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Some Thoughts for Employee-Benefits Season

By Brian Winchell


— “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of the employees, they will take care of the clients.”   — Richard Branson

The famous white duck, perhaps the most recognizable mascot on television, just may be the most effective marketer in the insurance industry. Before you finished that sentence, you knew who I was talking about — the Aflac Duck. The supplemental-insurance benefits that duck promotes are vast — ranging from $120 for a hospital visit, to large lump-sum payments for a cancer diagnosis. These payments are no doubt a welcome relief during a trying time. 

Short-term benefits

Although there are some on-going payments provided by the insurance company, these policies generally provide short term benefits. The premium, as low as $5-$6 per week per policy, is paid by the employee directly from payroll, and coverage is guaranteed issue in most cases.

The bigger risk — long term disability

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 26 percent of Americans live with a disability, with the most common challenges being mobility, cognition, and independent living. (See

The impact of a long-term disability, however, should not be understated. A long-term disability is exponentially more devastating than short-term disabling events. Your cost of care goes up while your income goes down, often leading to unexpected expenses, debt, bankruptcy and even divorce. Your quality of life suffers, and you may have to apply for Social Security disability. 

Group LTD (long-term disability) plans are an incredibly effective solution, but too many employers have not been presented with these plan options. 

The typical group LTD plan provides employees with 60 percent of their earnings, after a waiting period of 90-180 days. That payment continues indefinitely, as long as your disability keeps you out of work. Most plans continue to pay you all the way to age 65 or 67. 

Life-changing benefits

Ideally, we should consider an individual plan to supplement group coverage, but a group LTD policy provides foundational and truly meaningful benefits. 

Consider a 40-year old with a $50,000 annual income who experiences a disabling event. That group policy will pay him $30,000 per year for 27 years. I’ll do the math for you — that’s $810,000. 

Once employees become disabled, the employer is not required to keep them on the payroll if they can’t perform their job function. Having this type of plan is a life-changer for your employees, their families, and potentially for your business. (LTD plans have additional benefits for owners and key employees). 

Considering your options

Must be expensive, right? That must be why employers don’t offer group disability plans. Recently, we quoted a group in a retail/blue collar industry (the industry matters). The cost was only about $9 per month per employee. 

The leverage obtained by using employer-paid group benefits goes beyond cost. All employees are eligible, regardless of any pre-existing conditions, because group plans can qualify for guaranteed insurability — no underwriting. 

Successful businesses, those that have thrived, overcome various economic cycles, survive business transitions and generational successions, have commonly demonstrated open-minded leadership, have forward-looking, trusted advisers, and loyal, dedicated and satisfied employees.

During renewal season, it’s easy to get bogged down by the decisions we have to make about our group medical and dental plans, but let’s educate our employees on additional benefits as well.      

Brian Winchell is a senior benefits advisor at CH Insurance, and founder of Life Insurance CNY, an insurance-only financial-services brand. With nearly 20 years of broad-based experience in the financial services industry, he works with consumers, business owners, investment managers, financial planners, HR and benefits managers, attorneys and accountants to review existing plans and design insurance-based solutions. Contact Winchell at (315) 552-5344 or email:

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