Self-Service Benefits: A Simple Solution for Expanding Voluntary Insurance Products

Self-Service Benefits: A Simple Solution for Expanding Voluntary Insurance Products

Tim Diassi

May 19, 2016

Self-Service Benefits: A Simple Solution for Expanding Voluntary Insurance Products

Self-Service Benefits: A Simple Solution for Expanding Voluntary Insurance Products


Businesses in all industries across the United States are feeling the crunch of rising health insurance costs. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, healthcare costs have risen significantly since 2010; deductibles have increased by as much as 67 percent while premiums are up by 24 percent.


But the increase in benefits costs extends beyond healthcare. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it costs the average employer over $10 per hour an employee works to supply that employee with a comprehensive benefits package that includes retirement planning, paid leave, disability, insurance, and other offerings.


As a result, many employers are pushing the additional costs onto employees in the form of lower employer contributions, higher deductibles, and generally higher rates. Meanwhile, employee earnings have only increased by a meager 10 percent. Naturally, this disconnect is putting many employees in a precarious situation. They’re paying more and more money for less and less benefits.


Is there a way for employers and employees to bridge the gap between cost and benefit without breaking the bank?


The Rise of Voluntary Worksite Insurance Products 

To offer more comprehensive benefits packages to employees without raising costs, many employers are turning to voluntary insurance products. Popular insurance offerings include life, disability, accident, and critical illness. Through a voluntary benefits system, these offerings are available to employees on a voluntary basis rather than standard issue.


"As organizations consider new benefit strategies in the post-health-care-reform environment, they are seeking a delicate balance between providing their employees with a competitive rewards package and not inflating costs," states Mark Bilderback, Senior Health Care consultant at Towers Watson. Voluntary insurance products make cost sharing unnecessary for employers while also allowing them to offer a greater variety of insurance options at more reasonable rates, saving both employers and employees money.


Shifting Control to Employees With Self-Service Options 

The traditional problem with offering so many additional products is the potential workload increase for HR and payroll departments. This leads employers to hesitate in offering voluntary benefits regardless of their merits. Each product requires an enrollment form, a payroll entry, and a new process at minimum.


How can employers combat the onslaught of additional administrative work that comes with offering more extensive benefits packages to employees?


The simplest solution is to work with an HR and benefits solutions provider that offers an online enrollment feature. Online enrollment allows employees to use a self-service portal to enroll in their benefits and integrates these changes into the system automatically.


By taking advantage of this function, employees also have the opportunity to secure additional benefits through an easy, self-service portal that leaves no administrative work for payroll, benefits, or HR departments. Employees can log in, obtain secure access from an enroller for assistance, and select their voluntary plans. From there, the online enrollment platform automatically creates an employee’s record, calculates the exact deduction amount, and makes the payment.


In addition to restoring control to employees and reducing unnecessary stress on HR and payroll departments, self-service benefits solutions significantly reduce costs for employers. In fact, deploying a self-service solution, as opposed to manual enrollment via HR departments, can reduce the cost of enrolling employees for benefits by more than 80 percent. Self-service options are a win-win for employers and employees alike.


Advantages of Online Enrollment and Voluntary Insurance Solutions 

  • Employees enroll through a self-service portal.
  • Employee deductions are sent to Voluntary Insurance Provider monthly.
  • There is no billing or reconciliation for the employer.
  • There is no administration for HR, benefits, or payroll teams.
  • Employees who need enrollment assistance have secure access to an enroller.

Types of Voluntary Insurance Solutions 

  • Permanent life, short term and long term disability, accident, and critical illness insurance are offered.
  • Dependent coverage is available on certain products.
  • Products are available to employees in their first year of eligibility on a guarantee issue basis.
  • Should separation between an employee and an employer occur, employees can keep their plans on a direct pay basis.
  •  There is no employer cost share for these products.


Voluntary benefits offer a viable and cost-efficient solution for both employers and employees. And according to Mark Bilderback, this solution will only become more popular for US businesses. "As a new employee benefit landscape continues to emerge, more employers will evaluate the perceived and real value of adding new voluntary benefits." Integrating a self-service benefits option can help employers realize the full potential of their voluntary benefits programs by providing a simple and economical solution that puts affordable and comprehensive benefits in the hands of employees that need it most. 

About the Author

Timothy Diassi is the Executive Vice President and General Manager of Unicorn HRO, a national provider of fully integrated Human Resources and HRIS solutions. Since 2000, he has been responsible for overseeing and advancing the company’s strategic direction, sales and account management, customer support, new business development and product enhancement efforts. He joined Unicorn HRO in 1995 as a financial and human resources consultant and has since served as the company’s director of product management. Throughout the past, he has been directly responsible for reshaping Software Plus from a software vendor to an outsourcing firm supporting the human resources industry with a suite of hosted payroll and employee tracking solutions. Follow Tim on Twitter at @tdiassi.