YXE Benefits offers the simple, stable, smart group benefits choice for Saskatoon businesses; combining accessibility, flexibility and the stability of pooled benefits. Saskatoon companies choose the Chambers group plan because it offers unsurpassed value & outstanding customer service. The Chambers plan group benefits are for Saskatoon Chamber members. In our latest post, we share an article on the 2019 top trends in health benefits.
Top Trends in Canada Health Benefits in 2019
Heard of Telemedicine?
Many insurers have established partnerships with providers of telemedicine, and are actively promoting it as an optional benefit, or for plan sponsors, to promote it as an eligible expense under Healthcare Spending Accounts (HSAs).
Plan members can use their computer, phone or smartphone app to get 24/7 access to nurse practitioners or physicians, who can immediately diagnose and prescribe for common ailments. Employers that derive most of their revenue from hourly billings, for example, will likely find the service especially appealing.
“It certainly provides value to private plans because it gives very timely and efficient access to care so that employees are more productive and do not have to take time off work to go to walk-in clinics.”
Virtual care takes telemedicine a step further by providing an alternative way to access ongoing care (for example, for plan members already diagnosed with chronic conditions). Members consult with specialists and other allied healthcare professionals by phone, computer or smart app.
Virtual care for mental health, and more specifically for cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), is leading the way. Indeed, the long-term aim is to promote the use of virtual CBT as an early intervention, while employees are still at work, to prevent disability claims.
“A lot of pilots are out there now for virtual CBT. The important thing to note is that it doesn’t necessarily mean additional costs for the plan sponsor or new out-of-pocket costs for the plan member. This is about diverting some of the traditional benefit dollars to deliver services in a different way, and more cost-effectively.”
Recently, we have seen a number of healthcare apps, from both start-up vendors and traditional healthcare innovators. Insurers will soon be vetting the options to determine which are medically valid and financially viable as benefit offerings. These apps will complement existing benefits and can reduce costs.
“For example, an employee may go to a psychologist every six weeks, at a cost to the plan of $150 per visit. Between visits, he uses an app that costs $10 a month that helps him manage his anxiety day-to-day. Today, that $150 visit is an eligible expense, but the $10 app is not. If the $10 app saved one or more psychologist visits per year, it would save money and cover its own cost.”
As with many new benefits, coverage for healthcare apps will likely initially be promoted as an eligible expense under HCSAs.
Targeted Health messaging
This year could mark a pivotal year for wellness supports from the workplace, due to insurers’ growing capabilities in analytics and artificial intelligence to send targeted, action-oriented health information to plan members.
“We can identify plan members who are at risk for chronic conditions, or who may be at risk for disability leave. We can reach out to them, with their consent, with helpful information and suggestions for care.”
Personalized, regular health messaging could be the missing link to help prevent and manage chronic disease. While past pilot projects consistently showed the value of coaching from allied health professionals (such as pharmacists and dietitians) for members with health risk factors or chronic diseases, member enrollment was a challenge and ongoing costs a concern. The incorporation of targeted messaging from insurers, with automated “nudges” that can be delivered digitally, may help with both engagement and cost-effectiveness.
The most popular conversation come renewal time this year will likely be about coverage for medical cannabis. Now that most insurers have put together offerings for optional coverage, plan sponsors will be able to address a topic that continues to steadily garner media attention—which in turn stokes consumer interest.
Currently, Health Canada reports that more than 300,000 Canadians take medical cannabis, presumably paying out of pocket (or possibly using funds from healthcare spending accounts).
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