How Benefits Plan Members Want Their Wellness Addressed in Their Plans

The Desire for Wellness

As group benefit plan costs rise, health promotion through wellness programs continues to be an area of interest, for plan sponsors and plan members alike. As a part of our 2017 report entitled Fresh Perspectives on Group Benefits: The Latest Thinking From Plan Sponsors, Members, and Insurers, Accompass questioned plan members on which wellness benefits are considered desirable, and which they could do without.

What Do Plan Members Really Want?

So what do plan members want? We asked them to pick up to three wellness benefits that they would value from a list of six. Here’s what we found:

group benefit wellness

51% – Gym or subsidized gym membership

27% – Personal financial planning

25% – Subsidized healthy foo/juice bar

20% – Onsite health assessments

19% – Nap/ meditation/ prayer/ yoga room

15% – Games room

Getting Active and Getting Well

Across generations, the majority of plan members have a desire for a gym membership. Evidently, getting active and taking care of their physical health outside of the office has more value to members than temporary stress relief inside the office.

Perks like a games room or yoga room in the workplace were not seen as desirable in the face of a lasting gym membership. Although a stress relieving work-space may contribute to office culture, all generations agree they would rather have benefits go towards their physical fitness.

Get More Information

Click here to download the full free 2017 Report Fresh Perspectives on Group Benefits: The Latest Thinking From Plan Sponsors, Members, and Insurers.

The Top 6 Items on a Plan Member Wishlist

More than Just Benefits

Plan members don’t only take into consideration their benefits, they also consider the claims process, the variability, the types of drugs covered, and many other factors that plan sponsors evaluate when creating their plan.

Accompass sought out which aspects of the benefits plans members felt needed the most improvement. These are important considerations for plan sponsors when building their next benefits plans for employees.

What Plan Members Would Like to Improve

If there was anything to change, here’s what plan members would like to improve when asked for their top two priorities:


plan member wishlist

30% – Higher limits

25% – Easier claims process

24% – New types of coverage

24%  More flexibility

20% – Reduced co-pay or deductible

20% – Expanded list of drugs covered

A Closer Look

While many of these are obvious expectations for a plan member wish list (more coverage, higher limits) the ranking of “easier claims process” at #2 suggests that plan sponsors should continue to factor “process” into benefit plan improvements, as “ease of use” is clearly of value to plan members.

It’s notable that among the youngest generation of workers (Gen Z from ages 18 to 24) “easier claims process” was the number one desired improvement (35%), outranking higher limits and new types of coverage.

Get More Information

Click here to download the full free 2017 Report Fresh Perspectives on Group Benefits: The Latest Thinking From Plan Sponsors, Members, and Insurers.

Who is Most Likely to Accept a Job Without Benefits?

We Did Our Research

The job market can be a tough terrain to navigate. In a standard job offer a company is required to present the potential employee with the expected pay and disclose whether or not the position will offer benefits. There are a group of people that would turn down the job offer if benefits were not a part of the deal.

The Fresh Perspectives On Group Benefits report dug deeper on what patterns exist between the people who walk away from a job with no benefits plan and the people who accept the position.

Would Prospective Employees Accept a Job That Didn’t Offer Benefits?

A Closer Look at the Statistics

It’s clear that once people gain benefits coverage, they don’t want to lose it.
For individuals who currently have benefits coverage, 80% say that they wouldn’t
accept a job that didn’t offer benefits. This compares to just 50% of people who
don’t currently have benefits.

Are Benefits Important to Employees?

Discover how important benefits are to prospective employees and much more in Accompass’ new report.

Click here to download the full free 2017 Report Fresh Perspectives on Group Benefits: The Latest Thinking From Plan Sponsors, Members, and Insurers.

How Satisfied Are Employees With Their Benefits?

The Importance of Employee Satisfaction

Employee satisfaction is important. There is always room for improvement when employers organize and evaluate benefits plans for members. Investigating how satisfied a plan member is with their plan can indicate how many adjustments should be made in the future.

Improving Benefits Plans

If employees are generally very satisfied with their plan, minor tweaks should be incorporated in the future plan. On the contrary, a large number of dissatisfied employee could call for a plan overhaul. Our research provided good news when it comes to employee satisfaction with their benefits plan.

Employee Satisfaction with their Benefits Plans

The Fresh Perspectives on Group Benefits report surveyed employees with existing benefits plans to determine overall satisfaction levels. That number is consistently high across all generations in the workforce.


plan member satisfaction

58% like their benefits plan very much.

