Ann Hayes Peterson

Ensuring choice benefits for staff

Combating rising health care costs requires creativity.

February 1, 2017

Employees want greater choice in their health care options and overall benefits. And credit unions have to balance budget constraints with their need to attract top talent by providing attractive benefits packages.

Health care costs are staggering, especially in some markets. But in competitive markets, your benefits package can make the difference for potential hires.

It adds up to a significant challenge for employers. Among credit unions, 85% say their 2016 health care benefits costs have risen over 2015 levels, and their average reported increase (10%) comes in double the national average, according to CUNA’s 2016-2017 Credit Union Benefits Report.

National group life insurance trends show company-paid group life insurance is near the top of the list of financial and compensation benefits, with 80% of firms offering it. The availability of life insurance for dependents increased from 55% in 2012 to 61% in 2016.

Nearly 25% of organizations offered accelerated death benefits for financial assistance in the case of a terminal illness, according to the 2016 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Employee Benefits Report.

Among credit unions, about 70% of those with assets of $1 million or more—including 95% of those with $50 million or more—offer group life insurance to staff, CUNA’s survey reports.

Credit unions are providing affordable benefits and retaining an engaged workforce by:

• Eliminating postretirement health care for new hires while maintaining coverage for existing employees;

• Providing a company-paid health plan for individuals, with family plan options employees pay for; and

• Allowing employees to create personalized benefits packages and offering more work-life benefits such as flexible work arrangements, wellness programs, and tuition assistance.

“When we need to make changes to our benefits, we engage the employees in the decision making,” says April Clobes, president/CEO of Michigan State University Federal Credit Union in East Lansing.

Clobes explains that when the credit union needed to change its health insurance plan last year due to rising premiums, “we learned that employees were comfortable moving to a health maintenance organization with 100% premium coverage versus staying with a [preferred provider organization] and sharing in the premium expenses.”

For more on the CUNA 20162017 Credit Union Benefits Report, visit

ANN HAYES PETERSON is editor of Credit Union Magazine.