Colonial Life report encourages bigger view of employee benefits

COLUMBIA, S.C. (June 26, 2017) — Employers can create more competitive and cost-effective benefits programs by taking a broader view and avoiding the distractions of health care reform legislation, according to a new white paper released today by Colonial Life.

“Big-Picture Benefits” uses industry and internal company research to illustrate solutions available to employers that help control rising insurance costs, protect their workers’ financial wellbeing and offer greater choice for today’s increasingly diverse workforce.

“Health insurance is a major employer expense, but a competitive employee benefits plan includes far more than that,” says Steve Hesler, assistant vice president, product development at Colonial Life. “Employers who want to attract and retain the best talent can take active steps today rather than waiting to see what does or doesn’t change down the road.”

Rising costs create financial burden

As health care premiums continue to rise — up more than 300 percent since 19991 — employers are increasingly shifting costs to employees, through a higher share of premiums, higher coinsurance or higher deductibles. However, that heavier burden increases employees’ already-fragile financial state, the report points out. The average deductible for employer-sponsored health plans surged 13 percent in 20161 while workers’ wages increased only 2 percent.2

That comes at a time when nearly half of surveyed Americans say they couldn’t cover a $400 emergency expense or would have to sell something or borrow the money. And close to a third went without some medical care in the past year because they couldn’t afford it.3

Redesigned programs close gaps, offer choices

Employers who pair voluntary benefits with a high-deductible health plan find they can reduce employees’ financial exposure while expanding their benefits program. Employees can select and pay for the coverage they want, or employers can fund it — often at the same or lower cost than before with the premium savings from the higher-deductible health plan.

The increased choice of voluntary benefits also creates greater flexibility and customization demanded by today’s increasingly diverse workforce, the report says. Research shows there are large gaps between what employees list as “must-have” benefits compared with what employers offer, especially for accident, critical illness and hospital confinement insurance.4 In fact, one recent study showed a third of employees tend to enroll in every type of coverage offered.5

“A strong benefits program is one of the most important tools employers have to compete for and keep their talented workforce,” Hesler says. “Those who broaden their vision beyond major medical coverage to include voluntary benefits will be ideally positioned to both manage the bottom line and give their business a competitive edge.”

Download a copy of the “Big-Picture Benefits” white paper at

1 Kaiser/HRET Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Benefits, 1999-2016.

2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Cost Index, April 2017.

3 Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2014,” 2015.

4 MetLife, 14th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, 2016.

5 Customer Benefits Analytics and Lodestar Advisory Partners, 2016 Employee Benefits Enrollment Study.