36% say their plan somewhat meets their needs.

Evidently the majority of employees like their benefits plan very much. This is good news for both employees and employers. Despite this positive outcome, there are still approximately 36% of members who are only somewhat satisfied with their plan.

Future Research and Results

The next questions we have is: how do employers identify what employees want in their plan to improve their satisfaction? Accompass’ comprehensive report answers this question and more.

Click here to download the full free 2017 Report Fresh Perspectives on Group Benefits: The Latest Thinking From Plan Sponsors, Members, and Insurers.

The Top 4 Reasons Plan Sponsors Provide Benefits Plans

Why Do Employers Provide Benefits?

Clearly, for employee welfare and improved productivity goals, knowing what plan members want and need are critical considerations. But even for the 40% of organizations that offered a plan for competitive reasons, benchmarking alone may not suffice in ensuring competitiveness, as shifts in wants and needs can change the perceived value of benefits. We’re pleased to provide some insights, from several different angles.

The Top 4 Reasons Employers Provide Benefits Plans

benefits plans

The results of the report are based on three surveys conducted in late 2016 and early 2017—of insurers, plan sponsors, and individual Canadians, including individuals who don’t currently participate in a benefits plan.


1. Employee Welfare – 50%

To reward, support, and make employees feel appreciated. Providing benefits helps take care of employee health and well-being.

2. Competitive advantage – 40%

To remain competitive with other organizations in the industry and in the region.

3. Employee productivity – 5%

Healthier employees are more productive employees. Providing benefits increases efficiency and reduces absenteeism.

4. All of the above – 5%

A small percentage of plan sponsors agreed that all three reasons applied.


About the 2017 Accompass Research Report

The results of this research are not meant to be prescriptive—as every organization has different needs, a different workforce, and is in different competitive positions. They are, however, designed to help you be more strategic in your actions, and we encourage you to consider this information through the lens of your benefits plan’s unique goals and purpose.

Click here to download the full free 2017 Report Fresh Perspectives on Group Benefits: The Latest Thinking From Plan Sponsors, Members, and Insurers.

2017 Federal Budget: potential for employer paid maternity leave top up to be impacted

After a delay, on Wednesday Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau unveiled a largely status quo budget as the Liberal government attempts to prepare for policy changes in the U.S.

Maternity leave top ups could be impacted

Among the announcements that could impact employers were an option for parents to receive EI parental benefits over an extended period of up to 18 months at a lower benefit rate of 33 per cent of average weekly earnings. EI parental benefits would continue to be available at the existing benefit rate of 55 per cent over a period of up to 12 months.

“For employers, a review of maternity and parental top up policies would make sense as the extended period at the lower rate could have an impact on the top up amounts,” said Tiina Liivet of Accompass. “Employer costs for these leaves could increase as a result of this change.”

Canadians can expect to see a five-cent increase in EI premium rates in fiscal 2018-19, up to $1.68 per $100 of insurable earnings, with some of that additional premium being used to fund expanded access to benefits.

In addition, as anticipated, Wednesday’s budget did not include a tax on employer-sponsored health and dental benefit premium.

No more Canada Savings Bonds

As expected, the Liberals also announced that it would be phasing out the Canada Savings Bond program.

“These products have faced waning popularity amidst the availability of more innovative savings products,” explained Accompass consultant Mohamed Karmali.

The budget also introduced a new care giving benefit for up to 15 weeks to help Canadians care for adult family members.

Public transit, Uber, alcohol and cigarettes

The budget also included the phasing out of the 15 per cent public transit credit, and the introduction of GST and HST to ride sharing services such as Uber. In addition, increased taxes on alcohol and cigarettes was introduced.

The Road to Chronic Wellness: Why Organizations Provide Benefits

A clear understanding of what your organization is looking to achieve with its benefits plan will help you make the right decisions when making tough calls on your plan design.

Why does your organization provide benefits? According to Accompass’ President Sarah Beech there are three primary reasons that an organization provides benefits.

1. To be competitive with other organizations.

This drives back to the need to provide a compensation program that allows you the ability to attract and retain the type of talent that you’re hoping to build your business with. In short, offering benefits is simply a cost of doing business.

2. To maintain productivity and reduce absenteeism.

One of the main drivers behind a benefits plan is to keep your employees doing what they’re being paid to do. They should be in the workplace contributing to your company’s success, and the various paid benefits help to keep them there, and not at home sick. When this is the primary motivation, when faced with pressure to contain costs employers will explore more options that are not related to this objective.

