Brokers expect voluntary sales boom News added by Benefits Pro on March 14, 2014

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Joined: September 07, 2011

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By Kathryn Mayer

Say what you want about health care reform having a negative effect on all things benefits related. But stats continue to show one good thing: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is helping spur the sale of voluntary products.

Nearly all players in the benefits market — 94 percent of carriers, brokers, and vendors — expect voluntary sales to increase over the next 12 months, according to Eastbridge Consulting Group’s year-end Voluntary Confidence Index.

That projection is an increase from the 89 percent in the mid-year 2013 survey and from 90 percent in the year-end 2012 survey.

“Some of this expected sales growth may be attributed to the positive impact respondents expect health care reform to have on voluntary sales,” said Bonnie Brazzell, Eastbridge vice president.

Specifically, it found that 68 percent of respondents expect sales to “increase a little” while 31 percent expect it to “increase a lot.” For the mid-year 2013 survey, those numbers were 58 and 26 percent respectively. Just 3 percent expect sales to remain about the same and 2 percent expect sales to decrease.

The confidence index increased in 2013 to 102.9 at year-end, from 102 at mid-year 2013 and 99.0 at year-end 2012. It’s the highest recorded index score since the first survey was completed in 2005.

The index is calculated using three key expectation measures about the voluntary industry — sales growth, profitability and employee enthusiasm about voluntary products. It includes responses from carriers, brokers and vendors.

“The industry appears to see the value in voluntary given the changes in the benefits environment, and the public is responding positively by purchasing voluntary products as indicated by the positive sales growth seen over the past six months,” Brazzell said.

Eastbridge’s survey findings are in line with other recent findings about voluntary products. Prudential’s annual employee benefits survey, released earlier this month, also found that the ongoing rollout of the law is spurring employers to take action within their benefit plans, primarily by offering voluntary benefits.

“Although employers anticipate scaling back benefit offerings due to cost considerations, there’s great opportunity for them to offer voluntary benefits in order to continue providing attractive benefits to their employees,” said Vishal Jain, vice president of strategy, planning and business insights at Prudential Group Insurance.

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