When it comes to voluntary products, “everyone is predicting that 2014 will be even better,” said Walter Podgurski Dec. 11 during a talk at the Workplace Benefits Transitions conference in Chicago. The conference, sponsored by EBA’s parent company SourceMedia, focused heavily on voluntary products, including specific tips for health brokers expanding their portfolio in this realm.

A big difference health producers need to get used to, one expert said, is the sentiment involved with voluntary. “Sorry brokers, but most of you are not empathetic enough to deal with voluntary,” said Jim Cappel, president of Illinois Benefits in Chicago, on the same panel that conference co-chair Podgurski began with the aforementioned 2014 prediction. “[Medical] is more rudimentary, where voluntary you have a lot more emotion involved because usually something bad had to happen to cause a claim.”

An audience member said he agreed with Cappel’s assertion and said there needs to be a shift in how all producers in the business view voluntary. “It’s not voluntary or ancillary or worksite, you’re a solution provider,” said the WBT attendee. “It’s an entirely different way of positioning yourself, whether you’re the broker or the provider. For a five-year professional in the biz today, you can walk in to a client or potential client that may have been with a broker for 20 years and replace them with new language. It’s a fascinating time.”

Cappel reiterated what the audience member stated: “You just need to ask yourself each time how you can make it right [for clients.] If you can solve their problems” you’ll keep them. And voluntary has a lot to do with that now, considering clients are very interested in that one-stop-shop approach to brokers, according to the panel.

Another tip for health brokers looking to sell voluntary from panelist Charlie Grim, sales manager at The BenefitSource in Elmhurst, Ill., is to never discount anyone as a potential client. “I also love when people come up to you and say, ‘I’m not looking for anything.’ Those are the people who end up buying stuff, because they actually took the time to understand and listen, seek out information and make an informed decision,” he said to the room, where only 40%, estimated by Podgurski with a show of hands, sold voluntary products in the last year.

Non-insurance

Another panel at the WBT conference highlighted non-insurance options available for brokers to sell. New Benefits, a voluntary supplier in Dallas, shared some of its most successful products, including Health Advocate, a personal health and bill negotiation service, edocAmerica, a 24-hour doctor and wellness coaching service and Teladoc, a group of board-certified physicians available via phone and video for remote consultation during primary care physician off-hours. New Benefits said they bundle these products together at a discount for the employee. While they’re marketed as voluntary, many times employers end up paying for these services for the employees themselves.

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