While the majority of employees continue to be satisfied with their health benefits plan, the extent to which they find it meets their needs has declined over the years, according to the 2017 Sanofi Canada health-care survey

The latest survey, released today, found 53 per cent of plan members reported their health benefits plan meets their needs extremely or very well, a significant drop from the 73 per cent who reported the same sentiment in 1999. Likewise, 48 per cent of employees found the quality of their benefits plan to be excellent or very good in 2017, compared to 59 per cent in 2006.

But the survey found employees who have access to workplace wellness programs (63 per cent) and health-care spending accounts (60 per cent) are more likely to be satisfied with their health benefits plan compared to those without those two types of benefits.

Read: Younger workers more willing to make trade-off in benefits plans

Employees in good health (65 per cent) are also more likely than those in poor health (38 per cent) to be satisfied with their benefits plan, according to the survey. Similarly, employers that offer wellness programs are likely to think highly of their health benefits plans, with 69 per cent ranking their plans as excellent or very good. That compares to 54 per cent of those without wellness programs.

Unionized and public-sector employers also show greater satisfaction with their health benefits plans in comparison to their non-unionized and private-sector counterparts.

Read: Which health benefits do employees really want?

“Wellness programs and [health-care spending accounts] both give employees latitude to do more based on personal needs,” said Nathalie Laporte, vice-president of product development, marketing and strategy at Desjardins Insurance and a member of the survey’s advisory board. “These results clearly show that their availability boosts the perceived value of the overall health benefits plan.”

Besides its latest findings, the survey also highlighted how the benefits industry has changed in the past decade. Specifically, it noted the majority of employee respondents value their benefits for covering routine health-care costs rather than unexpected issues. But while more than half (56 per cent) of employers appreciate that sentiment, a significant number (43 per cent) wish employees would develop a better appreciation for the value of catastrophic costs.

Read: Plan sponsors bracing for onset of new orphan drugs

The finding is likely due to the influx of high-cost specialty medications and the effect they’ve been having on many benefits plans in recent years, according to the survey.

“Many employees still tend to view drug expenses as more of a routine cost rather than true insurance because specialty drugs are a recent phenomenon, affecting relatively few people,” said Ezaque Lopes, regional vice-president of business development for Ontario at SSQ Financial Group and a member of the survey’s advisory board. “Yet their impact on quality of life can be huge, and many of the diseases treated can hit anyone at any time.”

According to Lopes, plan members who understand that can start seeing benefits more as a privilege rather than an entitlement that’s part of their compensation.

Indeed, the survey found plan member attitudes can change. When presented with a scenario of employees having a finite budget of $5,000 to help pay for a $25,000 medication that could significantly improve their health, almost half (46 per cent) of said they’d prefer more coverage for high-cost specialty drugs. That compares to 54 per cent who still opted for cheaper, commonly used drugs.

Read: Drug Plan Trends Report: Alarm about costs sparks ‘monumental shift’

The survey also noted that 58 per cent of employees who take several medications are more likely to support coverage for high-cost drugs.

“We want to protect access to the new specialty medications while still delivering on expectations for more traditional, routine products and services,” said Mark Rolnick, vice-president of payor partnerships and plan sponsor innovation at Shoppers Drug Mart. “Plan sponsors will need to find a delicate balance, which is a need that didn’t really exist just five years ago.”

Read more stories from the survey:

Fewer employers making changes to benefits plan design: Sanofi survey

Which health benefits do employees really want?

Employers underestimating prevalence of chronic disease, Sanofi survey finds

Fewer workplace cultures encouraging health and wellness: Sanofi survey

What can employers do to create psychologically healthy workplaces?

Employees overwhelmed by flex plan decisions: Sanofi survey

Rising employee interest in personalized medicine, targeted health education

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

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