Fewer than a third (31 per cent) of employers anticipate making changes to their health benefits plan design over the next two years, according to the 2017 Sanofi Canada health-care survey. That compares to 42 per cent who expected to do so in 2015.

Among respondents that said they’ve made changes since 2015, these results were mainly positive, with 59 per cent adding benefits or increasing levels of coverage. However, 24 per cent said they removed benefits or reduced levels of coverage. The number increased to 31 per cent among insured plans, compared to 18 per cent with administrative services-only arrangements. Another 23 per cent increased cost-sharing provisions with employees, with a high of 37 per cent among employers with flexible plans.

Read: Sanofi survey finds drop in employee satisfaction with health benefits plan

Plan members don’t want to make too many changes too quickly, said Dave Patriarche, a broker at Mainstay Insurance Brokerage Inc. and a member of the survey’s advisory board. “We saw a lot of changes from insurers over the past few years, to do with drug plans, so employers are waiting to see the impact on cost trends before making any more changes.”

Among respondents that do anticipate changing their plans in the next two years, the top change would be a restructuring of the plan design (39 per cent), followed by new or increased benefits (38 per cent) and more benefits tied to wellness or prevention of illness (36 per cent). Less than a third anticipate increased cost-sharing arrangements (29 per cent) or the removal or reduction of benefits (28 per cent).

Read: Fewer workplace cultures encouraging health and wellness: Sanofi survey

According to the survey, the biggest challenge associated with that type of change is the negative reaction from employees,  a concern cited by 30 per cent of respondents. However, members of the survey’s advisory board suggest it may be time to adjust that perception.

“Employers work with the assumption of a negative reaction, without really knowing the actual perceptions of their employees,” said Pierre Marion, market leader at Medavie Blue Cross and an advisory board member. “Those who take the time to know what their employees think about a possible change, by doing a focus group or survey, may be pleasantly surprised by the results.”

Read more stories from the 2017 Sanofi Canada health-care survey

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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