The Affordable Care Act is providing more opportunities than ever for brokers to connect with clients on employee needs – and those connections can mean helping employers provide voluntary benefits that are good for both their clients and those they employ. For example, ACA is phasing in a requirement related to pediatric vision care.
As brokers and HR departments work together to make sure plans offer these required coverages, they may find gaps, say, in the vision care offered for adults, writes Melissa Winn for Employee Benefit Adviser. “The ACA’s requirement has exposed a gap in coverage for adults that some benefit industry insiders say is prompting an uptick in voluntary vision benefit sales and creating an opportunity for benefit advisors to have a dialogue with employers about how these voluntary benefits can help employers ease some of the shifting burden of health care costs employees are experiencing,” Winn writes.
Brokers may find similar opportunities to help clients understand the value of other voluntary offerings, such as hearing and dental plans. Such plans benefit employers, especially because dental and vision plans can catch chronic health issues in employees early, before they’re affecting employee productivity, Sarah Sipek writes for workforce.com. “According to the Vision Council, the representative body for the manufacturers and suppliers in the optical industry, employers can gain as much as $7 for every $1 spent on vision coverage,” Sipek writes. “This translates to $8 billion saved annually in lost productivity for the treatment of chronic illnesses.”
And they’re not necessarily expensive, Winn writes. “The broker can help the employer understand varied plan designs, some of which can offer vision benefits and services to their employees at no additional cost to the company,” she writes. Not only are these plans a good value for employers – they’re also a tool that can be used to retain employees and help ease the way for employees who are taking on more of their own health care costs.
And while voluntary benefit plans have consistently provided an area of growth for brokers, Elizabeth Galentine writes for Employee Benefit Adviser, a more competitive market for voluntary benefits is on its way. As a result, brokers must make sure to work to understand and differentiate among the needs of different clients’ employees. “If they want to maintain growth, benefit brokers must remember to put employee interests first,” Galentine writes.
Doing so can help brokers provide plans that suit specialized needs, Winn writes, including things like vision coverage that also provides disease coverage, flexible options for using the coverage or even paperless plan administration.