Sales of voluntary products across the board will likely see a nice bump in 2015, as employers finalize their health care decisions and the War on Talent begins to heat back up.

“Employers have had time to recover from the recession, and they’ve analyzed how the [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] is going to impact them, so now they’re more willing to look at their overall benefit package,” says Bonnie Brazzell, vice president of Eastbridge Consulting Group Inc. in Avon, Connecticut.

Indeed, according to a recent Eastbridge survey, 14 percent of respondents said they were thinking about adding a new voluntary benefit. Moreover, 17 percent said they were thinking about moving some existing benefits to voluntary, and 12 percent said they were thinking of adding new partially employer-funded benefits.

“That’s exciting for brokers, as the doors are opening a little bit,” Brazzell says.

LIMRA experts “cautiously” see a lot of opportunity in the voluntary benefits marketplace, says Ron Neyer, assistant research director at LIMRA in Windsor, Connecticut. Approximately 15 percent of employers in a recent LIMRA study said they are either “very” or “extremely likely” to add a new voluntary benefit over next couple of years, and about 25 percent are “somewhat likely.” The percentage of employers who plan to replace an employer-paid or contributory benefit with a voluntary arrangement is lower — approximately 5 percent were “very” or “extremely likely” to, compared to 12 percent in 2010.

“We see that as a good thing, as employers seem a little less focused on cost-shifting than they did several years ago,” Neyer says. “As the job market becomes more competitive, employers become more mindful about how voluntary benefits can improve their ability to attract and retain employees and boost worker morale and job satisfaction.”

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary