Elder care support emerges as new legal service
With the average cost of an attorney ranging from $50 to $1,000 per hour, it is no surprise more employers are looking to offer legal services as a retaining benefit for employees.
Dennis Healy, chief sales officer for international legal insurance company ARAG, says he has worked with the company for over six years and continues to see more benefit brokers seeking legal service products to offer their clients.
“The number of request for proposals we have seen from the broker community is up 55% from last year, and last year was the highest year we’ve ever had,” Healy says. “We are expecting this trend to continue as we go on into 2018, because there is enormous interest in voluntary legal benefits among brokers and employers.”
Because of this continued interest in legal services, companies such as ARAG have begun to offer various legal plan options that compliment traditional legal services. These plans start at a basic level with a set amount of hours and legal requests available such as estate planning, drafting a will or misdemeanor defense, to enhanced models that may include criminal defense, family law — divorce and child custody cases — and caregiving assistance for employees who support elderly parents along with children.
Healy worked for John Hancock Insurance for more than 20 years in its group long term care division and says despite the need to insure against long term care issues the insurance industry has become adverse to providing that product.
“People really can’t afford to buy long term care insurance anymore,” Healy says. “Long term care insurance is so difficult to price because of the interest rate environment and the length of time people are living, which is so much longer than it was just two or three decades ago.”
With the caregiver option, employees have the opportunity to find affordable nursing, assisted living centers or home healthcare plans using a patient advocate provided through ARAG’s legal services benefit.
“In the Boston area, where I’m from, you could easily pay $350 or $400 a day for a nursing home,” Healy says. “If you can get 25% off of that, you are saving $100 a day which is a pile of money by the end of the year.”
Healy adds that the caregiving feature does not necessarily fall under the traditional uses for a legal services benefit, but instead acts as a complimentary service for life situations that can affect the average employee.
Tom Kelly, principal at Conduent HR Services says he has worked with ARAG for 15 years focusing his entire career around legal services benefits. Kelly says these complimentary services ARAG is offering such as caregiver, identity theft protection and debt consolidation, all funnel back into the push for more awareness around wellness, particularly financial wellbeing.
“Organizations have become focused on financial wellbeing or total wellbeing of their population more so than really ever before in history because of the awareness of how impactful financial stressors have on productivity in the workplace,” Kelly says. “As employers look to put together total wellbeing strategies, they are looking at various needs within the population that need to be addressed.”
Different needs for different generations
Kelly adds that there are roughly four or five generations in the workforce today and the needs of these populations vary between them.
“The legal needs of these populations are an important consideration for employers because most likely the average employee will have legal issues and they will be spending time at work dealing with the issue,” Kelly says. “A lot of the baby boomers and gen Xers are dealing with an elderly parent that may generate legal issues whether they are tax issues or updating a will, they all require important consideration.”
Heather Garbers, vice president of voluntary benefits and technology at HUB International, says legal service benefits that offer an elder law or caregiving component tend to be underutilized by the average employee, typically because it is not considered when the legal services benefit is offered during the enrollment process.
“I think the elder law component of legal plans out there is huge especially if an employee has a parent who has been a victim of abuse,” Garbers says. “Financial education and financial counseling is another legal benefit that goes unnoticed because employees are just unaware that these options are included in their plan.”
Healy says ARAG’s caregiver services does dovetail back into traditional legal services because eventually that elderly dependent will need to settle their personal affairs such as handling an estate with an attorney specializing in elderly affairs.
“We send out messages throughout the year to our clients keeping them informed about common life situations that may require legal services,” Healy says. “Around the holidays we will probably send out another message about dealing with aging adults because that is usually the time employees get together with their families to discuss these aging issue."