3. They care about their welfare and well-being.

This is reflective of an organization’s culture and brand, and you’ll find companies with more focus on this aspect are more willing to include benefits and perks that are “above and beyond”. These companies will have a heavier skew towards the “wants” and “perks” compared to other organizations.

Delivering Benefits Employees Want.

Employee engagement surveys will help you to gauge how much your various benefits are appreciated, and may give you insight about where you have some flexibility to make changes, particularly against the market.


This content was re-purposed from the original article. 

Full article: The Road to Chronic Wellness, published by Benefits and Pensions Monitor Magazine.

Author: Sarah Beech, Accompass President.

Keep This On Your Desk: 2017 Provincial Medicare Programs

The 2017 Reference Guide to Canadian Benefits has been released by Accompass and is available for free. Included in this year’s guide is a comprehensive breakdown of Provincial Medicare Programs. Find a thorough analysis of Canadian medicare programs in one place by downloading the Reference Guide at Accompass’ Resources Page.

Provincial Medicare Programs

The Canada Health Act (CHA) ensures all residents of Canada have access to medically necessary
hospital, physician and extended health care services based on need, rather than the ability to pay.
All provinces and territories provide, at their discretion and on their terms and conditions, a range
of health services that go beyond the requirements of the CHA.

The guide breaks down the following services by provinces and territories:

1. Hospital coverage

2. Out-of-country

3. Medical care

4. Prescription drugs

5. Dental

6. Vision

7. Contributions

Visit Accompass’ Resources Page to download the 2017 Reference Guide to Canadian Benefits. 


Flonase and Nasacort no longer covered in Saskatchewan at Equitable Life

Equitable Life has announced that effective January 1, 2017, two intranasal corticosteroids products, Flonase® and Nasacort®, along with their generic versions, will no longer be covered in Saskatchewan, as over-the-counter versions of these medications are now available for purchase without a prescription.

  • Fluticasone 50ug/dose nasal spray (Flonase® and generics); and
  • Triamcinolone 55ug/dose nasal spray ( Nasacort® and generics).

“We anticipate that other insurers will follow suit,” said Sandra Ventin of Accompass.

Remicade & Humira Continue to Dominate; Harvoni No Longer

In Canada, Remicade and Humira have consistently appeared on the list of top drugs in terms of dollars paid out by carriers. However, last year a new drug joined the list in the rankings for most expensive drug by dollars paid in Canada. Although the drug had a stand-out price tag and soared to the top of the list, it quickly fell off in 2017. This drug is Harvoni; find out why we will see little of Harvoni in 2017.

Summary of Top 3 Most Expensive Drugs

Remicade is used to treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, ankylosing spondylitis, and plaque psoriasis.

Price Tag [Approximate annual cost per individual]: $40,000

Humira is used to treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, plaque psoriasis, and and a chronic skin condition called hidradenitis suppurativa.

Price Tag [Approximate annual cost per individual]: $19,000

Harvoni is used to effectively cure hepatitis C in adults.

Price Tag [Approximate annual cost per individual]: $69,000

Why Will We See Little of Harvoni in 2017?

Unlike Remicade and Humira, Harvoni is a drug used for treatment not management. This explains the price tag of approximately $69,000 in Canada for an 8-week treatment.

Dr. Curtis Cooper, an Ottawa liver specialist, is calling Ontario’s decision to pay for new treatments that can cure hepatitis C a “landmark event” that will change the lives of thousands of people with the disease. Covering a costly treatment in a short period of time is possibly less costly than covering a drug used for management year after year.

What this Means

Replacing Harvoni in 2017 on the list of the top three most expensive drugs by dollars paid is Enbrel, a drug used to manage rheumatoid arthritis and plaque psoriasis with the price tag of approximately $20,000 annually, per individual. It is clear that chronic conditions that require annual management are more costly over the long term than treatable conditions. Despite the high cost of Harvoni in 2016, it is likely we will continue to see medications for chronic diseases dominate the list for top drugs by dollars paid.


Revisit for updates regarding the top three most expensive drugs by dollars paid in March 2017.

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Payne, Elizabeth. Ottawa Citizen. “Ontario decision to cover costly hepatitis C drug a lifesaver, doctor says.” March 25, 2015. Accessed February 9, 2017.