Want to add value to your benefits package? Offer these 4 voluntary perks

Employers looking to reduce healthcare costs might consider eliminating ancillary benefits such as vision, dental or disability. But there are compelling reasons why employers should continue to offer, or add, these benefits — either paid for partly by the employer or as voluntary benefits with premiums paid by employees.

Many employees value voluntary benefits, and employers can offer them with little or no additional cost. In fact, 85% of employees say having vision and dental benefits is “important” during open enrollment, according to a survey from UnitedHealthcare.

With growing evidence of a link between oral and eye health to overall health — as well as to an array of chronic medical conditions — offering voluntary benefits may prove valuable to employers and employees. In addition, integrating these benefits with medical coverage can give employers additional information that helps enable proactive clinical interventions and consumer-engagement strategies, drawing on a wide range of data to help encourage a healthier workforce and more effectively manage medical costs.

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Here are four voluntary benefits employers should zero in on, and why.

Vision. The eyes are a window to overall health, revealing important information about a person’s well-being and, in some cases, helping detect a range of chronic conditions. In fact, eye exams can help detect and manage diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and others. Employees who are aware of, and able to successfully manage, chronic conditions can focus on their work, helping improve productivity and reducing the likelihood of sick days or disability leave.

Dental. Oral health plays a significant role in overall health, especially for people with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A UnitedHealthcare study showed that people with certain chronic conditions who received appropriate dental care, including preventive services and the treatment of gum disease, had net medical costs that were on average $1,037 lower per year than those who received no dental care. For example, a person with diabetes and periodontal disease who receives the recommended dental treatments or cleanings is at a lower risk of inflammation, which can help improve diabetes management and avoid costly complications.

Financial protection. Benefits such as disability, accident and critical illness coverage can help provide employees financial protection and additional support following a serious injury or medical event, such as cancer, heart attack or stroke. For instance, health plans that combine medical and voluntary benefits have shown the ability to help reduce the duration of disability claims through improved management, offering plan participants additional support and information, including a case manager and exercise and nutrition advice. These additional resources mean employees may get back to health — and work — more quickly.

Hearing health. Hearing loss is a significant health issue for more than 48 million Americans, 60% of whom are still in the workforce or in school, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. By helping employees obtain treatment for hearing loss, employers can help foster a healthier, more productive workforce and reduce the risk of employees developing a range of physical and mental health issues associated with hearing loss, including increased risk of falls, social isolation and dementia.

Offering voluntary benefits as part of an employee’s menu of benefit options may help maximize the effectiveness of a company’s healthcare dollars and, when offered alongside medical coverage, provide families with added peace of mind for both their health and financial protection. Employers that combine specialty and medical benefits may be able to reduce turnover, increase productivity and help build a culture of health.

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