Our Federal Government eye tax on private health and dental plans

I recall thinking we live in a democracy, but do we really?

How much more can we really take?  Do our elected officials care what we think?  Do they have our best interest in mind when they make decisions?

We are one of the most taxed countries in the world and the government continues to reach into our pockets.

Personal income tax, introduced under the Income War Tax Act of 1917, was conceived — like the other wartime taxes — as a temporary measure. This act both expanded the scope of the Business Profits War Tax and introduced a tax based on yearly income to most Canadians.

This is some temporary measure …. How long is temporary? – forever it seems.

We now pay road tolls; in addition part of our income taxes is allocated to road repairs, maintenance and infrastructure etc.

Now our government is thinking of taxing health and dental benefits to generate 2.9 billion tax dollars. What will they do with that? I think they will do what they have done over and over again ….. mismanage and squander our money.

I have to wonder how many employers/employees will say no; I don’t want benefits, just pay me more.

You think our healthcare system is overloaded now?

If they generate 2.9 billion dollars from this tax I can see the healthcare system being used even more as there will be less private plans. Employees will look to the healthcare system as an alternative. How much will it really cost us?

As Canadians, we pay enough. The government needs to do a better job of managing our money and instead of shaking us down for more money, do a better job with the billions we give them.

If you think this is only going to affect high income earners, think again. Everyone feels this hit. I would argue that the guy or girl working for $18 to $20 dollars an hour would be hit harder than the high income earner.

When this was done in Quebec, there was 20% reduction in coverage by employers.

I think this is a narrow minded ill-conceived idea. They really need to take a look at the big picture here. We all should be screaming at our MP and elected officials – we don’t want this.

by Desmond Clarke – Dynamic Original Concepts / MC&A  January 2017

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Do you know enough about your benefit plan travel coverage?

TravellingChances are…YOU DON’T.

It is very nice to have emergency travel coverage as part of your benefits plan, but prior to any travel, you should understand any restrictions and limitations associated with the travel coverage. Although many people may think that they are completely covered, this isn’t the case. Plan booklets are often vague and do not offer detailed information about the travel coverage that you should know to protect yourself while traveling abroad.

A few things to be aware of prior to any travel (by calling the designated travel line or claims line of the insurance carrier):

  • Know the carrier’s definition of medical “stability”, especially if you take any sort of maintenance medication
  • Know what qualifies as a pre-existing condition…. yes, there are some restrictions here…remember it is “emergency” coverage only
  • Know what qualifies as an “emergency”
  • Know what countries would be considered “unsafe” for travel

A couple of other items that are not considered as part of your benefit plan travel coverage would be trip cancellation and lost baggage insurance. These items might be covered by your credit card, or you can purchase this coverage separately.

The last thing any traveller wants, is a large bill associated with an unexpected medical claim while travelling outside of Canada. Be sure you understand how you are protected, what’s covered, with which company and who is your contact, just in case. If you have a travel insurance be sure to pack it. Happy holidays!

Sean Ross

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Canadian employers should embrace technology

Canadian employerI can remember the technology of my day…coming home and turning on the old “brown box converter” changing the channels with a cord that was attached to the television. I bought my first record player at age twelve. The Sony Walkman was revolutionary.

Fast forward today, televisions in 4K so clear it seems you can touch the images. Stream your music from the internet and listen through Bluetooth speakers and Google will soon have cars on the road that will drive you.

So why have employers not embraced new technology now at their fingertips? Here are 6 items you should be getting from your insurance provider, if not ask:

  1. Electronic claims submission, electronic data interchange at the dentist, direct submission of claims, software to handle additions, deletions and family changes.
  2. Insurance company “apps” that employees can download to their smartphones- add your personal profile, submit claims, view group and retirement information, find physicians, see your plan identification.
  3. Texting claims questions and receiving texts about claims.  The ability to interact with the insurance company quickly and easily via text.
  4. Changing insurance carriers – electronic uploads to make the process easier when it comes to changing carriers.
  5. Engagement of your employees to improve attraction and retention of millennials/gen X & Y/older employees, by increasing engagement, having employees receive rewards and improving culture – can be obtained through the internet or on your smartphone soon.
  6. Electronic communication – robust insurance company website, electronic booklets, replacement cards (pay direct/ out-of-country) online, electronic contracts, employees having access to things such as being able to view when their next claims come up in the calendar year.

Get your employees the information they want more efficiently 24 hours a day 7 days a week!

Improved technology leads to better communication and happier, more engaged employees.

Paul Crossdale

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Absenteeism…Can We Help?

Absenteeism…Can we Help Employees be More Present?

