The future of health benefit plans

by Theresa Rose

  • Do you expect your health care benefits to continue after your retirement?
  • Would you be willing to shop around to find the best prices for filling a prescription in order to help your employer maintain current coverage?
  • Would you participate in on-site health risk screenings for conditions like diabetes?
  • Would you be willing to help your employer with cost-sharing measures in order to protect your benefits?

These questions and more were investigated in detail in this year’s Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey, which gives a voice to both employees and employers in exploring the current and future state of health benefit programs. Along with my colleague Pierre Marion, Senior Director of Sales and Business Relations, I was proud to be a member of the survey’s Advisory Board, sharing insights based what we are seeing at Medavie Blue Cross.

This year’s survey highlights some important trends when it comes to what people want out of their benefit plan and their willingness to play a role  to support its sustainability.

The role of health care benefits in the workplace is changing— there’s more of an emphasis on prevention, there’s more of a sense of collaboration between employees and employers, and there’s a growing sense that these programs are vital to reduce the strain on Canada’s public health system.

Prevention is key

Most of us agree that it’s better to ward off a chronic disease like diabetes through healthy lifestyle choices than to treat it once a diagnosis has been made. It relieves pressure on our health care system, it reduces cost for the benefit plan provider, and—most importantly— it makes a very significant difference to the quality of life for the individual!

No one wants to be sick— employees want to focus on their health, and employers are in a unique position to help facilitate that through initiatives like on-site health risk assessments for conditions like diabetes, heart disease and depression. In fact, 92% of survey respondents expressed an interest in participating in one, though only 17% of employers surveyed actually offer one.

So it makes sense that both employees and employers are looking for initiatives like health-risk screenings, health educational programs and a variety of wellness services that go beyond the more traditional benefit plans components like prescription drug coverage.

Keeping drug plans affordable

At the same time, there’s no question that drug coverage is still important to employees: many see it as the component they are least willing to give up— and yet, the drug plan is the very portion of the overall benefits plan where employers say they are most likely to consider making cuts.

When asked what they would consider doing to keep their current level of drug coverage, the majority (62%) indicated a willingness to shop around for lower costs.

Being a smart consumer is an easy step anyone can take. We comparison shop to find the best deals on gas, groceries, mobile phone plans— searching out the pharmacy that best meets our needs is no different.

There’s also an opportunity for employers to approach their benefit plans differently, maintaining the coverage employees want while helping them adopt healthier lifestyles. An impressive 91% of surveyed employees would take part in a disease management education program—how you can take an active role in managing your health through lifestyle changes and accessing appropriate resources—if it meant higher-cost drugs would then be covered. That’s a unique solution that can benefit both employees and employers.

What is your take on things? Are there certain things you value in your benefit plan more than others? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to answer our featured poll in the right sidebar.

Theresa Rose is Director of Group Product Management at Medavie Blue Cross




3 thoughts on “The future of health benefit plans

  1. Extended benefits are the most important to me. Things like Massage Therapy and Chiropracty and Registered Dietician Services can help to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I think that these services are usually underfunded as well.

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