What group benefits trends should brokers look out for in 2023?

In a competitive labour market, benefits can be a key differentiator for employers

What group benefits trends should brokers look out for in 2023?

Insurance News

By Gia Snape

Amid a global competition for talent, employers need to consider all aspects of their rewards package to ensure they’re attracting and retaining the best people.

Healthcare benefits are an important weapon for Canadian employers’ arsenal in the talent war next year. Insurance Business spoke to top executives in the benefits space about what’s on their radar for 2023.

Top trends in group benefits for 2023

Mental health

Mental health issues have been pushing their way to the front of Canadians’ collective consciousness even before the pandemic. Greater awareness and less stigma around the topic have helped lower barriers to access to mental healthcare. More Canadians now consider depression and anxiety to be disabilities after two years of dealing with the stress and upheaval of COVID-19.

As a result, there’s been a significantly greater buy-in on mental health benefits that before, according to Faizal Mitha, chief sales and innovation officer for Hub International’s Employee Benefits division in Canada.

“We’ve seen a lot of incorporation of digital mental health platforms. Companies that were laggards in adding employee assistance programs are truly moving forward with that,” said Mitha.

Psychology benefits in the paramedical side are seeing further uptake, as employers increased the annual maximums to allow employees more long-term care.

“The rule of thumb is that it takes between 10 to 12 sessions with a psychologist to achieve a tangible outcome with a mental health challenge. Most plan sponsors today still only have coverage for three to four sessions,” Mitha said. “There's a gap there and the public sector can’t fill it, so that's where employers have been investing quite a bit.”

Digitization of health

Digital health platforms will a focus on wellness have also caught on. Mitha said employers were making greater investments on lifestyle and health spending accounts as part of their benefits package.

“The digitization of health care is helping to provide plan members with greater innovation, choice, and access. Virtual care options like online or text therapy, health portals and medication management apps, etc. help people navigate and manage their own health and care,” said David Adams, senior vice president of insurance business at Medavie Blue Cross.

The pandemic accelerated the use of telehealth and virtual care services by necessity. As cities locked down and hospitals became inundated with COVID-19 patients, people were forced to seek medical help online. But Canadians aren’t turning back from the ease, convenience, and flexibility of virtual healthcare, according to JP Girard, executive vice president and head of insurance at Green Shield Canada.

“In 2018, there was about a 3% uptake on virtual care services in Canada. Fast forward to March 2020, and the rate has shot up to 60%, and it continues to rise,” Girard told Insurance Business. “The convenience of virtual care is now becoming the expectation. It’s getting tremendous traction.”

Flexibility and optionality

Flexible benefit plans are a great way for employers to cater to employees’ diverse health and wellness needs while keeping costs down. These arrangements can include private health and dental insurance, life insurance, gym memberships, childcare vouchers, and other concessions.

“Flexibility and optionality in benefit plans are two big trends that empower employees to decide when and how they contribute to their wellbeing and spend their benefits dollars,” said Adams. “It’s about the ability to access a variety of services in different ways, and the ability to add coverage to plans in case of unexpected health events.”

Adding flexibility to benefit packages also enables employers to personalize their offerings and distinguish themselves in the labour market.

“Health and lifestyle spending accounts shift employers from offering a ‘one-size-fits-all’ package to recognizing that employees are diverse and at different stages of their lives. They have different family or individual needs. How can we help them leverage their spend towards benefits that are meaningful to them?” said Mitha.

Preventative care

“An estimated 60% of all plan members, those covered by group insurance, have a chronic condition,” said Girard. “And that was exasperated by the pandemic, people’s inability to access to care, long wait times, and so on. It’s started to put pressure on the employers who can see that their employees are getting sicker.”

Chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis can have serious consequences on employee health, which can impact workplace productivity and benefits plan costs in the long term. Preventive care benefits such as annual health screenings, routine vaccinations, flu shots, and cholesterol tests are becoming increasingly popular with employers.

“Employee wellness is the goal, and prevention and early intervention are trends that focus on supporting individuals while they remain at work, through community investment, education, wellness resources, programs and services and employee assistance programs,” Adams said

What are other employee benefits trends on your radar? Share them in the comments below.

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