Employers are quite satisfied with their health benefits offerings for prescription drugs (81 per cent), basic dental coverage (78 per cent) and paramedical services (74 per cent), the 2016 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey found.

When it comes to vision care and major dental services, however, plan sponsors’ satisfaction rates plummet to 15 per cent. That’s primarily due to inadequate value, high costs for both plan members and sponsors and negative feedback from staff, according to the survey.

“It is worth noting that vision care ranks third in importance, yet the previous slide shows it drops to eighth position in terms of quality, with only 35 per cent of plan members describing their coverage as excellent or very good,” said Barb Martinez, one of the survey’s advisory board members and Great-West Life Assurance Co.’s practice leader of benefits solutions and group benefits, during the survey’s launch event in Toronto on June 14. “So clearly there are needs that are not being met in terms of this benefit.”

The survey found many plan sponsors are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with health-care spending accounts (28 per cent), vaccinations (27 per cent), critical illness insurance (26 per cent), employee assistance programs (25 per cent) and life insurance (22 per cent).

Read: Plan sponsors’ priorities need to be met

“These plan sponsors are sitting on the fence and it raises the question of whether there are communication gaps between providers and clients,” said Anne Nicoll, an advisory board member and vice-president of business development at Medavie Blue Cross. “Plan sponsors are paying for these benefits and they don’t have an opinion about their value — that’s something we need to respond to.”

In the future, plan sponsors want programs and services that reduce absenteeism (59 per cent) and improve employee engagement (50 per cent). They’re more willing to invest in benefit programs that prevent future claims (43 per cent) than reduce current ones (18 per cent), although 40 per cent would invest in those that do both.


“It’s important that plan sponsors step back and articulate the prevention of future claims as an objective, and then strategically look at that in the context of current plan design,” said advisory board member Lisa Callaghan, assistant vice-president of product and group benefits at Manulife. “Is there a willingness to shift current investments? This can be a difficult exercise to go through but it’s necessary if plan sponsors want to prevent future claims.”

Read: 56% of employees say employers aren’t ready to engage: report

The top three plan changes on sponsors’ wish lists are prevention benefits (36 per cent), support for chronic disease management (31 per cent) and more coverage for specialty drugs (26 percent). Respondents cited funding and a lack of offerings from providers as the major barriers to making the changes.

“Many things are out there that have been available for years,” said survey advisory board member Dave Patriarche, a broker at Mainstay Insurance Brokerage Inc. “This tells me that as an industry, we are doing a really poor job letting our clients know the options available.”

How do the 2016 results compare to related questions five years ago?

In Sanofi’s 2011 report, the majority (68 per cent) of employers planned to invest more in wellness programs within the next year.

Employers that responded to the 2011 survey also believed there was a role for government intervention in workplace benefits. The majority of plan sponsors said tax incentives should exist for wellness programs (81 per cent), smoking cessation (79 per cent), health education (74 per cent), on-site vaccination (73 per cent) and healthy options in the cafeteria (72 per cent).

Read more findings from the 2016 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey