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What are the key trends in the life and health insurance space?

In this edition of IBTV, we are joined by David Adams, VP of business development at Medavie Blue Cross, on the back of the company’s Advocis Award for Life & Health Insurer of the Year. Adams delves into how the firm is supporting plan members and sponsors, how companies can optimize their benefit plans, and the key trends insurers should keep in mind.

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Speaker1: [00:00:11] Hi, everyone. Welcome to IBTV. I'm Surina Nath, news editor at Insurance Business, and in this episode, I'm sitting down with Dave Adams, vice president of business development at Mahdavi Blue Cross. The organization received the Abacus Award for Life and Health Insurer of the Year at the Twenty Twenty One Insurance Business Canada Awards, with the help of Dave, who is responsible for identifying and managing strategic initiatives to maximize growth. Thanks for joining us today, Dave.

Speaker2: [00:00:44] Nice to be here, Surina. Thank you for having me.

Speaker1: [00:00:46] So what does the distinction of being advocacies life in health insurer of the year mean to you and your organization?

Speaker2: [00:00:54] Well, Surina, as you could imagine, it's it's a tremendous honor for our organization and for all of the hard work that we've been doing here at Blue Cross to be recognized by our peers. Absolutely tremendous honor. I'm proud for our employees. I'm proud for our organization. And probably most importantly, I'm proud for for our partners. Our clients are advisors who we've been doing business with for an awfully long time. We've always had trust and confidence in us. I'm I'm happy for them to see us recognized in this type of way.

Speaker1: [00:01:26] And congratulations. It seems like you guys have put in a lot of hard work that has paid off. Can you speak to some of the modern and innovative ways which you're supporting your plan sponsors and plan members?

Speaker2: [00:01:39] Yeah. So I think the obvious thing that's happened over the last several years is there's been an extreme migration to digital adoption and and I think supporting our plan members and our plan sponsors in this digital adoption world has been has been something that's been at the forefront and it's really expedited, certainly in the last twenty four months or so. But we're really listening to our client base and we've had to listen increasingly over the last couple of years, something we've always done. But it's really heightened in the last several years. I think about the advancements and the and the expedited investment we've made and some of our digital strategies, the fact that we've gone out and looked for digital partners to partner with so that we could expedite some of those service offerings thinking about our benefit plans and inclusivity of all of our benefit plans and making sure they're inclusive for all of our plan members really important. And I think we started to think about the needs of the small business owner and making sure that we had something. There's a war on talent up there that exists across the board, not just with large organizations, but with small organizations as well, and making sure that we add products and services that are were available to small business owners so that they could compete in this war for talent that exists in this new world, we find ourselves living in.

Speaker1: [00:03:06] Absolutely, and you mentioned a lot of great points there. The pandemic has certainly shifted that the way we facilitate business. So how has it specifically impacted your organization?

Speaker2: [00:03:20] Yeah, as I as I referred to it, it's really expedited the investment we're making and some of our digital channels. You know, the thinking that we've had around virtual services has certainly expanded the appetite that people now have just to be serviced virtually. And so that we've got the tools and services that they're able to do that has certainly been something that we've approached with a sense of urgency. I think the other thing that we've we've had to take a step back on is is really to rethink some of the industry practices that have existed and do those industry practices actually fit in the pandemic and post-pandemic world? And we thought about different eligibility group eligibility programs. You know, do they do all the rules and regulations that have applied with group insurance or individual health insurance? Should they still apply, go forward or do they need to change? And I think we've been open minded to working with our plan sponsors, working with our advisors just to identify what's changed, what are the new needs, what are the evolving needs and make sure that we're there for them as these needs rapidly evolve?

Speaker1: [00:04:34] And how can companies optimize their benefit plans to support employees during periods of uncertainty?

Speaker2: [00:04:41] Uncertainty, tough uncertainty is I think we've all lived it here, and we've all lived in uncertain times, whether that's in the business setting or in our own personal, our own personal lives. There's been a lot of uncertainty week to week, day to day. In fact, in some cases, and I think the advice we would have in working with our plan sponsors and really what the what the demand is from our plan sponsors is really around flexibility and optionality trying to be there. The people taking advantage of benefit programs in their in their employer, whether they're an employee provided or employer provided Surrey or whether they're buying them on their own, they're looking for optionality, they're looking for, they're thinking about health care, perhaps in different ways. So I think that one size fits all group insurance plan, which sort of extends out to the masses, needs to have elements of flexibility and optionality on a go forward basis so that all plan members sort of can participate in those programs. And I think that's the evolution we're seeing. And I think that's going to help us adapt most to some of the uncertainties that we see go forward in the future

Speaker1: [00:05:51] Within that same vein. How has the growing importance of mental health affected the way you support plan members?

