Trends with benefits – Tomorrow’s plan for today’s workforce

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As the Canadian bio-economy competes on a global scale for talent, employers must move beyond traditional benefit plan management and instead of making price- focused decisions, shift their evaluation to enhance plan scope and its contribution to the total compensation package and employee well-being. An important aspect of this practice is remaining current with trends – their introduction, evolution and benefit to individual employees and their families.

In the Canadian benefits marketplace, nutritional- based health & wellness, virtual medical clinics and pharmacogenetic testing are just some of the recent trends being adopted by insurers and recommended by plan advisors to employers. With the national average at 24 employees for Canadian bio-employers1, it is important bio-firms look to leverage trends like these to remain competitive in attracting (bio)talent from the global pool (to Canada).

Health & wellness (H&W) offerings are still maturing and gaining acceptance in Canada; which is partly due to the size of the Canadian workforce (compared to the US). This challenges H&W providers to balance cost and utilization for adopting plan sponsors of every size. For employees, utilization is not a price-based decision as it is often an employer-funded benefit; it is however, an important factor for most employers when deciding to offer the benefit or not. Making the challenge of employee well- being a shared-responsibility for both providers and plan sponsors.

We believe, utilization is highly dependent on education and accessibility, both of which are critically linked to awareness – the “why should I care and how do I benefit,” must be driven by, “I know my employer has provided the tools to become a happier-healthier me!”These factors make it critical for H&W providers to have embedded engagement strategies that leverage the suite of marketing technologies available, like social media.

Today, though employers should be mindful of the above, they also need to consider the availability of unique features, like–nutritional guidance for chronic conditions. Standard features, such as–online access, integration with wearables, group challenges and plan design rewards, should be embedded or available with little to no additional cost. The proactive (nutritional) management of chronic conditions can have a very positive influence on claims experience for both health and long-term disability.

Welcome virtual medical clinics (VMCs), one of the more recent value-added services changing the benefits marketplace today – What are VMCs, their benefits, and are they here to stay?

VMCs stem from telemedicine, which grants patients access to healthcare providers and treatment without having to be physically present for evaluation. Unlike H&W, which must incorporate online accessibility to deliver a growing scope of services, accessibility is the foundation of the VMC value proposition – the online-mobile delivery of healthcare, an already mature and essential service of everyday life (in Canada). Ultimately, VMCs’ benefits are simple, but can have a significant impact on people’s lives, and collectively, a workforce – they include, reduced travel and wait times, increased access to care, improved health and productivity, a shortened referred-specialist cycle and return to work (RTW) optimization. From a benefit plan perspective, each can be linked to and improve claims experience for both health and long-term disability claims.

While H&W offers a proactive approach and tool(s) to support employee well-being, VMCs offer a reactive solution to individual health problems and represent a shift of healthcare responsibility from government to plan sponsors. This presents VMCs as an opportunity for employers to not only enhance the traditional benefits package and improve employee perception of their benefit plan but participate in healthcare evolution and achieve a verifiable return on their investment (ROI).

Adoption of new offerings and trends begins with insurers and plan advisors, but as the Canadian bio-economy

and workforce continues to evolve and become more competitive, it will require equally evolving benefit packages. With this in mind, it is just as important to remember it is the end-consumer (plan sponsors and members) that will determine what services are here to stay or are simply a trend.

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Article written by Madison McKimm, President & CEO, BioBenefits Inc. © – Mr. McKimm is a Certified Health Insurance Specialist (CHS)



1 BioTalent Canada. (2018). MAPPING POTENTIAL: Profiles of Canada’s biotech frontiers. Ottawa, Canada.