As we see clients and prospective clients a question that often comes up is how can we curb employee absenteeism? There has been a great deal of talk about absence prevention, wellness initiatives and types of disability management. Despite this, Canadian employees averaged 8.8 days of absence in 2014 amounting to in excess of 100 million work days for full time employees.

Why is this happening? As we all know mental health issues continue to be the biggest culprit. Mental Health accounts for 30 to 40% of all disability. How can we help?

Changing Job Stress

Our government is beginning to look at Mental Health in a more serious manner. Canada is one of the first countries in the world to implement a National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. Beginning in 2013 the aim of this organization is aimed at identifying and preventing mental health issues in the workplace.

Modernization

There is still too much wait time for receiving treatment, medical attention and early detection with regard to physical illness and psychological. Web based apps help provide self- help which provide effective psychotherapy. Your employee becomes the navigator and manager of their own care and can get assistance 24/7 on their own.

Track Employee Absences

With many tools out there to use less than half of Canadian organizations track employee absences. Tools do exist, however. Measuring /reporting on absenteeism is key to understanding why employees are absent. Without knowledge employers are unable to develop effective policies and programs to help employees stay at work and return to work

Surveys

Many employees avoid assistance on mental health issues out of fear they might be found out by their employers. An employee survey is one way an organization can determine the gaps in knowledge of what mental illness is and is not. Better understanding might mean better treatment.

Peer Support Groups

People helping people could be the best solution to assist people getting back to work.

Employee Health Programs

Have effective programs in place that promote/support a healthy, safe and supportive workplace. Make employee health part of your corporate culture. The more personal investment you get from people the better the accountability.

Do More for Employees…Implement a Wellness Program

Employers are constantly looking for ways to ensure a healthy workforce.  We have to look outside the traditional benefit plan box to make this happen.  Wellness programs are a way of engaging the employees as well encouraging a more productive workplace.  The idea of wellness programs and level of importance are high with most employers, however putting together a plan of action and implementing such a program is a different story.

Traditional EAPs (employee assistance plans), are a good place to start for an employee wellness offering, but too many employers simply stop there.  Taking the wellness initiative to another level, employers have to better understand the overall health of their organization.

In general, employers have to better understand what is driving the health costs under the benefit plan.  What are the main therapeutic classifications for drug claims?  A clear understanding of these items would be a good starting point for the direction of the wellness program.  It will lead to a much more proactive approach to wellness.  For instance, high incidence of cardio vascular drug claims / issues, might lead to on-site nutrition/diet classes, or running or walking groups at lunch, etc.   Another way to better understand employee health is with on-line health risk assessment tools.  Having employees complete these assessments that are often available through the carrier website, is a very good way to assist with the direction the wellness program.

There should also be goals associated with the wellness program.   The employer should have goals in mind, perhaps such as, reducing overall benefit plan cost; increased productivity; better performance; better overall employee health, etc.  Measuring these outcomes is crucial to the viability of the wellness program.

Once the proper direction is determined, implementing a proactive, progressive wellness program should ensure overall better health for employees, and positive returns for the employer organization.

Mental Health

Is it still a problem…will Mental Health issues continue?

Why will mental health and job stress continue to be a problem on productivity, quality of work and higher disability costs?

Statistics show mental heath claims have overtaken cardiovascular disease as the fastest growing category of disability costs. Today, in Canada disability represents 4% to 12% of payroll costs (1.) and the World Health Organization predicts depression to be the number one form of disability by the year 2020.

How can you combat this trend? Create a Mental Health Strategy:

  1. Broaden the focus of mental health centres to your workplace
  2. Create public awareness campaign on the social and economic value of workplace mental health with your workforce
  3. Establish metrics to track incidence of employee disability due to mental illness. A strong Employee Assistance Program can assist you as an employer.

Paul Crossdale

(1.) Mental Health Commission of Canada

Retired? Wanting to Travel? Coverage is Available…

Times are a changing…Later Retirements means travel insurance coverage changes

For years we have seen for most insurance companies’ retirement age coverage to be until age 70 to 75 for travel insurance. With a new legislation approved back in December of 2006 we knew things might change? That date marked the end of mandatory retirement at age 65. More and more employees are staying on to work longer at their job, which has impacted how insurance companies provide additional benefit coverage for their clients to ensure they are protected.

Blue Cross is the first to come out with a Travel Benefit enhancement to their program. The change will mean an increase in travel benefit to the termination age of 85, or retirement, for their product called the Horizon Plan for groups of 5-50 employees. This will allow business owners and employees who choose to work beyond retirement age an opportunity to be covered in the event of an unforeseeable emergency outside the country when travelling.

