How to Make the Most of Voluntary Benefit Plans in the U.S.

How to Make the Most of Voluntary Benefit Plans in the U.S.
May 14, 2024 9 mins

How to Make the Most of Voluntary Benefit Plans in the U.S.

How to Make the Most of Voluntary Benefit Plans in the U.S.

As healthcare costs rise, voluntary benefits are a critical component of engaging employees, while also helping to manage direct and indirect medical expenses. Here are three strategies for employers to make the most of their voluntary benefits.

Key Takeaways
  1. Audit your voluntary benefit program to see which benefits employees are using, what they value most and if benefits can be consolidated or better managed.
  2. Use a platform that integrates voluntary and core health enrollment at the same time. This allows employees to make more informed choices.
  3. Explore the possibility of bundling services for preferred pricing options, especially for group and medical lines such as life, disability, medical and dental.

Voluntary benefits are a critical component of the overall healthcare strategy in the United States. They don’t have a direct cost to employers and help employees offset increasing healthcare costs by assisting with direct and indirect medical expenses. 

Employers need to reevaluate their voluntary benefit offerings regularly to ensure employees’ diverse needs are met. Based on our work with clients, we’ve outlined three key strategies that can help ensure a company’s voluntary benefit plan lives up to its full potential. 

Conduct a Voluntary Benefit Plan Audit

Employers often perform an audit of their core health plan, but auditing voluntary benefits is just as important. A voluntary benefit plan assessment can help employers achieve better value and offer more comprehensive coverage that accurately reflects which benefits people use. Hospital indemnity, for instance, has become one of the fastest-growing supplemental benefit products largely due to the increased focus on hospitalization benefits following the pandemic. And with the increasing number of cyber attacks, many employers are offering identity theft coverage with extended cyber protections.

To find the right voluntary benefit plan design, employers should:

  • Review current benefit use and plan satisfaction - Employers should review employee participation in voluntary plans and gauge satisfaction with current plan participants. For example, Aon’s data shows 20 to 30 percent participation in critical illness, accident and hospital indemnity plans.
  • Evaluate their current coverage - A plan audit does not always mean a carrier change. Rather, the audit can identify opportunities to enhance coverage and add or consolidate carriers.   
  • Analyze population health data - Use the results of a core health plan audit to assess the impact of specific voluntary benefits. For example, Aon’s Health, Equity and Affordability Tool generates insights on healthcare affordability, the social determinants of health through an area deprivation index (a mapping tool that displays the relative socioeconomic conditions of neighborhoods) and their access to primary and mental healthcare. These types of insights are not only useful for a core health plan audit, but they can also help identify existing healthcare gaps for certain population groups during a voluntary benefit audit. 

Case Study: Helping a Large Distribution Company Maximize its Voluntary Benefit Program

Aon helped a large distribution company audit its three-year-old supplemental health plan to ensure it was still meeting the needs of the workforce. Our consulting team partnered with the client to:

  • Analyze the firm’s voluntary benefit performance.
  • Compare the existing plan design to benchmark data from our healthcare and benefits database.
  • Review population health data to determine the consumer health risks specific to their population.

As a result, we identified specific health occurrences that were impacting employees and recommend enhancements to provide them with the full value of their supplemental health coverage. Some of these enhancements included increased payouts for urgent care visits, added coverage on hospital indemnity for mental illness and a new wellbeing benefit to all supplemental health plans. 

68%

of employers say they offer voluntary or supplemental health plans to meet the diverse needs of their workforce and provide expanded benefit coverage options.

Source: Aon’s 2024 U.S. Health Survey

Integrate Voluntary Benefits with Core Enrollment

Integrating voluntary benefit enrollment with core enrollment can help employees make more informed choices across the full spectrum of benefits. Employers should educate and enroll the core and voluntary benefits together as part of a complete benefit package. Doing so enables employees to see the direct correlation between the medical plans’ out-of-pocket costs and how the voluntary benefits can provide the protection needed.

Integrating decision-support tools into the enrollment process will help employees navigate benefit enrollment — making it easier to compare plans, see where coverage gaps exist and opt for supplemental coverage to fill those gaps. For example, when comparing health plan options, employees could identify varying out-of-pocket exposures to medical benefits. Knowing these expenses may influence the health plans they choose and what supplemental health plans — such as critical illness, hospital indemnity and accident — they need to add to fill the gaps.

Explore Bundling and Third-Party Partnerships

Multi-line insurance carriers can help employers maximize their human resources budgets by offering bundled pricing options for voluntary benefits with group and medical lines such as life, disability, medical and dental. In addition to employer savings, bundling can also help organizations offer more of the voluntary benefits employees want, along with claims synergies, ease of administration and consolidated billing.  

Many third-party organizations, such as benefit administration platforms, are forming exclusive or premier partnerships with carriers to help streamline and offset the costs of implementing voluntary benefit plans. Employers should ask their third-party providers if they have preferred carrier partners and how that could help reduce administrative fees.

Making Better Benefit Decisions

There is clear evidence that voluntary benefits are growing in value and popularity. For example, a recent Aon survey found that U.S. employees value accident coverage, critical illness and hospital indemnity coverage as much as if the employer funded their Health Savings Account or Health Reimbursement Arrangement.

Over the last decade, vendors, insurers, employers and employees have become more sophisticated in their approach to benefits. In turn, employers need to review and update voluntary benefit plans to address evolving employee needs, high medical costs and enhance employee wellbeing. Employers that adopt these strategies can succeed in providing valuable, cost-effective benefits long term. 

64%

of companies surveyed offer paid voluntary supplemental health plans to support financial wellbeing, while an additional 11 percent are considering adding this.

Source: Aon’s 2024 U.S. Health Survey

Quote icon

Employees are valuing their voluntary benefits at higher levels than we saw with our last survey in 2019. It’s a reflection of how important voluntary benefits are becoming as healthcare costs continue to go up.

Dani McCauley
Growth Leader, Health Solutions, North America

1 2024 Aon Architect employee perception survey of 4,000 U.S. employees

Aon’s Thought Leaders
  • Dani McCauley
    Growth Leader, Health Solutions, North America
  • Danielle Crea
    Vice President, Health Solutions, North America

General Disclaimer

This document is not intended to address any specific situation or to provide legal, regulatory, financial, or other advice. While care has been taken in the production of this document, Aon does not warrant, represent or guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or fitness for any purpose of the document or any part of it and can accept no liability for any loss incurred in any way by any person who may rely on it. Any recipient shall be responsible for the use to which it puts this document. This document has been compiled using information available to us up to its date of publication and is subject to any qualifications made in the document.

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