larger purpose/picture.  Absent that clear and intentional linkage, HR is just a cost center that goes under appreciated and delivers minimum real value to the business.  In order for HR leaders to take a strategic approach to their work they must first fully understand their business (business acumen) and what the HR implications are to the business.  HR leaders must also be able to articulate their views clearly and concisely to business leaders which often times means taking an unpopular position (managerial courage).  Influence skills are exceptionally important also.

A prerequisite to the above is to ensure, at a minimum, that your HR organization is effectively and efficiently delivering HR services.  Providing good service is the price of admission; if HR cannot operate effectively as a “mini business,” it will be hard to convince others that its input on business issues is worth much.

A good place to start your HRPB journey: Staffing.  HR typically has influence when it comes to how staffing relates to strategy.  In other words, HR needs to recruit and hire X talent, in Y location(s) over a specific time frame in order for the business to perform and execute its strategy and there are many discussions with leaders in that process.  This is often a good place to leverage and increase HR’s role as a strategic partner.  Conversations with senior leaders in this space should be relatively easy to have. Ensure you have solid and meaningful staffing metrics such as the quality of hires, not simply how many hires over a given time frame. Incorporate competencies into your talent acquisition process to help ensure your hires are a “good fit.”  Include senior leaders in this process.

Once instilled in the recruiting process, competencies can easily be transitioned and effectively used in the performance management process to measure “how” employees are doing their jobs. The performance management process is a very effective way to articulate and cascade the company’s strategy and goals across the entire organization and can also be the catalyst for additional strategic discussions with senior leadership.

If you can effectively accomplish the above in your organization, you will have built a very solid foundation from which to grow into a true HR business partner role and earn your seat at the table. Please also review our Learn & GO HR/organizational modules on myCAI to help you in this journey.  If you would like to discuss this journey in the context of your current role and business environment please call Tom Sheehan or myself here at CAI.

For any other questions, please contact our Advice & Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746!

 

Why Meetings Fail

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

boringmeetingIn today’s post, CAI’s HR Business Partner Tom Sheehan shares the reasons why many meetings are so ineffective, and what HR professionals can do to change that.

As a leader you play a critical role in maximizing the effectiveness of your organization’s workforce. One thing that robs us of our time is poorly-run, inefficient meetings. Such meetings serve as an organizational ‘drag’ and are viewed by many employees as an incredible waste of time and resources.

Let’s examine why meetings are often so ineffective:

People don’t take meetings seriously

They arrive late, leave early, and spend most of their time thinking about what else they could be doing. Disciplined meetings are about mind-set that meetings are ‘real work’.  Intel, the semiconductor manufacturer, is famous for its crisp meeting execution. Walk into any conference room at any Intel factory or office anywhere in the world and you will see on the wall a poster with a series of simple questions about the meetings that take place there.

  1. Do you know the purpose of this meeting?
  2. Do you have an agenda?
  3. Do you know your role?
  4. Do you follow the rules for good minutes?

Meetings are too long

Meetings should accomplish twice as much in half the time. Most meetings should last no longer than 60 minutes. One reason meetings drag on is that people don’t appreciate how expensive they are. If the meeting organizer were forced to calculate and justify the meeting cost (the meeting length times all of the participants’ wage rates) you would begin to see fewer, shorter, and more productive meetings.

No meeting agenda

When there is no agenda participants spend too much time digressing and wandering off topic. Get serious about requiring meeting agendas. It’s the starting point for all advice on productive meetings…stick to the agenda. But it’s hard to stick to an agenda that doesn’t exist.

HR can help by creating an agenda template. Request that meeting organizers circulate the agenda several days before a meeting to let participants react to and modify it. The agenda should list the meeting’s key topics, who will lead which parts of the discussion, how long each segment will take, and what the expected outcomes are.

Of course, even the best agendas can’t guard against digressions, debates, and distractions. The challenge is to keep meetings focused without stifling creativity or insulting participants who stray. Encourage meeting leaders use a ‘parking lot’ to maintain that focus. When comments come up that aren’t related to the issue at hand, record them on a flip chart labeled the parking lot. Track the issue and the person responsible for it.

Nothing happens once the meeting ends

The end result of most meetings is a lot of talk, and little action. The problem is that people leave meetings with different views of what happened and what’s supposed to happen next. The best way to avoid that type of misunderstanding is the creation of a shared document that leads to action. In addition to meeting minutes, require the meeting organizer (or designee) to document ‘Actions and Decisions’.

