Voluntary end-of-life products can help provide financial and medical comfort for what can be an emotional and stressful event. Therefore, brokers say, it is important to remember to be sensitive and help your employees prepare.

These products, such as hospice care, travel assistance and funeral prepayment, deal with issues and matters that impact a family in its entirety - affecting the young and old.

"When you deal with end-of-life issues, you traditionally focus on the senior population ... but [we] should embrace issues that [affect] younger families with children," says Wayne Sakamoto, president of Naples, Fla.-based Health Insurance Interactive Inc.

For example, when someone is told they have a few months to live, all one can do is provide comfort in a time that, besides being emotionally upsetting, can also put an enormous financial strain on all involved. Traditional medical coverage may not provide for all costs related to end of life.

 

Out-of-pocket expenses

"Unfortunately, even if you have decent health insurance, you still find yourself with out-of-pocket medical expenses," Sakamoto says. "It's amazing how [end of life] products and benefits provide benefits to those individuals that are in need."

And it's an aspect of the insurance process that often goes overlooked, says Eric Reisenwitz, senior vice president of market solutions at Lincoln Financial Group.

"We are in the business, from an insurance company perspective, to deal with people. Not just to pay a benefit, but to deal with someone in a difficult time in their life," he explains. "We need to do that in an unobtrusive way. Insurance needs to allow them to deal with the things they need to deal with."

To help an employee, you need to not only listen to them about their needs but also respond with solutions - such as telling an employee with a family history of cancer about the products. Offering voluntary benefits means saying to employees: "'Here are all the products; we recognize you won't take all of them,'" Sakamoto says.

 

Process takes time

Such discussion is essential, adds Lawrence Thaul, president of Rye Brook, N.Y.-based Millenium Financial Inc.

"This is the kind of information which takes [time]," he says. "This is a process, because people have to arrive at their own comfort level. All agents are pragmatic about choices and the types of products that address end-of-life issues. This is a part of life, and it brings people very close when you both are attuned to discussing it."

Brokers "can't practice law; we can't do tax returns and can't practice psychology," Thaul adds.

"However," he says, "we can be attuned and sensitive to our employer-clients' philosophies and desires. Otherwise, reasonable minds can differ in their choice. Our job is to give them the slate of choices to select from, remaining sensitive to who they are."

Sakamoto says in the end, employers must understand how this product affects all. "It's fascinating to see this happen with many ages," he says. "With medical conditions that put [someone] aside, and they are no longer able to work, [this] becomes an invaluable tool to learn about and know about. [There are] resources in the marketplace through government programs, and products that have been implemented in the workplace as well as [for] individuals."

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