health benefits As more requirements and deadlines loom under the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA), and the job market sways in favor of job seekers; many Human Resource practitioners are looking for ways to make company benefit packages more attractive to quality candidates. The struggle comes down to costs.

Experts Predict Health Insurance Costs Will Continue to Go Up

Health care insurance premiums have risen for a second time since the ACA went into force, by 4 percent from 2012 to 2013. They are expected to rise again this year. The Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust published the results of their annual Health Benefits Survey of 2,000 employers, indicating that, “the average yearly family plan premium topped $16,000 for the first time, with workers paying on average $4,565 toward that cost, not counting copays and deductibles.” Deductibles across the board have also gone up, and in most cases they’ve doubled or tripled from previous plan years.

Finding a Solution to the Costs of Compensation and Benefits

Under these strains, it can be challenging for a company to offer a compensation and benefit program that’s fair to employees, and manageable for the business. Considering that the cost of living index has risen too, employers need to offer the golden carrot that offers competitive salaries as well as benefits to attract the best candidates to their doors.

Options in Voluntary Benefits for Employees

Voluntary benefits, those that fall outside of standard health insurance, life and retirement plans; offer a unique benefit to employees who are looking for ways to stay healthy and protect their income. Voluntary benefits are emerging on the scene as a way to reduce costs and provide additional protection for life’s worries. Following are some possible options in voluntary benefits that can add value to your employee benefit program.

Disability Insurance

One of the most popular voluntary benefits, short term and long term disability insurance offers the peace of mind that if an illness or injury occurs, at least a portion of the employee’s income will be covered for a certain period of time. For less than $15-30 a month on average, employees can obtain group disability insurance, which is a lot cheaper and less to manage than hospital indemnity, accidental death and dismemberment insurances which typically cost more.

Dental and Vision Care

While the ACA does not require that employers carry dental and vision insurance for adult employees, for children under the age of 19 the rules are somewhat different. Grandfathered in existing health plans or those from the private exchanges in the small business market will continue to cover these expenses. However, new plans effective January 1, 2014, require “essential health benefits” for children, one of which includes routine dental and vision care insurance. Offering this as an option under a volunteer program adds value and helps you to provide the required covered under Obamacare.

Flexible Spending Plans and Health Savings Plans

FSAs and HSAs are still very popular voluntary benefit programs for employees who are trying to stretch their health benefit dollars. Not only can they offer pre-tax savings for workers, but they can also provide a way for employees to put aside money to pay for unexpected health care costs. These are self-funded plans giving employees the choice of how much they wish to put aside, a factor that puts employees in better control of their finances

Special Limited Health Benefits

For companies that can only offer high deductible health insurance plans, another appealing option is to offer supplemental coverage for critical illness, hospital cash, long term care insurance, supplemental accident insurance, and even plans for specific diseases such as cancer. While it’s important to note that limited health benefit plans are not designed to replaced groups health insurance, they are employee-paid benefits that can cover some of the expenses associated with these health and family needs.

While the above ideas are just a few ways to add value to your compensation and benefit programs, these can be a good start. Think outside the box when offering benefits with more voluntary options for employees this year.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net