According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 40% of Canadian women and 45% of Canadian men will develop cancer during their lifetime. Cancer remains the leading cause of premature death in Canada and is a leading cause for long-term disability claims in the workplace. Cancer, however, is a treatable illness; based on 2004 estimates, 62% of people are expected to survive for five years after their diagnosis.

Employers are in a strategic position to better support employees battling cancer. Group critical illness (CI) insurance is designed to assist those who survive a critical illness by paying a lump sum benefit to the beneficiary, to use at their discretion. This benefit can provide much needed financial assistance to cope with unforeseen expenses, allowing the patient to focus on recovery.

As an example, drugs are an important part of cancer treatment, yet the complexity of cancer drug coverage in Canada creates barriers for some
patients, as access to the most effective cancer medicine can be challenging and costly. A CI insurance payment can provide an alternative to patients in pressing need of funding for the necessary treatments. CI insurance plan designs vary and generally cover anywhere from three to 25 illnesses. Cancer claims, however, account for two-thirds of total claims since the inception of CI insurance in the Canadian marketplace in the early 1990s.

As employers are faced with the challenge of managing increasing costs of their benefits programs, many are rethinking their healthcare priorities and focusing on prevention in order to better manage these costs. Flexible benefits plans and voluntary enrollment options are key elements to reducing risk. Most plans already include a voluntary component, such as CI insurance. Expanding voluntary benefits can allow an employer to effectively enhance its program without incurring additional costs. Flexible benefits plans, which are also gaining momentum, allow for cost management through paying only for the specific benefits chosen by the employee.

Offering CI insurance on a voluntary basis is a cost-effective way for employers to support employees battling illness, providing coverage at affordable rates to those who may not be aware of the product and its worth or to those who may be aware of the benefit but do not have the opportunity to afford it on an individual basis. Insurers offer guaranteed issue amounts to groups, which simplifies the underwriting and enrollment process by providing coverage without any required medical underwriting.

The AXA experience
As part of various initiatives to promote health in the workplace, in 2009, AXA hosted a series of lunch and learn conferences for our employees on various health management topics, including cancer prevention. In addition, AXA is getting ready to roll out its employee CI insurance offer for the third consecutive year. The Critical Choice Care product will continue to be offered to our employees and their spouses.

Jennifer Hurst is vice-president at Group Insurance with AXA Assurances Inc.

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Back to more coverage from the 2011 Cancer Care Summit, hosted by Working Well.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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