Canadian employees and plan sponsors are on the same page when it comes to the quality of their health benefits plans, according to the 2018 Sanofi Canada health-care survey.
This year’s survey found that 58 per cent of plan members describe their benefits plan as excellent or very good, up from 48 per cent a year ago. A similar proportion (59 per cent) of plan sponsors surveyed said the same, which is consistent with last year. Sixty-nine per cent of employees said they think of their employer more positively because of the quality of their benefits plan.
“The good news is Canadian plan members appear to be far more satisfied with their plan,” said Barb Martinez, practice leader for benefits solutions and group benefits at the Great-West Life Assurance Co. and one of the survey’s advisory board members. Speaking at the launch event for the survey in Toronto on Wednesday, she noted employees are more likely to be happy with their benefits plans if they have access to a health-care spending account.
When asked to describe what they value most about their benefits plan, 51 per cent of employees cited its contribution to regular or routine health-care costs, while 24 per cent selected its role as insurance coverage for unexpected and possibly high health-care costs. The remaining 25 per cent indicated they were somewhere in the middle.
“There’s nothing wrong with people valuing their benefits coverage for routine products and services,” said Carol Craig, director of human resources, benefits and pensions at Telus and one of the survey’s advisory board members. “Employees appreciate the value of these benefits, and as such, plan sponsors are getting value for their investment.”
While a third (34 per cent) of plans sponsors said they have no major concerns about their health benefits plan, the top reason among those expressing concern is the sustainability of drug coverage (33 per cent), dental benefits (27 per cent), absence and disability (21 per cent), as well as the use of paramedical services (14 per cent).
“There appears to be a disconnect between how much we as an industry are trying to raise awareness around sustainability, and how worried members and sponsors appear to be about that,” said Ryan Weiss, assistant vice-president of group customer market development at the Great-West Life Assurance Co. and an advisory board member. “That suggests that we as insurers and advisors can do more to educate and offer solutions, not just in terms of costs but also in terms of making the connections between benefits and impacts on health.”
The survey also found that 23 per cent of plan sponsors don’t evaluate their health benefits plan, aside from doing what’s necessary for renewals. Among those that conduct an evaluation, the top methods are financial (46 per cent), claims data analysis (35 per cent), employee satisfaction surveys (28 per cent) and absenteeism data (21 per cent).
It appears plan sponsors’ communications strategies are showing results as the vast majority (96 per cent) of plan members said they understand what their benefits plan does and doesn’t cover. Indeed, 77 per cent of respondents said their employer does a good job of communicating what the plan covers. Plan sponsors give themselves top marks as well, with 63 per cent saying they’re quite or very effective at communicating what their health plan does and doesn’t cover.
It terms of the types of communication employees would be open to receiving from their employer, 66 per cent of respondents said they’d consent to receive information on personal health issues based on their use of benefits, such as drug claims. Similarly, 64 per cent of plans sponsors expressed an interest in their insurer sending targeted health information to employees based on their personal claims data.
Read more detailed stories from the survey: