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Insights on benefits

For employers and plan sponsors

Welcome to Insights on Benefits, our online publication for employers, plan sponsors and group administrators. This publication will bring fresh perspectives to help you stay current on health and benefit issues.

We welcome your feedback and suggestions for topics that you would like to see addressed.


How we are identifying and creating new opportunities to help plan sponsors and plan members take full advantage of their benefit plans.

Group Administrator Zone

Practical tips and guidance on administering your plan and members

Medavie Blue Cross Updates

Find out what we have been up to lately

Plus industry news, reader polls and more


New disability management pilot project will deliver online CBT therapy

We recently announced the launch of an innovative pilot project, in partnership with Medaca Health Group, to give plan members on an approved mental health disability claim easier online access to expert mental health care. The project delivers virtual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), allowing plan members diagnosed with anxiety or depression to receive therapy from an accredited professional from their phone or computer.

Using their computer, smartphone or tablet, plan members log on to the service’s digital platform to communicate with their CBT therapist via video. This is augmented with instant messaging and homework assignments that can be shared during the session. The CBT treatment will be integrated with the psychiatric treatment service Medaca has offered to Medavie since 2012, providing plan members with early access and effective treatment from psychiatrists working directly with family physicians. “To our knowledge, this is the only early intervention service in North America that integrates psychological and pharmacological treatments through doctor-to-doctor consults,” says Marc Avaria, VP, Life & Disability Management, Medavie Blue Cross. “The integration of these two treatment modalities is critical to the successful delivery of effective care and treatment for most mental illnesses.”

We were one of the first insurers in Canada to offer early stage psychiatric treatment, in collaboration with Medaca, in 2012. Since then, plan members have been able to meet with a psychiatrist within three weeks of approval from their insurer and employer. Wait times currently in Canada are between 5 and 24 months to see a psychiatrist. As a result, we have seen a 28 per cent increase in the number of mental health claimants returning to work before the end of the short term disability period. “This new psychotherapy option will only improve upon the mental health outcomes Medavie Blue Cross has demonstrated over the past six years,” says Medaca president Chris Anderson.

Avaria adds that internet-delivered CBT is “another tool in the Medavie Blue Cross mental health care toolkit” and is not meant to replace traditional in-person therapy sessions. “This is an alternative to face-to-face visits that allows plan members to readily access CBT resources in a timely and convenient way,” Avaria explains. “In short, it’s mental health care on their terms.”

Mental health is the leading cause of long term disability in Canada, accounting for over 30 per cent of claims, with a cost two times that of a leave due to a physical illness. In any given week, a half million workers call in sick because of a mental health issue. Absenteeism and presenteeism together cost Canada’s economy $56 billion in lost productivity alone, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Internet-delivered psychotherapy offers a solution to costly and growing health care challenges, and removes barriers that can prevent people from seeking professional help. The technology is compliant with strict privacy requirements to provide complete anonymity, including encrypted interactions between the plan member and their therapist.

The service also reflects Canadians’ growing receptiveness to digital health, as indicated by the findings of a recent Canadian Medical Association survey. Seven in 10 respondents said they would take advantage of virtual physician visits, believing the digital experience would lead to timelier and better health care.

Bottom Line

Embracing emerging tools like online CBT provides the opportunity to serve plans and their members more effectively.

New pilot adds medication management to Medavie Mobile app

Medavie Blue Cross members will soon be able to better manage their treatment on a wide range of long-term medications through the Medavie Mobile app.

A pilot is underway for our Medavie Mobile medication management feature, where members can choose to receive reminders on when to take their medication, when to refill their prescription, and learn more about the importance of taking their medications as prescribed.

The new technology leverages pharmacy claims to automatically track applicable prescriptions, including commonly prescribed medications used to treat diabetes, respiratory conditions, hypertension, high cholesterol and mental health conditions. It can also track other prescriptions added manually into the app to take advantage of the medication reminder feature.

Our internal data reflects the industry trend that approximately half of all medications are not taken as prescribed. Especially for those on multiple prescriptions, it can be stressful trying to remember when or how to take your medication. This new feature takes care of that for these members.

This new feature will be made available to all members beginning in late 2018.

Bottom Line

By making it easier for members to adhere to their prescriptions, we can improve the effectiveness of plans’ drug spends and help individual members achieve healthier outcomes.

