Benecaid Health Benefits Solutions Inc. is introducing a new online health benefits platform this month.

The online app, Honeybee, allows employers to offer their health benefits package through a health-care spending account and allowance account. Under the platform’s defined contribution model, employers allocate funds for each account, allowing employees to choose their own benefits.

Honeybee was designed to address recent changes in the labour force and innovate the concept of a benefits plan, says David Katz, executive vice-president of corporate development at Benecaid. “I think the entire market is looking at new solutions to solve problems that are caused by the multigenerational workforce, the mass amounts of young people entering the workforce, the fact that everyone wants different things in their benefits today, the desire for non-traditional benefits.”

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Katz also sees the platform as an enabler rather than a disruptor of the benefits sector. For one, while employers can make it available to employees, consultants can also offer it to the companies they work with, he notes. “We feel advisors will always have a role” in the benefits sector, says Katz, adding employers still need consultants and advisors to guide them through the complexities of certain benefits such as insurance.

Nevertheless, the influx of new online platforms indicates there’s certainly a trend towards the defined contribution benefits model, says Joseph Chan, vice-president of the benefits and total rewards practice at advisory firm Stem Capital Inc.

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While small- and medium-sized companies that tend to offer non-traditional benefits typically gravitate towards a defined contribution approach to benefits, other organizations will also find the opportunity to control costs appealing, says Chan. But despite the interest in these new online platforms, traditional plans won’t become extinct anytime soon, he adds, noting companies that have used them for years may be hesitant to make the switch to a defined contribution model.

For one, employers could end up spending more by providing all of their health benefits through a health-care spending account because they’ll be following a broader definition of eligible medical and health-care expenses according to the Canada Revenue Agency, says Chan. “For example, your plan may not cover vision care at this point . . . but you can use a health spending account for vision care. That means there is a wider list of eligible expenses that you can claim under an HSA than a traditional plan.”

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Employers should also consider any additional subscription fees in their overall benefits costs, says Chan, noting some insurance companies already offer health-care spending accounts to complement traditional benefits.

As for Honeybee, it’s currently available to advisors and consultants across the country except for Quebec, and will be available for all Canadian employers by the end of the year.

More than 100 companies are already set to subscribe to the platform and Benecaid’s own employees will be the first cohort to enroll beginning in September.

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

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