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The Lowdown on Voluntary Insurance for Small Business

As a small-business owner, we know that you invest everything into the health of your business, putting your heart and soul into making careful, smart choices to keep your business growing and your people happy.

No matter what field you’re in, your employees are your greatest investments, and their well-being is crucial to the health of your business (it’s pretty hard to get those shipments out on time when your staff is sick, injured or grumpy!). At the same time, we know that financial limitations can prevent small-business owners from offering the mega benefits packages offered by larger operations.

Here’s the good news: You can support your employees and your bottom line at the same time! Voluntary insurance is a simple, affordable way to help provide your people with the peace of mind that builds a happier, healthier workforce. But what, exactly, are voluntary benefits? We’re glad you asked.

Simply put, voluntary insurance policies help your people protect their financial well-being in the event of a serious accident or illness. Voluntary policies pay cash directly to employees, unless they choose otherwise, when they’re sick or hurt to help with expenses that may not be covered by basic medical insurance — like deductibles, emergency treatment, rent, or morning coffee. Voluntary insurance policies can help people to keep living the lifestyle they love, no matter what life throws at them — from a broken leg to a serious diagnosis. In fact, we like to think of it as lifestyle coverage!

This downloadable booklet addresses commonly asked questions regarding the who, what and why of voluntary insurance.

The nitty-gritty of voluntary insurance

Voluntary insurance works with major medical coverage to provide an additional safety net that helps protect the things that really matter.

As health care costs continue to rise, voluntary policies are becoming more valuable because they help provide an extra layer of financial protection for your employees (without adding directly to your overall cost of benefits). Voluntary policies, like those offered by Aflac, complement major medical insurance to help provide financial protection to policyholders. Unlike major medical insurance, however, these voluntary policies pay cash benefits directly to the policyholder (unless assigned otherwise) if they get sick or hurt.

Additionally, they can help complement an overall benefits strategy, which can be the key to employee retention and attraction. We’ve found that workers with voluntary benefits are more likely to be extremely or very satisfied with their jobs than workers who are not offered voluntary benefits (67 percent compared to 59 percent).1

Voluntary benefits are more relevant now than ever before.

Health care reform and increasing health care costs continue to drive demand for voluntary benefits — and for good reason. As the cost of health insurance rises, employers continue to struggle to control their company’s health care expenses. At the same time, employees are facing more complex decisions as health care becomes more consumer-driven, and new options become available to them through health care reform.

Savvy employers are looking for ways to protect their employees’ well-being (both financially and emotionally) and for many companies, voluntary benefits may help them save money and protect their people. That’s a win/win we can all get behind.

So how do you get them?

The public exchange now offers stand-alone voluntary dental coverage. Other voluntary coverage — like accident, illness, disability and many others — can be sourced from private exchanges and through insurance agents or brokers. Best of all, employers can make the policies available directly to employees at little or no direct cost to the company. Even if employees choose to apply for insurance benefits through the Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) or individual exchange, making additional voluntary coverage available at work can help your business offer a comprehensive benefits package to workers, helping keep them happy and healthy all year long.

To sum up, voluntary insurance helps to:

  • Support your overall benefits plan.
  • Provide additional benefits options.
  • Provide workers cash benefits to help pay rising out-of-pocket medical costs.
  • Safeguard focus and productivity by helping workers guard against financial stress and anxiety.

Understanding the array of voluntary policies — and what they cover

Voluntary benefits come in a wide variety of customizable forms, so they can be personalized to match each business and employee’s unique needs and desires. Lifestyle insurance doesn’t just help with medical expenses; it helps with any cost — from rent to groceries — when employees get sick or injured.

Accident insurance

Accidents happen. And unfortunately, they happen more than we think — but nobody should have to give up the lifestyle they love because of an accidental injury. Whether it’s a car crash or a broken arm, these events can happen to anyone at any time, and the financial impact of an accident can be huge. While major medical insurance may pay some doctor, lab, pharmacy and hospital costs, most people have expenses after an accident they hadn’t thought about before

Even the most minor of accidents, like a broken arm during a weekend soccer game, can lead to missed work (which could mean lost income and possibly an inability to pay normal living expenses). Regular bills — including mortgage or rent, car payments, groceries and utility bills — don’t stop when an employee is out of work after an accident. Voluntary accident benefits are usually paid directly to the policyholder, unless they choose otherwise, as cash that can be used however it’s needed — even to help with everyday living expenses.

So how do you get them?

  • Treatment: Pays a specific benefit amount for emergency-room treatment, X-rays, diagnostic exams, physical therapy and follow-up treatment.
  • Ambulance: Pays a specific benefit amount for ambulance transportation or air-ambulance transportation to a hospital.
  • Hospital confinement: Pays a specific benefit amount for each day the policyholder is confined in a hospital due to injuries sustained in a covered accident.
  • Optional accidental death benefit rider: Pays a lump-sum death benefit for covered common-carrier accidents and other accidents.

Who needs accident insurance?

Unlike insurance policies that may be more applicable for certain age groups or at-risk individuals, voluntary accident insurance can be beneficial for pretty much everyone. For those workers who consider themselves the breadwinner in their family, and whose monthly income is required to support daily living and expenses, a voluntary accident insurance policy can be helpful. Bottom line? Any workers who lacks the savings to use in the case of a medical accident should consider obtaining an accident policy.

