Home » Industry » Flexibility and Choice: The Next Generation of Employee Health Benefit Plans

COVID-19 has been a catalyst for change in how we live, how we work and how we see the future. It has also shown us that flexibility is essential to the ongoing operation of an organization for both remote and onsite employees. This call for a more adaptable and fluid approach to the work life flow is influencing other aspects of organizational culture and benefits, including health and wellness plans.

Benefits that were once thought of as nice-to-haves – optional benefits and personal wellness and/or health spending accounts – are now becoming a standard part of a broader, more flexible approach to plan design that enhances member choice and puts them in the driver’s seat of their health care.

“We are seeing more and more employers looking to complement their employee benefit offerings with further optional solutions, because one size doesn’t fit all anymore,” says Alaina MacKenzie, Regional Vice-President, Business Development at Medavie Blue Cross.

The ability to complement base coverage is increasingly important. According to a recent survey commissioned by Medavie Blue Cross, 82 per cent of Canadians worry that their finances would be impacted if they experienced a critical illness or major injury. And yet, most full-time employees do not have critical illness insurance.

As a digital solution for employers to offer enhanced coverage, Optional Benefits, when activated by the employer, allows employees to choose from a variety of coverage types through their existing benefit plan, based on their needs and lifestyle. Optional coverages include critical illness, accidental death and dismemberment, and life insurance, giving them better personal protection and ability to plan long-term.

Connected Care: Integrated benefit solutions that account for today’s realities

The personalization of health care benefits and technology are fuelling transformative change. Leading insurers are embracing the practice to provide a seamless, holistic health management experience. Health coverage must meet the needs of a modern, multi-generational workforce that is accessing health care services online.

“The speed with which we’ve seen digital health services evolve over the last 12 months has been incredible,” MacKenzie says. “We have gone from visiting the doctor’s office to accessing virtual care for acute, situational type issues and now to chronic disease management, where people are realizing that they can receive quality care from the comfort of their home.”

Digitization of health care offers new ways to engage with plan members. For health insurance providers, this means developing simplified, personalized products, services and processes that are as intuitive as online shopping.

Medavie Blue Cross, for instance, recently launched a virtual Diabetes Care program providing plan members access to an integrated digital program and coaching service to help them manage their disease. “Diabetes is a lifelong, chronic disease that can be very difficult to control,” states MacKenzie. “Our integrated virtual solution is designed to help improve the wellbeing of those living with, or at risk for diabetes, while enabling more convenient access to education and care.”

Digital options for mental health support are also an important trend to help employees access services anytime, anywhere. “Services like digital therapy (iCBT), personalized medicine (pharmacogenetic testing) and access to a broader range of health professionals are reducing some of the barriers to accessing care – cost, convenience and stigma,” says MacKenzie.

Providing greater flexibility, more service options and integrated digital solutions will continue to be the way forward for benefit plans in a post-pandemic world. “The COVID-19 pandemic was the single biggest catalyst that we have seen in terms of change and behaviours, particularly in employees, but also in Canadians in general,” concludes MacKenzie. “And that change is around how Canadians are consuming their health care, enabling them to shift from being a passenger in their health journey, to being in the driver’s seat.”

Flexibility, optionality, ease of access and technology are key themes that will continue to play an important role in supporting a workplace culture of health and wellness. Whether through the addition of critical illness coverage, shift to virtual care or increased flexibility, it’s about connecting employees to the right level of care at the right time and providing them with the necessary choices to achieve their best possible health outcomes.

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