Just 11 per cent of employees are completely satisfied with the coverage levels for all five of the major areas of their health benefits plan, according to the 2017 Sanofi Canada health-care survey.

Members are especially keen to boost their coverage for major dental services (25 per cent), vision care (21 per cent) and paramedical services (21 per cent). But if they could only get increased coverage in one area by reducing coverage in another, they’d choose cuts in another of these three benefits.

More specifically, 60 per cent of those who want more coverage for major dental services and 53 per cent of those who want better vision benefits would choose reduced paramedical coverage. Of those who want more paramedical coverage, 35 per cent would take reduced dental benefits and 32 per cent would take less vision care.

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

Prescription drugs (96 per cent) and basic dental services (90 per cent) are the most common health benefits. Fewer plans cover vision care (78 per cent) and major dental services (67 per cent).

Benefits plans are also less likely to cover preventative health-care measures, such as adult vaccinations (36 per cent) and on-site health risk screenings (eight per cent). But most employees would appreciate those benefits: 83 per cent would likely participate in screenings for cancer; 80 per cent for heart disease; 71 per cent for diabetes; and 64 per cent for stress or mental illness. 

Among employer respondents, the main concerns around on-site screenings are cost (53 per cent), privacy issues (44 per cent) and poor participation leading to low return on investment (33 per cent). While on-site screenings don’t fit every workplace, the survey’s advisory board suggests employers raise awareness about free screenings from physicians, public health agencies and pharmacies or send out targeted emails about health risk screenings based on employees’ age or claims patterns.

The survey also found employees are likely to use vaccination benefits, especially when it comes to vaccines for travel (79 per cent), shingles (68 per cent) and human papillomavirus (61 per cent).

Read: A look at how companies are addressing chronic disease through proactive screening

“This is a good example of a benefit that is justifiable using a research-tested, evidence-based approach,” said David Willows, vice-president of strategic market solutions at Green Shield Canada and an advisory board member. “There is a straight line between vaccines, preventing disease and the potential to reduce health and disability claims.”

A third preventative benefit in which employees are showing interest, according to the survey, is coaching for nutrition (63 per cent), personal health goals (61 per cent) and managing chronic conditions (73 per cent among employees who regularly take three or more medications).

The survey also notes employees’ conflicting feelings about costs: 60 per cent agree they have a role to play in keeping them down, but 68 per cent think their employer is more concerned about cost than ensuring the best benefits are available. Interestingly, plan members aged 55 to 64 are much more likely to feel obligated to help with cost management than those aged 18 to 34 (65 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively).

Read: Rising employee interest in personalized medicine, targeted health education

Mary Ann Baynes, account executive at Desjardins Insurance and an advisory board member, noted the industry must figure out how to “demonstrate better value” and teach plan members there isn’t endless funding for all of their health-care wants. “Consumers need to make more of a contribution,” she said.

The survey also found that if employers can’t or won’t pay for increased costs to maintain the benefits plan, 38 per cent of members would rather pay higher premiums to keep coverage. A quarter (23 per cent) would rather pay the same premiums for less coverage and only 19 per cent said they’d rather pay a higher portion of the cost when they personally use a benefit.

“Plan sponsors are generally reluctant to increase cost-sharing, but these results show that employees are more willing to do that than risk losing benefits,” said advisory board member John McGrath, senior vice-president and human capital benefits practice leader at Willis Towers Watson. “This option should be explored more closely when faced with the alternative of reducing plan design coverage.”

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

Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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