Group Administrator Zone

Leading the way in covering glucose monitoring technology

Interest in glucose monitoring systems used to help in the management of diabetes (including Continuous Glucose Monitoring “CGM” and “Flash” Glucose Monitoring), is increasing, and the technology has been changing rapidly. Originally, CGMs worked in conjunction with an insulin pump to provide users with continuous readings of their glucose levels. The CGM uses a sensor, placed under the skin, to monitor glucose levels throughout the day, and a transmitter, which sends the information from the sensor to a receiver in the insulin pump. This enables individuals to see their glucose trends, whether they are high, low or within range.

More recently the technology has expanded and now we have stand-alone continuous glucose monitors and “flash” glucose monitors. Although they do not entirely replace the need to test with glucometers and test strips, they do improve an individual’s ability to monitor glucose levels and stay within target range.

We have included Glucose Monitoring Systems for individuals with Type I diabetes as standard on benefit plans since March of 2011. That means plans do not need to be amended to support the purchase of devices like FreeStyle Libre, as our contractual wording already covered glucose monitoring devices and sensors. Plans that were in place prior to 2011 that have not had the devices and sensors added to their plan can do so easily by contacting their MBC Account Executive.

Our internal data shows that 1 in 15 covered members now has diabetes, an increase in claimants that has major cost implications for benefit plans. Combined with the impact of newer, more expensive drugs to treat type II diabetes, we have seen double digit growth in per capita spending over the last four years.

Rather than watch this upward trend continue, we are taking real, concrete action to address the problem through our Managing Chronic Disease benefit, which was introduced in 2015. This extended health care benefit – the first of its kind in Canada - reimburses members for diabetes health coaching services, as well as other chronic conditions like asthma, COPD, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Managing Chronic Disease is standard on all of our insured group and individual plans, and can be added at minimal cost to ASO plans.

Through this benefit, members are eligible to receive one-on-one training in using medical delivery devices effectively such as glucose monitoring systems and insulin pumps. This helps ensure that spending on devices such as the FreeStyle Libre, or CGM devices, is having the maximum impact on member health.

Whatever tools the member chooses to use, proper use of the device will help to keep their glucose levels in check. That, together with the education, counselling and support services of a diabetes care provider, will help them to lead healthier and happier lives.

Bottom Line

As treatments continue to evolve, plan members need access to the treatment and support in ensuring they can use them to achieve better health.

We’re here to help

Did you know that our very own Sales service team offers Group Administrator consultations to help familiarize you with our online enrolment system as well as review any day to day questions you may have. We also offer Employee sessions to help members understand their group plan coverage and how they can better access that coverage. Please ask your Medavie Blue Cross Representative for more details.

Medavie Blue Cross updates

inConfidence continues to support members when needed

inConfidence, our Employee and Family Assistance (EFAP) program, partners with LifeWorks to provide this important support to plan members and their families.

Recently, LifeWorks was acquired by Morneau Shepell, another EFAP service provider. This acquisition will not impact the member experience, and the Lifeworks mobile app will continue to be functional for members.
Going forward, the combined companies have committed to delivering even more robust and comprehensive services to build and sustain mental, physical, social and financial wellness, with enhanced clinical support and customer service.

Our Montreal Blue Cross Offices Are Moving

Beginning mid-2019, we will be relocating our Montreal office to 1981 McGill College Avenue.

The new offices are more accessible than our current location, and it will allow us to welcome our clients and partners in a unique and modern setting.. The moving process will be gradual, it will begin in July 2019, and concluding in early February 2020.

We believe this strategic decision is instrumental in fostering relationships with all our partners.

We will be in touch about our upcoming relocation.

Insights blog: Stay connected. Get informed.

Our blog page, Insights, continues to be a growing and essential stop for information and resources relating to the benefits industry, including articles, links and webinar recordings. Recent content includes our fall webinar on self-care featuring Dr. Bill Howatt, trends and ideas related to disability management, and a look at how plans can respond to the growing impact of mental health issues on their members.

Rebels with a cause – receives multi-year funding from Medavie to improve youth mental health literacy is receiving a $75,000 grant over three years in support of initiatives that train and empower youth to implement mental health outreach and education activities in breaking down barriers and creating supportive environments in their communities. Using a peer-to-peer approach, is leveraging its network to influence systems-level change in improving youth mental health and reducing suicide. This funding brings Medavie’s support of to $100,000.

Through our Foundation, Medavie supports community-based programs aligned with child and youth mental health, post-traumatic stress, and type 2 diabetes. Since late 2011, Medavie Health Foundation has committed over $12 million to single and multi-year grant and partnership programs. For information on the Foundation’s 2018 Grants Program, or to apply, visit

This funding was announced at a reception in Toronto marking Medavie’s 75-year milestone of caring for Canadians.

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