At just 32 per cent, plan sponsors continue to underestimate the presence of chronic conditions among their employees, according to the 2017 Sanofi Canada health-care survey.

In fact, more than half (57 per cent) of plan members surveyed reported being diagnosed with at least one chronic disease or condition. That number increases to 72 per cent among employees aged 55 to 64. As in previous years, the top diseases are mental illness (19 per cent), arthritis (15 per cent), diabetes (eight per cent) and asthma (eight per cent).

Read: Should workplace accommodations be disease-specific?

So how can the industry raise plan sponsors’ awareness of the level and impact of chronic disease among their employees? Half (52 per cent) of employers indicated they get reporting from their providers on the top disease states in their organizations. But just 23 per cent get such reporting on a regular basis. Among those who don’t receive such reporting, 63 per cent would like to.

Loretta Kulchycki, vice-president of group marketing at Great-West Life Assurance Co. and one of the survey’s advisory board members said that given the size of the organizations surveyed, far more than half of plan sponsors should be indicating they receive information about their top disease states. “This information is readily available, and if sponsors are not accessing the carrier’s plan administration website themselves, they should be asking their benefits advisors for this information.”

Read: Fewer employers making changes to benefits plan design: Sanofi survey

One employer, who’s also a member of the advisory board, said while a 50-page report may look impressive, it’s more than likely she’s going to set it aside. “Instead, if you could give me a short, simple summary that focuses on the top three issues for my organization, I’d welcome the opportunity to chat about it,” said Wanda Ivic, director of human resources at Algonquin Power.

The survey also found 37 per cent of employees with chronic conditions take three or more medications on a regular basis. That compares to just two per cent of employees without chronic conditions. Considering that 57 per cent of plan members report having at least one chronic condition, that translates into 21 per cent of the total workforce taking three or more medications.

Read: Which health benefits do employees really want?

The more medications people take, the greater the risk of non-adherence, said advisory board member Dr. Alain Sotto, occupational medical consultant at Toronto Transit Commission and director of Medcan Wellness Clinic. “People use their drug plan to pay for medications but don’t get the best results because they’re not taking them regularly or properly. Usually, that’s because they were not educated about the importance of taking their medications. There would be real value in a benefit that offers education and adherence support for high-volume drug claimants.”

Unfortunately, 23 per cent of plan members with chronic conditions admitted they don’t take any medications, a percentage Sotto calls unrealistically high. “It’s ironic because I’ve found that when people take drugs from the start, it improves their confidence to achieve lifestyle changes, which can be very difficult. Then, as the lifestyle behaviours take hold, we can look at reducing or even stopping medications.”

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

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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