Actions are those accountabilities that were assigned as a result of the meeting. For example, Jim has agreed to research time and attendance software options prior to our next meeting. He will report his findings back to the group at our next meeting.

Decisions are those items that the meeting group has made a clear decision on. The decision will now become part of the ‘going forward’ strategy and will eliminate second-guessing such as …’We talked about it, but I don’t think anything was actually decided’.

‘Actions and Decisions’ should always be the last topic on the agenda. For recurring meetings, start the agenda with the ‘Actions and Decisions’ that were carried over from the previous meeting.

Meetings are always missing important information, so critical decisions are postponed

This is why it is so important to have a clear, documented agenda outlining the topics to be discussed and decisions to be made. Without an agenda, participants arrive to the meeting unprepared. In essence, the result of the meeting becomes a de facto ‘pre-meeting’ in which everyone’s valuable time was wasted.

For additional guidance on how you can make your organization’s meetings more effective, please give our Advice & Resolution team a ring at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. If you have any further suggestions, we’d love to hear them in the comments section!

Are You Getting Leadership Development Right?

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

leadership developmentIn today’s post, CAI’s HR Business Partner Tom Sheehan shares strategies HR professionals can take to ensure their next generation of leaders are prepared to fill the shoes of their predecessors and lead their business to future success. 

One topic that is a constant point of dialogue for HR professionals is leadership development. The quality of leadership, more than any other factor, often determines the success or failure of an organization. Leadership development helps to improve leadership quality by ensuring that leaders possess the competencies to achieve the organization’s strategy, continue to improve the organizational culture, and strengthen organizational capabilities.

The best investment an organization can make is in the development of its future leaders. Such an investment yields both short-term and long-term dividends. In the short-term, leaders will be better prepared for the challenges they face in their current roles. They will also be more likely to help foster a learning culture if they themselves are an active participant in learning.

Additionally, and more importantly, the risk associated with leadership departures is greatly reduced by improved better bench strength that is a consequence of leadership development. Many organizations fail to adequately develop the next generation of people who will replace individuals in these leadership roles. Making matters worse is the fact that a significant number of baby-boomers will be retiring in the next 5 years.

On one hand, the responsibility for an organizational commitment to developing future leaders begins with the executive team.

On the other hand, HR should own all talent processes and must play a key role in spotlighting the issue and driving the leadership development and succession planning processes.

Forward-looking HR professionals should begin the process by answering these questions:

  1. What are we doing to prepare our next generation of leaders?
  2. Is our pipeline filled with the talent needed to carry out our organization’s strategy?
  3. Who is the ‘person in charge’ of developing our new leaders?
  4. Is leadership development an organizational priority?
  5. How are our top leaders involved?

Where to Start

Step 1: Align with strategy

Ensure that the leadership development efforts are aligned to the organization’s mission, vision, values, and strategic plan. Senior leaders also must accept that leadership development is a lengthy process.

Step 2: Create common set of values

Ensure that there is a common set of leadership values and standards that permeate everything the organization does including-  recruiting, hiring, succession planning, and performance management.

A good starting point for the values may include the following:

  • Results Focus
  • Accountability
  • Respect for Others
  • Leveraging Diversity
  • Effective Communication
  • Building Trust

Step 3: Communicate the philosophy

Create a leadership development philosophy statement that defines the principles the organization champions. A leadership development philosophy provides direction for those crafting the plan and a communication tool to help the organization understand leadership development.

Step 4: Agree upon objectives

Make certain that all leaders are aligned to the following objectives:

  1. Make improving bench strength a top priority (including succession and retention plans)
  2. Ensure each leader takes responsibility for developing future leaders
  3. Measure the business results of leadership development
  4. Making learning an organizational priority
  5. Create formal development plans for emerging leaders

Lack of true engaged support from current leaders is one of the key reasons that leadership development fails. Your role as an HR professional is to help senior leaders see leadership development as a strategy as opposed to being the project du jour. Identifying and improving the quality of leaders must be a top priority to ensure a filled pipeline of experienced employees ready to be placed.

For any further questions about how you can support leadership development, please give our Advice & Resolution team a ring at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. If you have any suggestions as to how to improve leadership development, we’d love to hear them in the comments section!

Pay Attention to Causes of Preventable Employee Turnover

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016
Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News and Observer column, The View from HR.

When employees leave their jobs, we in Human Resources call it turnover. Then we label it “voluntary” or “involuntary” and assign drop-down reasons like “higher pay.” These labels are more about what happened than why it happened. You want to know why, not just what.

