One Place 2017 | Benefitstore & Voluntary Benefits

Matthew Middlebrooks, vice president of the Benefitfocus Benefitstore, discusses our approach to working with customers on their voluntary benefit offerings.



Good morning, everyone. My name's Matthew Middlebrooks, and I get the pleasure of working with a team that specifically focuses on voluntary benefits in the way that these programs really better support and enhance both broker strategies and employers.
We recognize that, you know, we really have to understand who we're offering benefits to, and that's the best way we offer programs, right? Today, we have four different generations that are converging in the workforce, so that's really where we start. This is being driven heavily by millennials, now making up almost 40% of this workforce.
We know that brokers, consultants, and employers are really evaluating many different things. They're evaluating the different needs these groups have, the different programs that they want to offer to these different groups of people, how they communicate these programs, and really, how this is driving the way they're designing their benefit strategies. 
Another important piece of this is also that we're continuing to see healthcare deductibles rise year every year, and we've talked some about that this morning. If we look out over just the past three years, we've seen an increase of almost 60% of the number of employees that now have a healthcare deductible that's over $1,000.
This means that employees are continuing to see more and more first-dollar responsibility. The natural question becomes, are they prepared for this? Are they setting aside those excess dollars? Are they saving these monies for the unplanned or unexpected? What we're finding is that many folks are not doing this, or are not prepared.
In fact, 49% of individuals shared they have less than $1,000 accessible to them to pay for unexpected medical expense or an injury. Fifty-three percent of people would have to use a credit card, or worse, step into a 401(k) and incur penalties to pay for these types of expenses. Almost 70% of people say they generally would not be able to adapt to the cost of a major injury or illness.
Shawn shared with us earlier, we talked about this thing, the deductible gap. What's also important about that is it's not always just the employee, right? Employees are insuring their dependents, their spouses, their families. Even when we see an employer and an employee contributing to an HSA, and we compare that to that average employer, you know, family deductible, there still can be substantial cost that falls on the feet of the employee.
We really see this pairing together with that data we've talked about as employees asking for help. They want access to programs that really help them insure these first dollar costs, create confidence for them for the unexpected. For the child on Saturday that maybe falls on the soccer field, breaks an arm, has to ride in an ambulance, goes to the emergency room for the first time, or a spouse, the do-it-all, the fixer-up, that falls off the ladder cleaning the gutters on Saturday, breaks a collarbone, has to miss time away from work.
Our teams are dedicated on working with products that really help employees with these concerns, these first dollar costs. We also recognize that many employers today are already offering a number of voluntary products. Those can be more standard, like, a short-term disability for an individual, kind of, insuring that unexpected time away from work, or they can also be more specific towards, like, millennials, the new entrants to the workforce, with student loan consolidation.
Our community told us on the Benefitfocus platform last year that we had an increase of almost 88% for the sheer number of employers that are offering more than three voluntary products. We believe this is a testament to those employers understanding a number of the things we're talking about this morning and really wanting and commanding access for their employees to enroll in products like this, to insure for the unexpected, the unplanned.
We also recognize that we must be prepared for that. We have the opportunity to work with 20 of the leading voluntary benefit providers in the marketplace today, offering over 40 different types of products on our platform, things like critical onus and accident, things you're familiar with, but also student loan consolidation, 401(k) counseling and management, overall financial wellness programs. 
We're not just creating the most robust voluntary benefits portfolio in working with these partners, we're also creating the most efficient and simplified way to enroll in these plans. For a plan like a critical onus, or a disability, or a 401(k) evaluation, we're able to enroll in those things just like we do with our medical, our dental, our vision.
This creates confidence for employees, but also creates a scenario where an employer has more confidence in educating these programs, supporting their strategies throughout the year, and generally creating a more simplified way to enroll in products all in one place.
These are just the few of the continual investments and dynamics that are driving those investments with how we enroll, administer, and offer products on the Benefitfocus platform.