Speaker2: [00:05:58] Certainly, mental health has been a challenge. I think for every plan, sponsor and employer, it's been a challenge for us as a really as a society and and we've come up with all kinds of tools and support services again, virtual support services, EAP programs and but I think the most important part is is the communication of the availability of these programs. I think that having programs available and having multiple options for people to be able to find support, whether that's support because of a mental crisis or whether that's support for self care, because people, people anticipate some level of anxiety, some something that they're feeling different than they might have felt before about going to work or otherwise. And I think we're we're really working with our plan sponsors and our advisors to make sure that that communication pushes forward so that everybody understands the support services and tools that are available for them. Because I think that's really where we're at right now is is making sure sure that everybody knows where to go and there's no real searching required wherever they are on their mental health journey.

Speaker1: [00:07:17] And you touched on this at the beginning of our conversation, but can you elaborate on the importance about digitization of health care and how Mahdavi is adapting to this constantly evolving and diverse work marketplace?

Speaker2: [00:07:33] We were on the journey. We were certainly on the on the digital first journey, and I think that's an important distinction between digital first and digital only journey. We've been on a digital first journey for quite some time, recognizing that the way people think about health care, especially their benefit program, is more consumer life and consumers are purchasing and buying in a very, very different way. Their experiences are highly digitized nowadays, and we want to. Make sure that what people are familiar with, we have the the tools and services in a digitised format that they're used to. And so we've we've been on that investment journey for a while, certainly in the last twenty four months, we've we've had a heightened urgency to expedite that. As I as I said, some of that is is our own, our own organizational investment. And some of that is really finding partnerships with people who are further advanced on that digital journey. Just again, to make sure that we have all of those virtual tools and services available to plan members so that they can manage their health the way they want to manage their health. One thing I think that is really important for our organization is to recognize when we do work with our plan sponsors is it is not one size fits all and people are on different phases. There's more adoption, there's no doubt about it, but there are still people who are on the digital continuum and we want to make sure that we don't alienate anybody. And it's why I think the digital first versus digital only approach is important for our tools and services is that we're going to promote the the digital, the digital conveniences. But at the same time, when somebody wants to talk to somebody about benefits or or coverages or services that are available to them related to their benefit program, that we're there to talk to them as well.

Speaker1: [00:09:33] It's all about being innovative and adaptable, correct?

Speaker2: [00:09:37] It certainly is, and never so much. I think it's been something we've talked about in the industry for an awfully long period of time. If you went back five years, we would have said the same things. I think what digital and adaptable mean to us now are very different than what they meant to us five years ago. So even our understanding of those things is are evolving fairly consistently, fairly rapidly. And it's it's a fun place to be. It's I think our our our plan members and our plan sponsors and our

advisors, we're all evolving together. We're all in this together. It's it very much feels like we're solution together and and that's a good place to be.

Speaker1: [00:10:21] Are there any other key trends that insurers should really be keeping top of mind as of late?

Speaker2: [00:10:27] Yeah, I think some of the things as you as you would know, we're in a world where we do have a lot of data and a lot of information. And I think as we move forward, trends will start to see evolve. Again, I spoke to the optionality trend where, you know, having a group benefits program that operates a certain way and does so year over year over year may need more optionality in it, whether that's optionality of service, optionality of coverage. We're working extremely hard on creating optionality for our group plan sponsors so that they can touch on and whether that's through a personal wellness account, a health spending accounts, optional benefits and optional coverages. We're working extremely hard to provide some of that optionality for group plan sponsors who may feel like from from an expense perspective, they can't absorb a whole lot more, but they do want to offer their employee base options. So we're working extremely hard to be able to provide them with that optionality. The second thing I think we're starting to see in a trend we're starting to see is personalization. We've seen that in other segments of consumerism, where personalization has really started to take hold. Artificial intelligence has really started to take hold. People presume they know what you need, what you need before you actually determine you need it yourself. And I think we're starting to see that in the health care industry a little bit is personalization. Everybody's on their personal wellness and health journey. And and if we can, again, it goes back to ensure that people are well-informed about the products and services that are available to them as they're on that journey. That's going to be really, really important in the future.

Speaker1: [00:12:14] And looking ahead, what do employers need to include in the next generation of benefit plans?

Speaker2: [00:12:21] Yeah, I don't want to sound too repetitive. Optionality is certainly one, but I think the recognition that that next generation of employee who is already very, very much in the workplace and very much a voice and shaping benefit programs today. But they they are about self care. They care about their wellness, they care about their health, they care about their work environments and having solutions and having benefit programs that are thinking a little bit more about flexibility for that new age employee that are thinking about whether that's in their personal wellness journey, whether that's in their employment practices. They're going to want more flexibility in terms of the way they participate in tomorrow's workforce. So again, evolving very rapidly. That voice, I think, is becoming louder and louder in all employer based work programs. And you know, it's going to be exciting where where that takes us. I think that continues to take us on a journey of a very health conscious and healthy community.

Speaker1: [00:13:32] Thanks so much for those insights, Dave, it's been an absolute pleasure getting to chat with you today.

Speaker2: [00:13:38] Surina, thank you very much for having me.

Speaker1: [00:13:40] To everyone watching, thanks for tuning in to IBTV. Until next time.