Growing Interest in Public Sector Voluntary Benefits
July 16, 2008
(7/16/08) - Renewed interest in voluntary employee benefits is growing in public sector organizations, according to Larry Singer, senior vice president and benefits consultant at The Segal Company in New York. These are elective benefits fully paid for by employees or fund participants.
"With tight benefit budgets in the public sector, sponsors realize that if they cannot pay for an employee benefit, the next best thing is providing access to it," observes Howard Goldsmith, vice president and regional public sector business leader at The Segal Company. Access is only meaningful, however, if sponsors provide something of value and the value can be communicated to employees, Singer and Goldsmith point out.
Voluntary benefits are often delivered by third-party vendors and facilitated by public sector sponsors, who like them as a low-cost way to provide additional value to employees. Such benefits cover:
- Critical illnesses such as heart attack, stroke, cancer
- Short-term disability
- Whole life
- Legal services
- Automobile and homeowners
- Dental and vision services
- Protection against identity theft
- Financial planning
Among the changes in voluntary benefits is the use of call centers, face-to-face meetings by vendors to explain their offerings and a new sophistication vendors bring to product design and delivery. Another development is the greater involvement of major vendors such as MetLife and Guardian in offering these kinds of benefits.
Two important voluntary benefit challenges that public sector organizations have to deal with are collection of premiums from benefit participants and compliance with relevant government laws and regulations.
Details on these and other facets of voluntary benefits are contained in Voluntary Benefits: Sweating the Small Stuff, from a recent presentation by Howard Goldsmith and Larry Singer, which includes charts comparing government, individual and employer voluntary benefit programs dealing with ten specific perils, including premature death, disability, legal risks and inflation.