Canadian benefit plan disconnect

by Nicolas Heffernan10 Apr 2015
When it comes to benefits it appears you can always get what you want, but you don’t get what you need.

New data is showing a grossly disproportionate amount of plan members are spending on benefits like glasses, shoes and chiropractic and massage services as opposed to dietitians or nutritionists.

"The plans and the spending habits of Canadian employees and their families are growing apart from the largest health challenges that face them. What employees and their dependents like and want versus what they may need must be balanced better for the future," said David Willows, Vice President, Strategic Market Solutions, Green Shield Canada.

"The industry and employers need to re-orient how we look at benefits plans given the reality of how they are being perceived and used."

A Green Shield study showed clients spent approximately $144-million on glasses, orthotic shoes, and chiropractic and massage services last year. Yet, only $100,000, or under 1 per cent of that amount was spent on dietitians and nutritionists.

Green Shield Canada isn’t advocating discontinuation of coverage for paramedicals, but suggests there is a risk that they are increasing at the expense of other critically important health strategies and treatments.

Case in point was the rapid increase of paramedical services at younger and younger ages, including chiropractic care for infants and massages for teenagers.

The highest expenditure of any service was for massage, which starts in the 20s age range and continues well through the 50s.

This trend is seen at a time when chronic disease such as hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes increasingly dominate employee populations and drive significant costs to the health care system.