Must-Haves For a Winning Employee Benefits Plan
July 20, 2023
As a Business Owner, you know better than anyone that the success of an organization relies on the well-being of its people. And when employees are healthy—when they feel supported by workforce leaders—businesses are resilient in the face of an uncertain future.
It’s well-established that group benefits help workers protect their physical, mental, and financial wellness. And in doing so, they simultaneously boost employee engagement, morale, and retention.
But how do you find a solution that balances the needs of your staff with the needs of your business—and your budget? How do you pick the “right” plan? And the right provider? And most importantly, how will you sustain your plan in the long run? To help you secure the right program for your company, we’ve put together a list of the top things you should look for when it comes to group benefits.
When it comes to benefits, we know cost is top of mind, but don’t fall into the trap of picking the lowest rate when launching a plan. Here’s why:
- You Get What You Pay For: Some plans are priced low simply because they lack the key coverage components that make up a strong benefits program, including good client service, fast claims-handling, and administrative support. Additionally, your plan might not be adjustable or flexible enough to fit your needs over time.
- Steep Increases: Some insurance companies or group benefits administrators lock in new clients by drastically reducing their initial rate on group plans for the first year, and then hiking them back up at renewal time, leading to a significant premium increase. Will your company be able to sustain the rollercoaster ride of these costs year-over-year?
Remember, group benefits should add value to your organization, not burden it with poor coverage, bad service, and sharp premium hikes. And if you can’t afford the annual rate increases or if your program no longer serves your needs, you’ll have to begin the painstaking process of selecting a new insurer and setting up a new plan—a cumbersome and time-consuming task you probably don’t have time for.
Honesty is the best policy. Rather than focusing on cost, look for an insurance carrier that communicates clearly and openly about their policies, coverage options, and terms. Do your due diligence and research their financial strength and reputation. That way, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting and you won’t be in for any unpleasant surprises when you actually need to use your coverage.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re shopping around:
- Beyond a low price, does this insurer offer any additional benefits or resources?
- How stable are premiums? What happens at renewal time? How will rates increase every year?
- Does this plan fit my business’s needs and strategic objectives? Is it sustainable?
- Can I change plan elements in the future? Will these changes lead to savings or other potential benefits?
Today’s workforce is more diverse than ever—and a diverse workforce requires diverse benefits. But traditional group insurance often falls short for SMBs who typically employ workers from a variety of backgrounds, age groups, and career paths. And while most Canadians still consider benefits a key differentiator when comparing career options, only 40% of workers are satisfied with the level of health and wellness support currently provided by employers, especially with rising healthcare costs.
Besides health and dental, employees also want to see valuable add-ons:
- Vision: Optical benefits is a high priority for about half the population, but eye care isn’t always covered by Canada’s public healthcare system. And while some employer plans cover regular checkups and diagnostic services, most don’t usually include the cost of glasses, contact lenses, or eye procedures.
- Paramedical Services: Now more than ever, people are seeing the benefits of alternative care and preventative medicine to manage stress, treat discomfort or pain, and maintain their health. That could include massage therapy, physiotherapy, chiropractic care, podiatry, acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy, and more.
- Lifestyle Benefits: Lifestyle benefits are designed to help make workers’ lives easier by going above and beyond your standard health insurance package. Common offerings include: financial wellness benefits, subsidized gym memberships, emergency savings accounts, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), and more.
RELATED: How “free” is Canadian healthcare?
The last few years have stressed the importance of flexibility, health, and wellness like nothing else. In order to stay competitive, consider what your employees need and tailor your offerings accordingly to support them. Look into enhanced benefits that go beyond traditional plans, like a Healthcare Spending Account (HSA) or Wellness Spending Account (WSA) as an alternative or in addition to your usual benefits.
An HSA or WSA works like a bank account; each employee receives a set amount per year to spend on a wide-range of eligible health and dental expenses. The scope of coverage is far broader than a regular benefit plan and offers a lot more:
- Value: Workers are free to leverage their funds in whatever way best suits their needs. Some plans even offer workers the opportunity to recoup or carry over unspent funds into the next year’s plan or even combine with a traditional employer-sponsored group benefits plan.
- Choice: HSAs and WSAs usually include a variety of healthcare expenses that aren’t covered under provincial or standard employer plans, such as vision, paramedical services, orthodontics, medically required home renovations, mental health services, fitness classes, nutritional counselling, and more.
- Premium Stability: HSAs and WSAs help plan costs stay at a fixed level that you can afford. Since employees can only claim up to a predetermined limit, plans aren’t subject to inflation or steep renewal increases every year.
HSAs are a practical, cost-effective, and convenient way to meet both employee and employer needs and promote a healthier lifestyle. And over time, centering wellness will save you time and money by preventing illness and injury, increasing productivity, and reducing absenteeism.
In addition to an HSA or WSA, your company could partner with a third-party organization that offers a variety of virtual corporate wellness services free of charge to employees, such as fitness classes and sessions on exercise, nutrition, mental health, home workplace ergonomics, mindfulness, breathing and meditation work, and more. This way, employees can sample different company-sponsored, wellness supports before deciding how they want to allocate their spending dollars.
In general, Business Owners tend to wear a lot of hats, especially in SMBs where people, funds, and resources are scarce. There’s plenty to do, but not a lot of time to do it all—and that includes benefits management. Between setting employees up, educating them about plan features, and monitoring the program throughout the year, benefits plans require a lot of upkeep.
When choosing your provider, be sure to ask about any extra or complementary services, systems, or online platforms that assist with day-to-day functions. In addition to benefits plans, some providers also offer Third-Party Administration (TPA) Services to help you take on a variety of benefits-related tasks. That includes anything from enrolling employees, to processing plan changes, responding to inquiries or complaints, billing and invoicing, handling claims, and more.
Even if you have to pay a small fee, it’ll be worth it to lessen your workload, alleviate operational stress, and reduce the burden on your HR and leadership teams. Plus, outsourcing benefits management will also allow you to reduce overhead costs, allocate resources more effectively, and free up time and money on HR support. That way, you can focus on doing what you do best—growing your business.
How can we help you?
The truth is: the “right” plan is different for every business. After all, health isn’t one-size-fits-all and neither is health insurance. That’s why it’s critical to work with a licensed broker that understands the unique risks you face, regardless of your company’s size, workforce, or trade.
We can help you. PROLINK offers fully customizable Group Benefits plans at competitive rates and can align you with a comprehensive program that reflects your staff’s needs, business challenges, and financial goals. With over 40 years of experience and access to over 30 insurance companies, we’re experts in plan design and management. Our dedicated team will:
- Review your current plan against industry benchmarks to uncover gaps and determine actual employee use;
- Recommend cost containment strategies, plan alternatives, and enhancements to avoid sudden premium increases;
- Secure an insurance provider that offers flexibility in healthcare choices and gives employees more value from their benefits;
- Continuously monitor your plan so that it evolves to meet your needs long-term while keeping costs predictable; and
- Streamline processes and simplify plan management with specialized Third-Party Administration Services.
To learn more, connect with PROLINK today!
PROLINK’s blog posts are general in nature. They do not take into account your personal objectives or financial situation and are not a substitute for professional advice. The specific terms of your policy will always apply. We bear no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or timeliness of any external content.