Flexing your Benefits
How modern plan “extras” can pack a punch with minimal cost to employers and maximum impact for employees
Health coverage musts
In the latest insightful conversation from our Insights webinar series, Catherine Biermann and Derek Weir spoke to host Travis Kelly about how benefits that were once thought of as nice-to-haves, such as Optional Benefits and Personal Wellness or Health Spending Accounts, are now considered coverage musts. Catherine is Senor Product Specialist, Derek is Manager of Optional Benefits and Travis is Director of Brokerage Sales Ontario for Medavie Blue Cross.
Health industry trends
During their presentation, they spoke on the ever-evolving health coverage needs of a modern, multi-generational workforce and illustrated the trends that are fuelling transformative changes in our industry, namely health care consumerism, personalization and technology ― all accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Design table stakes
They supported this with survey results that show how flexibility, optionality and customizability have become new table stakes in plan design and demonstrated how flexing and personalizing benefits can add tremendous value to benefit plans, at little to no cost for sponsors, and without all the “paperwork”.
Optional or voluntary benefits are part of a broader, more flexible approach to benefits plan design that puts members in the driver’s seat of their health care. Plan members can pay for additional coverage that suits their lifestyle, and the plan sponsor simply provides access to the coverage.
Health care consumerism
People have a lot of power and options as consumers. This is heavily influencing the health care realm, creating an expectation for instant, round-the-clock, one-stop access to information and care. For us in the benefits world, this means developing simplified, personalized products, services and processes that are as intuitive as online shopping.
“What used to be a ‘Doctor says, patient does’ approach is being replaced by informed conversations and decision making about one’s own health care in collaboration with their health care provider.” Derek Weir
Digitization of health care offers new ways to engage with plan members, to transact, and to address pain points. New health care technologies and innovations are also enabling our industry to explore new and better ways to bring flexibility into plan design.
As plan members exercise their choices and become more familiar and engaged with their benefits, new possibilities are opening up to proactively interact with them. This can be done through digital tools like mobile apps that can send personalized, targeted messages to plan members that promote medication adherence, encourage healthy habits, lower risk factors for disease, etc.
The pandemic was a wake-up call on the importance of health insurance; specifically, on the importance of getting protected for the unexpected. How can they be better protected in the event of sudden, serious illness, injury, or death?
A Medavie Blue Cross-commissioned survey, conducted by Leger, revealed some eye-opening insights about our financial vulnerability and the risks of major illnesses, injuries or loss of life.
Medavie Blue Cross now offers one of the most comprehensive optional benefit solutions out there. Members can enjoy great coverage, favourable group rates, and simple enrolment and payment processes.
“We want people focused exclusively on surviving their illness, not being worried about financially surviving it. These are very stressful events without worrying about how to pay the mortgage.” Derek Weir
Among the ways Medavie Blue Cross is innovating and flexing in the digital health space is through our Connected Care digital storefront, which features virtual physio, telemedicine, pharmacogenetic testing, both iCBT and live therapy and a unique Diabetes Care program. We have also expanded the types of eligible mental health care practitioners and introduced My Home Rx — a service for home delivery of prescription drugs.
“Another way to add flexibility to benefits is through personalization, creating ways that allow for the different personal requirements of employees. This can include everything from options you’re already familiar with like health spending accounts, and personal wellness accounts to more recent offering like pharmacogenetic testing and health coaching.” Catherine Biermann
Gone are the days when flexibility in a benefit plan meant picking from plans A, B or C. Digitization and personalization are now foundational to the client and member experience.
Increase awareness and engagement
Awareness of voluntary benefit programs has historically been a problem — members don’t know what exactly is being offered, and often it’s through a clunky, complicated, paper-based process. It’s also a fair bit of work for the employer.
“Our Optional Benefits application process was designed with this in mind. It gives plan members a user-friendly experience from start to finish – with purchases made within minutes, all online.” Derek Weir
Looking to the future
There will be many more integration points within benefit plans. People do not want a separate and distinct experience by line of benefit and insurance carriers will need to keep pushing forward in this area. There will be more contextually relevant information delivered to members based on their specific situation, while of course protecting their privacy.
“How powerful would it be for an employee newly diagnosed with diabetes to pick up their first insulin prescription then receive an email suggesting a range of benefits options, resources and tools to help them manage this new complex condition. It’s coming … “ Catherine Biermann
Everyone is recognizing the value in optional benefits. They are gaining steam. Flexibility, ease of access, value, technology, awareness are all key themes that will continue to evolve. Ultimately, continued growth of employee-paid optional benefits is expected and this will become a distinguishing feature of the value employees place on their workplace benefits plan.
“When it comes to benefits plans, flexibility and optionality is the future.” Derek Weir
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