Benefits plan sponsors continuing to focus on cost management: Sanofi survey

The majority (81 per cent) of plan sponsors said they have a philosophy or long-term view that defines why they offer benefits plans and that guides their decision-making, according to the 2018 Sanofi Canada health-care survey.

Employers with a wellness culture are more likely (88 per cent) to have a philosophy around their benefits plan, compared to those without a wellness culture (64 per cent). However, 76 per cent of respondents said their main focus is managing the costs of their benefits plan, a response that’s consistent across all of the major breakdowns, including the presence of wellness programs (77 per cent) and a wellness culture (75 per cent).

Read: Many employers unaware of ways to cut benefit costs: Sanofi survey

“No matter the size of the employer, a good starting point to determine philosophy is for them to answer the question, ‘Do you see your health benefit plan as a cost or an investment?’ Whatever the answer, a good advisor will go from there,” said John McGrath, an associate and employee benefits advisor at ZLC Financial Co. and one of the survey’s advisory board members. “And the best advisor will always work toward a philosophy that embraces the investment perspective, even though it may take years to bring some plan sponsors on board.”

The survey also found that 56 per cent of plan sponsors have specific objectives for their health benefits plan in 2018. Respondents with a wellness program (66 per cent), a wellness culture (62 per cent), flexible plans (68 per cent) and health-care spending accounts (75 per cent) are much more likely to report having specific objectives.

“Having an objective makes a big difference,” said Marc Bertossini, director of marketing, group and business insurance at Desjardins Insurance and an advisory board member. “One of the most important things for carriers and advisors to do is to help plan sponsors clearly define their objectives so that they will see even better results from their benefit plan — results that have a direct impact on the success of the business.”

Read: Are benefits plans a health resource or compensation?

In narrowing down plan sponsors’ specific objectives, 33 per cent of respondents said their goal for 2018 is managing or reducing costs, followed by better or increased coverage (25 per cent), better informing or educating employees about their benefits (13 per cent) and continuing with the current plan (12 per cent).

“Employers should take their objective-setting to a higher level,” said Art Babcock, a senior vice-president at Aon Hewitt and an advisory board member. “Part of that could be hitting on the idea of cost-management and putting it in the right context. For example, our objectives would be to mitigate our human risk, to improve our health and safety numbers, to keep people from going on long-term disability — and in so doing, manage our costs.”

Read more articles from the 2018 Sanofi Canada health-care survey