Turnover has as many causes as there are managers and employees. These four causes of preventable talent loss need more attention.

“I didn’t know.”I did not know this job had so much travel, that I have to cold call, that there is so much pressure to produce, that the business is unsound, that my manager is inexperienced, that it requires weekend work” and so on. These things are discoverable during the interview and application processes. Both sides own the problem: employers tend to accentuate the positive and applicants want to appear eager. If everyone spent more time in interviews talking about the job realities (and not just the fun stuff), painful and expensive early turnover would be reduced.

“We never talked about it”. I am convinced much of the turnover among talented, experienced and high potential contributors is caused by a lack of communication. Sure, no workplace has every opportunity or salary level a key player needs. Leaving for a new role might make the most sense. Too often, a great employee leaves because they do not understand all the ways this workplace could be as good as or greener than the grass on the other side.

Whether the motive to leave is pain avoidance (manager, hours, stress, type of work) or opportunity seeking (responsibility, autonomy, flexibility, pay) open conversations with a trusted mentor/manager will either make the choice clearer or uncover alternatives meeting everyone’s needs. Great managers create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing these big decisions in time to respond.

“I need a change.” Some people need change. What used to be challenging becomes routine. Without new challenges, the normal push and pull of any job seems futile. What is this all about? Why work this hard each day for the same set of problems, people, customers and results? This happens at all pay levels.

It should be easy to agree on fresh objectives, skills and behaviors the business truly needs. Even without a new role, finding better and more effective ways to do important things requires good communication and agreement. Your best people are hungry for this conversation.

This is an emotional decision. Sometimes, the decision to change jobs is mostly about pay, but usually emotion controls. Where will I enjoy my work more, where will I get new challenges, where will I have an impact on real people, where can I find a manager who knows how to manage? Employers that understand the importance of emotion in decisions to leave can address them proactively. The signs are usually present. Explaining turnover in primarily rational and economic terms misses the mark.

Of course there are often institutional reasons for turnover, but remember the individual, preventable and emotional reasons.

When Worksite Plans Work

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

HCWBenPicThe post below is a guest blog from Rob Krieg who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

Voluntary benefits or worksite plans refer to the insurance products that can be offered by employers on an individual or group basis to pay individuals for a variety of life events such as getting injured in an accident, being diagnosed with a serious health condition, or being admitted into the hospital. Examples of these plans include critical illness, cancer, accident, hospital indemnity, and permanent life insurance…to name a few of the most popular.

Enrollment in voluntary or worksite plans continues to increase rapidly as more and more employers are offering, and employees are asking, for these benefits.

The number of carriers offering these benefits has also increased drastically. While traditional players in this market space (such as Aflac, Allstate and Colonial) continue to offer quality products, many of the insurance carriers who have previously focused on “core” group benefits such as term life insurance and disability insurance have now started to offer a variety of worksite plans. The growth of new players in the market has created competition where plan premiums are going down while benefits go up. Even more importantly… these carriers are actually paying when a claim is submitted!

The value of these worksite plans and the hassle-free payment of claims was something I was skeptical of until I received a firsthand experience in their benefits. This past April, HCW offered a critical illness/cancer policy as well as an accident plan for employees to purchase. Who knew that taking ten minutes out of my day to meet with an individual enrollment specialist ended up being worth over $12,500 to my family this year?

Our enrollment specialist educated me that the critical illness and accident plans both offered an annual wellness screening benefit that if submitted each year would almost entirely cover the cost of my annual insurance premium. Since I was interested in experiencing first hand why so many employees throughout the country were purchasing these plans I decided to sign up, thinking I would have no use for the benefits but at least my premiums could be offset by the wellness reimbursement.

Unfortunately, just two months after purchasing these products I sustained an injury while playing basketball with my children which required surgery, a lengthy stint on crutches, and physical therapy. Then less than two months after my accident, my wife was diagnosed with a condition that also required surgery and treatment. The money received from our policies helped pay for childcare, out-of-pocket medical care, and even had a little left over to pay for a family trip to celebrate our recoveries.

While both my wife and I would prefer to go back in time, give the money back, and not have these events happen, having the financial payments from the accident and critical illness plans certainly helped ease the burden during this time. I am thankful that my employer decided to offer these benefits, and required that I spent a few minutes meeting with an individual enrollment specialist to better understand the benefits being offered.

If you have questions about worksite plans, and if they might be a good option for you, contact HCW’s Enrollment Services & Voluntary Benefit Solutions Team.