Filed Under:Health Insurance, Individual Health

Brokers hope for nonmedical benefits growth

UBA says the traditional
UBA says the traditional "ancillary market" door openers may still open doors.

Marketers at some of the firms that belong to United Benefits Advisors (UBA) are hoping the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will make 2013 a good year for sales of dental insurance, life insurance and other nonmedical employee benefits.

Mary Drueke, a benefits specialist at a UBA member firm in Omaha, Neb., talks about the state of the nonmedical benefits market in a commentary that UBA has included along with a preview of results from a UBA employer survey.

Critics of PPACA argue that the law could increase the price of small group coverage and possibly decrease the supply.

PPACA opponents continue to fight implementation of the law. Some say they think federal regulators will postpone the start date of the SHOP exchange program.

But, if the law works as drafters expect, at least for the kinds of small employers that already try to provide some benefits, it could give those small employers more flexibility, Drueke said.

"In the past, employers have focused primarily on medical benefits because that is the largest expenditure," Drueke said.

If the SHOP exchanges succeed at lowering small-group medical insurance costs, employers may be able to shift some of the energy they were devoting to medical insurance to add either traditional group benefits or voluntary benefits, Drueke said.

PPACA calls for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and state agencies to make Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchanges, or Web-based health insurance supermarkets, available to businesses with fewer than 50 employees in all 50 states and the District of Columbia by Oct. 1.

SHOP exchange plans apparently may be able to offer dental benefits, and either the medical plans sold through the exchanges or stand-alone dental plans offered through the exchanges must offer basic preventive dental services and vision services for children.

Today, the percentage of U.S. employers with fewer than 100 employees and comprehensive benefits packages is low.

The UBA survey sample includes about 12,000 employers of all sizes and 10,000 with fewer than 200 employees.

UBA found, for example, that more than 85 percent of employers with 100 or more employees offer group term life coverage, and that more than 92 percent offer some kind of dental coverage.

Only 58 percent of the employers with 10 to 24 employees offer group life, and only 65 percent offer dental benefits.

Among employers with fewer than 10 employees, just 40 percent offer group life, and just 43 percent provide dental coverage.

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