Cancer insurance

It’s important to consider how you and your family would manage if you were diagnosed with cancer and weren’t able work during treatment. The reality is that financial barriers can often delay treatment, and that can have serious repercussions. Did you know that more people today are living with cancer than ever before — more than 15.5 million Americans nationwide in 20162 — not necessarily dying from it? That’s good news. Our cancer coverage helps protect the life you love to live, while you’re fighting through a frightening diagnosis.

For many, a cancer diagnosis brings potentially overwhelming financial burdens, even with major medical insurance. That’s why cancer insurance is becoming increasingly important in helping people continue living life to the fullest, despite the high costs associated with cancer. With cancer insurance, treatment and recovery can be the primary focus — not money woes.

What does cancer insurance cover?

Cancer insurance policies can help with the treatment costs of cancer, but more importantly help your workers focus on getting well instead of being distracted by the stress and costs of medical and personal bills. In the event of a cancer diagnosis, policyholders receive cash benefits, unless otherwise assigned, that can be used to help pay for daily living expenses, like rent, gas, groceries, babysitting and other necessities, and your employee gets to decide what matters most — not the insurance company. A cancer insurance policy can also help protect the policyholder’s finances from expenses that aren’t covered by major medical insurance, including experimental cancer treatments, out-of-network specialists, deductibles and more.

Who needs cancer insurance?

Cancer insurance is an option everyone should consider. However, for people who have a family history of cancer or are at a higher-than-average risk, cancer insurance may be even more important.

Families affected by cancer shouldn’t have to decide between medical treatments and making ends meet. Yet this could be the case for a growing number of workers who are facing high out-of-pocket expenses, despite having comprehensive major medical insurance. A voluntary cancer insurance policy could make a difference to their personal well-being, families and future

Hospital confinement indemnity insurance

If you’ve ever experienced an injury or illness that required a hospital visit or stay, you know how expensive the bill can be — even after major medical insurance pays its share. And that price tag keeps rising as costs associated with inpatient hospital services increase and a greater share of deductibles and copays shift to individuals. In fact, the average out-of- pocket price of a hospital stay was $1,013 per person in 2013, a 37 percent increase over 2009.3

A hospital indemnity insurance policy gives cash benefits to your workers (unless otherwise assigned) during a covered hospitalization, because even with the best major medical insurance, an entire hospital bill may not be covered.

What does hospital indemnity insurance cover?

The hospitalization benefits are predetermined and paid regardless of any other insurance an employee has. Each worker has a choice of applying for basic to more robust voluntary hospitalization insurance. Some hospital indemnity plans only provide hospitalization benefits, while others may also provide benefits for diagnostic procedures, outpatient surgery and ambulance transportation.

Some features of a hospital confinement indemnity plan include:

  • No deductibles or copayments
  • An HSA-compatibility
  • No networks, so you can be treated at the hospital of your choice
  • No precertification requirements
  • Individuals own the policy — even if they change jobs or retire, it stays with them

Who needs hospital indemnity insurance?

Generally speaking, everyone is susceptible to injuries or illnesses that could require a hospital stay and, therefore, everyone’s a good candidate for voluntary hospital indemnity insurance. Anyone who is concerned about the cost of hospitalization and its potential impact on short- or long-term finances should look into hospital indemnity insurance.

If your employees are among the 65 percent of today’s workers who have less than $1,000 to pay for unexpected out-of-pocket medical expenses,4 one visit to the hospital could impact on their families’ finances. Hospital indemnity plans can help alleviate the short- and long-term effects of these types of inpatient hospital costs.

Short-term disability insurance

The one upside of the recent economic downturn? Many people have a greater appreciation for a steady paycheck and the importance of protecting that income. As workers strive to safeguard their finances, one area that garners little attention but represents a potential financial risk for many workers is disability insurance. In fact, just over 1-in-4 of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67.5

Many Americans underestimate their personal vulnerability to experiencing a disability and overestimate the resources available to them in such a predicament. Especially considering that 57 percent of working Americans say they only have enough money to pay for six months of bills or less,6 there’s a growing need for voluntary disability insurance.

What does short-term disability insurance cover?

Disability insurance can play a vital role in financial planning and safeguarding financial futures. It can help ensure your workers maintain an income and can help with bills while they’re focused on getting better.

In the event of a covered disability, a voluntary short-term disability insurance policy pays benefits (i.e., a monthly amount that is a percentage of a worker’s gross income) for a set period of time while the policyholder is disabled. Depending on an individual’s situation and short-term disability coverage policy, they may be able to receive benefits for up to 24 months.

Who needs short-term disability insurance?

Any working adult who is not currently covered by private or voluntary short-term disability insurance is a candidate for applying for such coverage. In fact, 67 percent of private-sector workers have no disability insurance and remain vulnerable to losing their income due to an illness or injury.7

A decade ago, it was commonplace for a company-paid disability plan to pay an employee 70 percent of income if disabled, but those rates have diminished, and employees today often receive less than 40 percent.8 Furthermore, most people assume they will receive benefits from Social Security or workers’ compensation, but most often that’s not the case. While the average monthly benefit paid by Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) was $1,172 a month,9 more than 62% of initial (SSDI) claim applications were denied in 2016.10

The need for disability insurance protection may be crucial, particularly for household breadwinners. Disabling injuries or illnesses can lead to significant medical bills, changes to the family’s home or transportation and more. Therefore, anyone who works — regardless of whether they are single, married, with children or without — should consider voluntary disability coverage.

As the health care industry continues to evolve and small businesses strive to retain valuable employees, voluntary benefits will continue to be a worthwhile offering that helps protect workers in times of need without adding directly to your overall benefits costs. For more information on how voluntary benefits can help your business succeed, visit