Building a complete benefits plan as affordably as possible

As our business has evolved over the last year or so, we are wanting to become more engaged with our small business clients in order to help you provide a full-range of benefit options to your team. There are various reasons for broadening our approach to you, and we hope you’ll give us 5 minutes to explain. (Many, though not all of these items also apply to our individual/family clients as well, so read on!)
The primary reason is the rising cost of health insurance. Putting politics completely aside, it is certain that the healthcare law passed by the federal government in March 2010 will contribute to greater increases in health insurance premiums (due mainly to new coverage mandates). And you already know, of course, that these premiums were already heading higher each year due to the increasing cost of healthcare. The result is that many small businesses (and many families) are off-setting premium increases by moving to higher deductible plans. These plans make a lot of sense, but can leave employees frustrated or even uncertain of the value of the benefit at all.
So over the course of 2010 we have invested a significant amount of time assessing the marketplace (along with the impact of health reform) in order to help our clients put together a more comprehensive “risk management” plan that includes health insurance as a central piece, but adds several other optional pieces you or your employees might choose to add. These include:
* Short- and/or long-term disability plans. Most people insure (or know they should insure) their life, health, and property, but very few people adequately insure their income. In a paycheck-to-paycheck culture, the loss of income due to injury or illness can cause significant problems quickly. Disability coverage is much more affordable on a group basis when compared to individual coverage. A good short-term disability plan will also include a benefit for maternity leave, which is attractive to many employers and employees alike. There are group or voluntary plans available that require little or no underwriting, depending on your industry.
* Dental or dental/vision plans. While we believe that there are several other coverages that are ultimately more important than dental coverage in terms of managing risk, the fact remains that this is popular with employees, largely because there is a fairly easy-to-see benefit every time they visit the dentist. A dental plan is a good way to make your team happy.
* Group life insurance. We find that most people are under-insured in the area of life insurance. Term life insurance is not that expensive for most people, so offering a group life policy is another way you can help your employees protect their families.
* Supplemental accident insurance. One way to offset concerns about a high deductible is to offer employees the opportunity to sign up for an accident plan that would provide an immediate cash benefit if they are injured in an accident. A $2500 benefit often runs around $35/month for a family, making this a very affordable way to provide a buffer between an employee and that high health insurance deductible.
* Critical illness insurance. Another way to provide a buffer to a high health insurance deductible is a critical illness plan, which provides a lump sum in cash in the event of a serious diagnosis or event such as cancer, heart attack, stroke, etc. Depending on age and such, your employees could get $10-20k policy for less than $50/month.
* ID Theft protection. Due to the increasing threat of identity theft, many of your employees would likely be very interested in an affordable ID theft protection plan. The average victim of identity theft spends over 600 hours restoring their identity (which is a problem, obviously, for both employer and employee alike), not to mention a significant amount of money. We’re offering a plan that provides the obvious credit monitoring as well as complete and thorough restoration services that costs around $14/month for an entire family. This could be made available as an employee-paid voluntary benefit, or as a fringe benefit you provide to them.
* Legal services. The ID Theft plan can be joined together with a “life events” prepaid legal plan for $26 or so per month for a family. This not only provides legal assistance with identity issues (which is definitely needed for a victim of ID theft), but also access to a lawyer for basic needs such as a will, help with moving violations, and other practical services. Again, this is used as a voluntary employee-paid product, or as a fringe benefit an employer might provide to his/her team.
It is not our expectation that every small business (or family) will want to provide or offer all of these benefits. But there’s little doubt that your employees look to you for these kinds of benefits, and you can build goodwill and trust with your team by helping them protect their families from financial risk. Many of these products are available as “voluntary” products, meaning you could offer your emloyees the opportunity to participate but would not bear any of the cost. Some are also available as “true group” products where you would contribute some or all of the premium. Others are individual products that you might choose to provide as a part of your comprehensive benefits package (“fringe benefits”). We are also available to meet with employees on an individual basis to assess their family’s unique needs if you prefer to simply use us as a resource for them.
The point is that there are a variety of options as you consider how to structure your employee benefits, and we want to help you sort through them to put together a plan personalized to your business and the needs of your employees.