By Russ Cain
WMC Director of Group Insurance Services
This column was published in the 2017 edition of Wisconsin Business Voice.
Health insurance has long been the elephant in the room when employee benefits are discussed. It currently encompasses over 26 percent of the benefits spend for civilian workers and over 90 percent of the benefits insurance spend. The Affordable Care Act has limited any association’s ability to provide meaningful savings on health insurance for members, so WMC’s focus has been on the remaining products and services.
Because of our ability to save members money – sometimes significantly – WMC has been steadily growing our flagship group life and disability plan participation with fully-insured products by Aetna for some time. Not only can WMC typically save members money, there are numerous other differentiations in products and services that we offer.
How does insuring with WMC Group Benefits impact the bottom line, though? These plans are structured as multiple-employers policies with WMC as the policyholder and the WMC Service Corporation as the plan administrator. As such, we can maximize our collective purchasing power and offer participating members local customer service, bucking the national trend where insurers are shifting customer service to large call centers.
That is why more than 200 members participate – insuring nearly 15,000 employees.
Beyond our member focused customer service, our benefits business is following national trends with steady growth in voluntary products with the ongoing shift to employee elective coverage and delivering technology solutions for HR staff for the growing leave management puzzle.
Outside of basic life, short and long term disability that is most often paid by the employer, the majority of ancillary benefit programs are either employer subsidized or employee-paid voluntary plans. We have long offered voluntary life, short and long term disability, but the fastest growth has been in supplemental group accident, critical illness and hospital indemnity.
These plans have historically been sold using individual products within the worksite, but group plans are quickly dominating this market. The drawback to the older individual plans were that employees often forgot to submit claims for covered expenses and procedures. Today’s group plans are better integrated with other benefits providing greater return for the employee and making it simpler for the employer to service within the group insurance model.
These plans are also being bundled with high-deductible health insurance plans. Having an accident, critical illness or hospital plan in place can give employees first-dollar coverage even if they haven’t met their medical plan deductible providing greater peace of mind and greater high-deductible health plan participation.
While the outsourcing of leave administration continues to increase, the majority of employers still manage leaves in-house. Since 65 percent of all leaves are linked to the employee’s own health condition, more employers are seeking to integrate leave and disability management.
Aetna provides certain employers access to their web-based WorkAbility leave solution at no additional cost. This self-serve solution equips employers with the right technology and knowledge to manage employees’ leaves. With this technology, employers can develop actual absence statistics, reduce compliance risk and effectively manage intermittent leaves.