Communication, economy affect appreciation of benefits: Survey

Wellness programs seem to be on the decline, according to 2010 sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey

Strong communication and an uncertain economy leads to a greater appreciation of benefits plans, according to the latest sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey.

A majority of Canadian employees (59 per cent) that benefit from a health benefit plan think highly of their plan's quality, according to the survey of 1,508 plan members. Among employees who feel their employers do a very good job communicating health benefits, 48 per cent believe the quality of the plan is excellent and 42 per cent believe it is very good.

The current economic uncertainty has deepened this appreciation of quality with 77 per cent of respondents agreeing that the existing economic environment has increased the value they place on their health benefit plan.

"The survey showed us that having a health benefit plan encourages Canadian employees to stay with their current employers," Jacques L'Espérance, survey advisory board member. "Employees also think more positively of their employer because of their health benefit plan."

Coverage for prescription drugs continues to be the most common benefit enjoyed by more than nine in ten (94 per cent) of employees and a significant 90 per cent of all employees agree that it is very important for their health benefit plan to cover vaccinations.

The study survey also reveals that nine per cent of respondents said they may not fill a needed prescription if it's not covered by their benefit plan. Among those from households with incomes below $30,000, this figure jumps to 23 per cent.

In addition to unnecessary effects on employee health, these decisions could cost employers in higher rates of absence, disability, and health-related distraction that affects injury rates and productivity.

The survey showed that about one-quarter of plan members do not know about cost differences between pharmacies. Clearly this indicates a need for more education and information provided to employees in order to make them better consumers. Plan sponsors, insurers, or advisors could survey pharmacies and promote those with lower fees or that offer special services in employee communication.

Work blamed most for stress issues

Close to two-thirds (63 per cent) of plan members say they have suffered from stress, fatigue or insomnia more often over the past year. Almost half (45 per cent) of them reported work-related issues as the biggest cause, followed by personal issues (22 per cent), financial issues (20 per cent), and medical issues (19 per cent). One in three (33 per cent) for insomnia, but this figure nearly doubles to 63 per cent for those in poor or very poor health, and is also much higher (at 50 per cent) for those with household incomes below $30,000.

When asked how their employers specifically help manage workplace health issues, 17 per cent of employees don't know, and less than 10 per cent say that they can count on their management for flexibility, availability and support.

Workplace wellness programs appear to be on the decline and just 29 per cent of plan members have access to wellness programs through work. With the potential for return-on-investment to be so high, employers should build wellness programs on a foundation of employee engagement, said L'Espérance

"When respondents were asked why they don't participate in workplace wellness, the number one answer was time. They don't have time to do their jobs, let alone attend an educational seminar or go to the fitness centre," he said.

"Employers offer wellness programs on the one hand, but take them away on the other due to lack of time. This needs addressing if we hope to improve both enthusiasm for and the relevance of workplace health programs."

Latest stories