A majority of plan sponsors (80 per cent) and plan members (77 per cent) described the quality of their health benefits plans as excellent or good, according to the 2022 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey.
Employers with 500 or more employees (86 per cent) were more likely than those with fewer than 50 employees (72 per cent) to say their plans are excellent or good, as were those with a wellness culture — 83 per cent compared to 58 per cent of employers without a wellness culture. Just five per cent of plan members described their plan as poor, down from 10 per cent in 2021 and comparable to four per cent in 2006.
“It’s encouraging to see more people saying their benefits plan is excellent or good at a time when we’ve made considerable investments in virtual care and other supports for remote employees and those struggling with mental health,” said Julie Gaudry, head of group insurance at RBC Insurance and an advisory board member, in the report. “This is an important finding given the current tight labour market and our own research, which found that 64 per cent of employees would leave their current job for one with better benefits.”
More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of employers said they offer a traditional health benefits plan, while 29 per cent offer a flexible plan and two per cent were unsure. When asked to choose the main purpose of their health benefits plan from a list of eight options, plan sponsors cited attracting and retain employees (21 per cent) as the top reason, followed by protecting employees from undue financial burden (17 per cent), keeping employees healthy and productive (16 per cent), providing peace of mind (15 per cent) and covering routine medical needs (13 per cent).
“The purpose of offering a health benefits plan is attraction and retention,” said Barb Martinez, national practice leader of drug solutions at Canada Life Assurance Co. and an advisory board member, in the report. “That’s reflected in the top concerns as well — competitiveness is No. 1. But then plan sponsors are most concerned about sustainability. So we make our plans richer while asking ourselves, ‘Can we really afford to be doing this?’”
The survey also found 83 per cent of plan sponsors reported having at least one major concern about their health benefits plan, including competitiveness (37 per cent), overall sustainability (31 per cent), sustainability of the drug plan (31 per cent), sustainability of the dental plan (31 per cent), utilization of paramedical services (26 per cent), levels of absence and disability (23 per cent), benefits fraud/misuse of the benefits plan (22 per cent), lack of time for long-term strategy, opportunities, etc. (17 per cent), growing number of appeals or complaints (15 per cent) and the inability to make major changes due to collective bargaining agreements (14 per cent).
More than half (56 per cent) of plan sponsors that offer a short-term disability benefit were concerned about its use, up from 49 per cent in 2021. Notably, 51 per cent of plan sponsors that offer a long-term disability benefit were concerned, compared to 46 per cent in 2021. Employers with unionized workforces were more concerned about STD (72 per cent) and LTD (65 per cent) than those without unions (47 per cent for STD and 44 per cent for LTD). As well, employers with a flex plan were also more concerned about STD (65 per cent) and LTD (62 per cent) than those with a traditional plan (51 per cent for STD and 46 per cent for LTD).
Plan members with group benefits that include virtual health care (92 per cent) were more likely to describe the quality of their health benefits plan as excellent or good than those who don’t have the service (69 per cent). Plan members who consider their personal health as excellent or very good (89 per cent) were also more likely to consider the quality of their health benefits plans as excellent or very good than those in poor health (52 per cent). In addition, respondents with a workplace wellness culture (84 per cent) were more likely to think this than those without one (54 per cent), while those who were satisfied with their jobs (83 per cent) were more likely to describe the quality of their health benefits plan as excellent or good than those who were unsatisfied (49 per cent).
Nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of plan members said their benefits plans meet their needs extremely or very well, up from 57 per cent in 2021. However, the percentage of respondents who felt their benefits plans meet their needs extremely or very well was significantly lower than the 73 per cent who felt the same in 1999 when the question was first posed. Just seven per cent said their plan didn’t meet their needs, an increase from the 10 per cent who expressed this sentiment in 2021. The percentage of respondents dissatisfied with their plans increased to 17 per cent among those in poor overall health and 15 per cent among those in poor mental health.