As employers and workers navigate the new health care landscape, voluntary products could become increasingly important for worker loyalty and retention. Two new surveys released this spring show a voluntary product industry ripe for growth, with the use of some products - voluntary dental and vision plans, for example, as well as accident insurance - having doubled over the past three years.

"Voluntary products are becoming more and more prevalent at the request of employees, which I think would surprise a lot of employers," says Jimmy Mallia, president of the employee benefits division at Dwight Andrus Insurance, a partner firm of United Benefit Advisers.

And while more businesses are embracing consumer-driven health care models, workers reveal they may not be ready to jump into the driver's seat just yet. More than half (54%) of workers surveyed for the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report would prefer not to have greater control over their insurance options because they don't have the time or knowledge to effectively manage it. Fifty-three percent, meanwhile, fear that they may not adequately manage their coverage. And - perhaps more importantly - 75% of employees said they think their employer will educate them about changes to their health care coverage as a result of health care reform, yet only 13% of employers said educating employees about reform was important to their organization.

"There is this disconnect. HR organizations believe they're doing a great job educating employees, yet employees want more," says Audrey Boone Tillman, executive vice president, corporate services with Aflac U.S. "With all the changes taking place in the health care arena, there's even more of a need to help people understand their current benefit offerings, understand what they don't have offered and be able to make intelligent choices about how to protect themselves and their families in the event of a health crisis."

To help you gear up for this year's open enrollment, EBN presents the latest data on voluntary products culled from the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report and UBA's 2012 Ancillary Products Survey.

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