News and Updates

Voluntary Workplace Benefits Provide Peace of Mind When Facing Life's Uncertainties

Why voluntary benefits are still valuable, even if you have health insurance

by Karen Coomber, February 14, 2018

If you’re on social media these days, you’ve likely seen friends and family raising money online. Sometimes these fundraisers make us laugh – like when an enterprising college student crowdfunded a chicken nugget meal from a fast food restaurant – but a lot of us visit these sites after learning that someone we know and love is facing a daunting medical diagnosis and mounting medical bills.

We take a lot for granted when we’re healthy, but unfortunately, there are plenty of surprise costs that can arise when we get sick. There are things we can expect medical insurance to cover and use our HSA to plan for – things like co-payments, co-insurance and deductibles. What we might not be able to plan for are the other expenses, the costs of keeping your family’s day-to-day life running when the unexpected happens.  Things like a $20 parking charge every time your spouse receives chemotherapy; lodging near a medical Center of Excellence while your mom receives specialized treatment; and other minor expenses like takeout food and a dog sitter which, nevertheless, add up.

If you haven’t had to face such a situation, you may consider yourself lucky. For those of you who have, you probably know the mental stress of making ends meet for your family while also worrying about a loved one’s medical condition. But you should know that there is insurance that can help defray these costs.

Types of voluntary benefits

Worksite or voluntary benefits were created for just these types of situations. These plans are purchased separately from medical insurance and are designed to pay a patient regardless of the medical plan they have purchased. These plans generally pay out in the form of a lump sum, so you can spend the money in the way that’s best for you and your family.

Here are 3 main types of these voluntary benefits and a little more about how they can help when the unexpected hits. Remember, for all of these benefits, coverage will vary by insurance company and policy. 

  • Critical illness insurance is intended to pay the policyholder a flat amount when they’re diagnosed with a serious medical condition like a heart attack, a stroke, or paralysis. 
  • Accident insurance is intended to pay the policyholder for treatment related to an accident like a car crash, a broken leg during a baseball game, or a bad burn in the kitchen. 
  • Hospital indemnity insurance is intended to pay the cost of hospital stays and the policyholder will get paid based on the amount of time they’re in the hospital.

Why are voluntary benefits important?

There are plenty of signs that Americans are financially stressed when the unexpected hits, even if they may have health insurance:

  • 1 in 5 Americans is not easily making ends meet, even before a medical emergency1
  • Around 60% of middle-class American families say that after a death, disability, or critical illness in the family, they saw a drastic or significant financial impact on their family1
  • In 2013, NerdWallet found that medical bills were the leading cause of personal bankruptcy3

We can’t always plan for the expenses that come along with medical issues. Even if you have health insurance, voluntary benefits can ensure that if the unexpected happens, finances won’t be your biggest concern. And they won’t break the bank – electing one of the types of policies described above will cost around the same amount as getting one fancy coffee drink every week. You can put that money away towards a voluntary benefit policy and some peace of mind.

Online fundraisers remind us that for patients with a challenging health condition, even with health insurance, there can be real financial setbacks. Those who choose to elect voluntary benefit coverage are giving themselves a safety net and protecting their financial futures. Employers who provide these types of voluntary benefit coverage can feel good that they are doing right by their employees and helping them take action to preserve their financial well-being.  

Are you an employer interested in offering voluntary benefits to your employees as part of your overall benefits package? Contact us to learn more about the suite of voluntary benefits that are offered through Fidelity Health Marketplace.

1Gen Re 2015 – 2016 Life & Health Fact Book, p. 67
2Gen Re 2015 – 2016 Life & Health Fact Book, p. 66


About the Author

Karen Coomber

Karen Coomber is the Director of Carrier and Product Solutions at Fidelity Health Marketplace.