May 17th, 2004:
Canadian Employees Would Choose Their
Health Benefit Plan Over Cash
May 17, 2004
Survey points to high
expectations but declining satisfaction with the health benefit plan
Laval, Quebec Canadian employees value their health
benefit plan so much they wouldn’t trade it for cash, according to a national
public opinion survey released today. In fact, on average, 72 per cent of those
polled would choose their plan over annual payments of up to $8,000.1 At the
same time, however, plan members are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with
their health benefits, pointing to the need to find ways not only to keep
employees satisfied, but also healthy and productive in the long term.
For the 2004 edition of The Aventis Healthcare Survey,
Ipsos-Reid polled 1,503 Canadians who are members of employee benefit plans,
seeking to understand the value they place on their health benefits and the
services they receive from the public healthcare system. This is the seventh
annual edition of the survey.
Satisfaction with benefit
While Canadians place significant value on their health benefit plan, there has
been a steady deterioration since 1999 in the degree to which these plans meet
the evolving needs of Canadians. In fact, only 58 per cent of respondents today
say their plan meets their needs “extremely well” or “very well” – down from a
high of 73 per cent in 1999.
The findings point to an important link between
satisfaction with the health benefit plan and overall job satisfaction. Among
plan members who say they are satisfied in their job, 59 per cent say their plan
meets their needs. Of those who are unsatisfied in their job, only 34 per cent
say their plan meets their needs.
The survey also reveals what benefit plan members value
most in their plan. It found that all aspects of the health benefit plan are
important. For example, 86 per cent of respondents say life insurance is
important; 94 per cent say the same about short- and long-term disability; and,
almost all respondents – 98 per cent – say their drug plan is important to them.
So important is drug coverage to respondents that
restricting access to medications is not an acceptable option for them. In fact,
87 per cent of plan members surveyed agree their health benefit plan should
cover any prescription drug their doctor prescribes, regardless of the cost. And
close to nine in 10 (87 per cent) say Canadians should have access to new
medications as quickly as citizens in the U.S. The survey also found that 72 per
cent of plan members do not agree with the idea of reducing health benefits as a
result of increasing plan costs.
Canadian employees willing
to pay more for health benefits
Employees say they
are willing to pay more to ensure coverage is not diminished. In fact, 50 per
cent of survey respondents would pay higher premiums to maintain their coverage
if plan costs increased and their employer was either unable or unwilling to
pay. A further 31 per cent are willing to pay a higher portion of the cost when
they actually use medical services.
The survey results clearly tell us that Canadians
appreciate the peace of mind their health benefit plan provides,” says
Jean-François Leprince, President of Aventis Pharma Inc. “Employees view their
health as very important and need to know they’re covered should a catastrophic,
potentially expensive, illness strike.”
Access to care elusive for
are high when it comes to health benefit plans, Canadian employees also expect a
great deal when it comes to accessing the healthcare system. The survey found
that 85 per cent of respondents believe they are entitled to the best possible
healthcare, regardless of what it might cost the government.
Access to healthcare, however, such as the services of
family physicians and timely diagnostic tests, still remains elusive for many.
In fact, 53 per cent of respondents say they have difficulty accessing the
services available under their provincial healthcare system. This is
particularly evident in Saskatchewan/Manitoba, where 62 per cent of plan members
say they have difficulty accessing services, and in Atlantic Canada and Quebec,
where 60 per cent and 59 per cent respectively say they have difficulty. The
situation is only slightly better in Alberta, where 46 per cent say they have
difficulty, and in Ontario and British Columbia, where 49 per cent and 51 per
cent respectively say the same.
According to Leprince, limited access to care in many
provinces can have a great impact on quality of life and long-term health,
leading to more costs to the system down the road. “People recognize that their
health is the most precious thing they have. As a result, Canadians may be
feeling that their health benefit plan should serve as the safety net when the
public healthcare system proves inadequate.
“As employers, plan sponsors and healthcare partners, we
must begin to think about health benefit plans in a different way,” he explains.
“We need to consider the cost of providing comprehensive health benefit plans in
the context of the longer-term value of healthier employees who stay on the job
and off short- and long-term disability.”
Dealing with workplace
The Aventis Healthcare Survey reveals that plan members are receptive to
innovative workplace wellness programs that will put them back on track to a
healthier lifestyle. In fact, the survey points to the workplace as an
underutilized forum for health promotion, and disease detection and prevention
programs that would lead to better health and potentially greater job
satisfaction. For example:
81 per cent of
respondents would likely participate in a disease detection program for
diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis;
78 per cent of
respondents would likely use a gym membership or an on-site facility;
73 per cent of
respondents would likely participate in an on-site vaccination program;
56 per cent of
respondents would likely participate in a weight-loss program.
“The value plan members see in these types of programs suggests a level of
interest that employers could draw on to develop initiatives, in partnership
with other service providers, that will lead to a healthy and productive
workforce,” says Leprince. “In the end, being a healthy and productive member of
society is really a goal that is shared by all.”
Ipsos-Reid conducted The Aventis Healthcare Survey with a
random national sample of 1,503 primary group insurance plan members who had a
medical benefit portion in their employee plan. One can say with 95 per cent
certainty that the results are within +/- 2.5 percentage points of what they
would have been had the entire population of Canadian group insurance plan
members been polled
Written By: Ipsos-Reid
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