Editor's Blog

Voluntary Benefits - Explored, Part 1

Voluntary Benefits - Explored Part 1.jpg

Ancient Romans determinedly sailed across turbulent, unfamiliar oceans from the shores of their treasured land, with rushing wind at their backs and cerulean saltwater splashing about. These strapping citizens likely had spouses and children anxiously awaiting their safe return. A few of these seagoers may have also been linked to some form of insurance.1

Even during antiquity, when ostentatious, monumental cities occupied a tiny fraction of the earth, the inherent risk of being a functioning human was known and addressed. Aside from the ability to read this blog on a computer and billions of other advances, a distinction between then and now is that we have more insurance coverage choices than ever. One major type of coverage expansion is the emergence of voluntary benefits.

A type of ancillary coverage, voluntary benefits may be offered by employers to employees in addition to their primary medical insurance package. This additional coverage can include life insurance, hospitalization, critical illness, and others. They all fall into four categories which are health and wellness, security, personal benefits, and financial wellness. Employees can either accept or decline this coverage. 2

While this definition of voluntary benefits is relatively straightforward, how voluntary benefits became an essential feature for hiring companies is a tale that brims with complexity. Much of this complexity stems from the evolution of health insurance in the United States.

Modern health insurance, which involves doctors, hospitals, and plenty of paperwork, arose in the 20th century. Just before World War II, only 9% of the U.S. population had health insurance. By 1960, that amount had increased exponentially to 70%.3 As noted in Michael A. Morrisey’s Health Insurance, the Great Depression, which started in 1929, led hospitals and later physicians to create forms of insurance to guarantee payment for services rendered. The eruption of the Second World War accompanied by the spread of the labor movement, and the federal tax code, collectively prompted the rise of employer-sponsored insurance.

These tumultuous decades and those that followed helped prove the American economy cannot persist without an active, healthy workforce. Many primary health insurance plans were then and still are contingent upon employment. According to the U.S. Census on Health Insurance, 54.3% of the population held employer-based insurance coverage in 2021.With dynamic voluntary benefits products, the employer can offer a range of additional insurance to their employees. Some voluntary benefits can be paid with pre-tax income as well, which potentially leads to savings for the employee and employer.2

Primary health insurance plans, while sometimes broad in scope, do not always mean complete coverage for employees. Technology and medical science have advanced tremendously in recent decades. Meanwhile, out-of-pocket expenditures have climbed since 1970, according to recent data.This growth has left some employees and their loved ones vulnerable to high medical costs due to incomplete coverage. The budgetary strain, dissatisfaction, and stress that results eventually become a problem for both the employee and employer.

With voluntary benefits, whether an individual rides a bike to their office in a skyscraper or works on a cargo ship that often docks near the Gulf of Mexico, they can obtain insurance that is more specific to their needs and preferences. This is done with wellbeing firmly in mind and potentially shields the individual from financial burdens, helping to create a future that is promising and healthy.

Please visit our Voluntary Benefits page for more information. For sales, email us at VBSales@ManhattanLife.com


1 Historical development of insurance. 2022. https://www.britannica.com/topic/insurance/Historical-development-of-insurance

What Are Voluntary Benefits? The Ultimate Guide. 2022. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/voluntary-benefits/

Morrisey, Michael A. Health Insurance. Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. AUPHA/HAP Book. May 11, 2020.

4 Coverage in the U.S. for 2021. 2022. https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2022/demo/p60-278.html

How has U.S. spending on healthcare changed over time?. 2023. https://www.healthsystHemtracker.org/chart-collection/u-s-spending-healthcare-changed-time/



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