How can a benefits provider help employers keep up with changing expectations in a workforce that includes everyone from tech-savvy 20-somethings to boomers with chronic health conditions?
To date, around 58% of Canadian health benefits plan members already feel generally positive about the quality of their benefits coverage. This good news from the 2019 Sanofi Canada Health Survey also found that Canadians are more likely to feel positively about their employer if they have a good benefits plan.
A key difference for employers when choosing a health benefits program is ensuring a customer-centric and consistent experience that both anticipates and meets employee needs. Benefits program providers are also being asked to show that programs, like wellness programs, contribute to key business drivers including increased productivity, fewer sick days and increased workplace safety.
At the start of the benefits planning process, benefits providers can share up-to-date analytics, dashboards and data science to help employers make better choices regarding what a company’s workforce may need. In addition, industry trends can help predict expected coverage for chronic conditions or whether employees will start moving from individual to family coverage.
Once workforce changes have been identified and predicted, benefits providers can furnish solid advice on managing increasing cost drivers including drug inflation, an aging population, and the increased availability of specialty drugs. This helps inform employers so they can optimize plan design to ensure continued access to suitable and consistent benefits plans.
Benefits providers can also offer recommendations on programs that have traditionally been seen as “nice to have”, like wellness programs. These are now viewed by many employers as a “must-have” and employers expect them to play a key role in reducing absenteeism and increasing employee resiliency to stress. Over a typical three-month period, as many as 33% of employees have experienced high levels of stress on a typical day. For employees with poor financial health, that number that increases to 50%.
Employers also need support from their benefits providers to understand that the incidence of chronic conditions in the workplace is increasingly common. According to the 2019 Sanofi Health Survey results, plan sponsors estimated that only 29% of their employees had a chronic condition when in fact 58% of plan members reported having at least one chronic condition, with a number that increases to 67% when applied to employees aged 55-64.
The next step, after helping employers identify how health benefits will evolve for their organization, is creating a modern, supportive experience for employers and employees. The availability of virtual care solutions now allow employees to quickly access health care from the comfort of their home or office. Other digital tools that allow direct billing, convenient appointment scheduling, and online forms submission – all services employees already experience in their everyday online transactions.
Benefit providers can also offer access to low-cost (yet effective) programs that help employees manage stress, increase resiliency or cope with conditions like osteoarthritis or diabetes. For example, online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions, have been found to be similarly effective to in-person sessions yet can be more convenient for employees to access.
As the workforce ages and changes, the expectations and needs of employers continue to change. Increasing access to information, providing solid advice and analysis and helping employers choose the right options for their employees will help to meet and exceed expectations.