This type of coverage includes; trip duration of 60 day limit, trip cancellation and baggage loss coverage, overall maximum of $2,000,000, out-of-country referrals with maximums of $500,000 per incident and 24/7 travel assistance services.

Travel insurance is one of the most important benefits you or your employees can have within your Group plan. When you need it, you’re glad it is there and your family can be covered anywhere in the world. Will other insurers follow soon with extended coverage? I guess we will have to wait and see.

PC

Engage your Employees with Employee Meetings

Communication with employees is very important with respect to all aspects of the business. This is also the case with the employee benefit plan. Consistent communication with employees about the benefit plan is a very effective way to make it viable and sustainable in the long run.

Conducting annual employee meetings (at least), surrounding the benefits in some way creates a more positive outlook on the plan. Whether it’s a review of the overall plan, the introduction of new carrier features (technology), or promoting corporate health and wellness, employees become engaged. This helps contribute to a group that is more committed to corporate goals surrounding the benefits.

The meetings don’t have to be straightforward presentations either. In fact, promoting health and wellness with contests, gets the employees engaged but also contributes to the overall good health of the organization. For instance, some carriers now have health risk assessment tools available to employees. Having a raffle or draw that includes the names of the employees that have completed the health risk assessment, not only improves moral within the company, but also promotes a healthier workplace. Healthy, engaged employees, increase productivity of the organization, and also contribute to containing health and disability claims. It is a win/win for the employees and your organization.

When looking at ways to ensure your benefit plan’s sustainability, plan design changes or reductions are not necessarily the only way to do so. Engaging your employees through annual meetings or events is a very positive and healthy way to help achieve the organization’s goals regarding the benefit plan.

Gen “Y” Employees are Looking for a way to De-Stress:

We all face stress in our lives whether we are Boomers, Gen X’ers, Gen Y’ers, etc. How we handle these high stress issues can be taxing on us and lead to further troubles in the future. High levels of stress can lead to depression, anxiety and chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure.

Recent studies indicate that Gen “Y” employees are being hit the hardest with stress.

What can we do to help assist Gen “Y” and all employees in their battle against stress through benefit design?

Provide an Employee Assistance Program like those offered by Ceridian for example. Their Life/Works Program not only provides traumatic services but also services for everyday issues such as parenting, eldercare, legal and real estate assistance, continuing education and day care to name a few.

Gen “Y” is looking for more flexibility in their benefit plans. Options like Health Care Spending Accounts and Cost plus are viable options which add some flexibility.

Adding other types of wellness programs are always attractive such as, discount gym memberships, continuing education, weight loss activities company wide, stop smoking, financial planning and on-site chiropractic or message care are good ideas.

Choose a carrier that fits your demographic group and has ALL of the technological advancements they want and need in benefits – great member portal, direct deposit, submitting claims online, viewing dental and health claims online, updating personal information on line (name, address, telephone number, email address and password), printing personalized cards for drugs and travel, and checking upcoming eligible coverage on-line. See if your carrier has mobile apps which enable employees to check their Smartphone for claims information and submit claims.

When it comes to our benefit plans and the Gen “Y’s” we need to get more creative with design.

Less stress leads to a happier employee who is more productive.

What Employers need to Know About Biologics… and Their Bottom Line Cost!


If you haven’t heard about Biologic drugs, you need to get your head out from under the sand. It’s terrifying when you look at high cost recurring drug claims, such as with biologics, and the subsequent increases in your plan costs down the road.  Here’s what you need to know…

What is a Biologic or Biosimilar?

A Biologic is a medicine made from living organisms or cells. A biosimilar is a copy of a biologic medicine that is similar, but not identical, to the original medicine. Although Health Canada uses the term “subsequent entry biologic”(SEB),  the term biosimilar is commonly used in Canada, Europe , the US, and around the world. Biotechnology-based medicines, or biologics, have greatly improved patient outcomes in many disease areas.

What type of disease do Biologics treat?

Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, rare blood disorders, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, HIV/AIDS can now be treated, where no effective therapies were previously available. Today there are over 200 biologics and vaccines on the market worldwide.

The importance to Employers:

Employers are facing some tough realities and tough decisions when it comes to benefit plans because of the rising costs of Biologic drugs in Canada. You have very expensive drugs which serve a small subset of employees within a plan.  It only takes one or two employees to have an impact in a smaller employer. For example, an employee at one of our organizations who was being treated for MS, changed medications, and the resulting change in cost….a $45,000 increase!  It is important that your claims experience is reviewed frequently, you know your Stop Loss Provision, and how recurrent claims are handled by your insurance provider.  We are here to help with solutions if Biologics become a problem with your company.

Paul Crossdale – January 2013

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