Goodbye to one size fits all: Innovative group products meet diverse needs

By Rich Williams

Today’s consumers increasingly want products and services tailored to their unique needs. For example, take the athletic-wear industry. Whether the buyer is an elite athlete who has workout gear custom-fitted based on a three-dimensional body scan or a teenager who goes online to select the right color and design for that new pair of athletic shoes, the trend toward customization is clearly on the rise.

A 2018 study found that 26% of Americans have bought a personalized product—a jump of nine percentage points in the last three years. Those purchases are happening in a wide range of industries, from apparel and footwear to vacation travel and household goods. More narrowly, this movement away from a “one-size-fits-all” mindset is also found in the insurance industry, where some companies are evolving their supplemental group insurance with innovative features to help meet the diverse needs of the people they serve.

Companies are increasingly looking at supplemental coverage as a strategic way to help enhance employee offerings and hire and retain valuable workers. According to the 2018 Aflac WorkForces Report, 55% of employees admitted they are at least somewhat likely to take a job with slightly lower pay but a more robust benefits package.

For brokers and agents who want to unlock new sales opportunities, now is the time to ride this customization wave and feed into the still-growing appetite for comprehensive benefits. Make your clients aware of the variety of supplemental coverage available that can help employees find the right fit for their circumstances.

Supplemental coverage addresses advances in medicine

For years, supplemental coverage has helped people pay for the costs of illness or accidents that their health insurance does not cover. But many Americans are becoming aware of their increasing need for better and more specialized coverage – and insurers are putting in the work to match that demand. Supplemental coverage is changing to include advancements and innovations that satisfy a broader group of medical needs.

Consider these supplemental plans focused on different kinds of medical events as examples of how plans are growing to help meet specific needs:

  • Critical illness insurance – This kind of coverage offers financial help for serious health scenarios and conditions such as major organ transplants, cancer, heart attack, stroke, end-stage kidney failure and more. For people who have a family history or other risk factors for critical diseases, these plans can be a wise component of their benefits package, helping give greater financial peace of mind.

One innovative feature to look for when considering critical illness coverage is a cash benefit for being registered on the national organ transplant waiting list in addition to receiving a transplant. For patients with cancer, leading-edge plans help provide financial help not just at the time of diagnosis but even after becoming cancer-free. 

  • Hospital indemnity insurance – Any kind of hospital stay can generate unexpected medical bills and put a strain on the family budget. Hospital indemnity coverage can help pay out-of-pocket copayments and deductibles, but the cash benefits can also be used toward rent or mortgage payments, child care expenses or other urgent bills. With this kind of coverage in place, the family can better stay afloat during a hospitalization without having to drain hard-earned savings.

Other hospital plans offer benefits for the whole family. Look for features such as benefits for health screenings for preventative care, as well as NICU and PICU care for babies and children.

  • Accident insurance – Accidents can happen anytime to anyone. When a significant injury strikes, the costs of care, diagnosis and potential rehabilitation can pile up fast. For those who lose pay while out of work, the financial impact can be devastating. Many people choose to help reduce their risk with accident coverage, which helps pay for costs associated with injuries big and small.

The latest innovations in accident coverage include plans designed for workers in high-risk occupations, such as an offering for public service workers, whose livelihoods can put them at higher risk of accidents while working.

Employers embrace new supplemental benefit options

It is easy to understand why supplemental group coverage can be a great option for brokers to offer clients. They can be a valuable part of employees’ benefits offerings to help boost workers’ engagement, recruitment and retention. Yet, they can be offered at little or no cost to the company. It is no wonder that a recent survey found that U.S. employers are expanding their menu of supplemental benefits, with more than two-thirds saying they expect these benefits to be a very or more important component of their employee value proposition in the next three to five years.

Meeting this demand for personalization and simplification are products uniting the best aspects of several supplemental plans into one convenient option. For example, Aflac’s BenExtend® combines accident, hospital indemnity and critical illness benefits into one simple plan design. It is offered with options to accommodate a variety of benefits budgets and scenarios. This, along with the ability to submit claims online, can help clients reach younger workers who may appreciate fewer choices in their busy schedules.

Clearly, now is the right time to have conversations with your customers about supplemental group coverage. Your clients and their employees now have a greater ability to find products that fit them like a glove – or a customized sneaker.



Rich Williams is executive vice president and chief distribution officer at Aflac, responsible for leading the fully aligned distribution team of independent career agents and brokerage professionals. He focuses on the alignment and strategic growth of current distributions, including product development, enrollment and account management for Aflac U.S., as well as further distribution and expansion.