Employees looking to employers for help with public-private health care

Less than one-half receive adequate support: Survey

More than one-half of Canadian employees (55 per cent) struggle with chronic illness or injury and subsequently place a greater burden on the health-care system. As this issue becomes prevalent, they look to their employers for assistance in navigating the bureaucratic maze between the private and public health-care systems. And nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of employees who have yet to experience the system expect their plan sponsor to provide a high level of support, according to the Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey.

Regionally, two-thirds (66 per cent) of Atlantic Canadians share this view, followed by those in Manitoba/Saskatchewan and Quebec (63 per cent each). Fewer Ontarians and Albertans (60 per cent) hold a similar stance, with British Columbians (54 per cent) the least likely to expect this high level of assistance.

By contrast, less than one-half (47 per cent) of respondents who have had to navigate between the public and private systems received good assistance from their employer, with Albertans receiving support in only one-third (33 per cent) of the cases.

"There's a wide grey area in terms of what is being covered by the various health-care providers, and employees are not so sure where to turn for guidance," said John McGrath at Great-West Life Assurance Company and one of the survey's advisory board members. "These findings should act as a wakeup call for a better collaboration between stakeholders, as a significant portion of plan members who are affected by chronic illness or injury could be losing time and productivity because they don't know where to turn for services and coverage."

Both plan members (81 per cent) and employers (90 per cent) acknowledged the importance of workplace-based health promotion programs to maintain the sustainability of the public health-care system over the long-term, found the survey of 1,502 primary holders of group health benefit plans.

Three-quarters (74 per cent) of employees indicated they would like their workplaces to allow public health programs such as flu shot clinics, disease screenings or health-risk assessments to be available on-site during work hours. As well, 88 per cent said that if there were on-site screening for a condition they were personally concerned with, they would be likely to participate.

"In the past, there was reluctance among plan members to have their employer too involved in their health," said Marilee Mark at Sun Life Financial and an advisory board member. "However, this stance is changing as employees demonstrate greater openness and even an expectation for plan sponsors to be more involved in providing health services beyond the traditional benefits. Fortunately, this point of view is also shared by employers, given the supporting conditions provided."

Plan sponsors are increasingly open to public and disease prevention programs at the workplace, found Sanofi. Nine in 10 (91 per cent) said they would implement immunization clinics if supported by tax incentives, while a similar number would offer workplace-based health-risk screening (87 per cent) and chronic disease prevention programs (88 per cent) pending increased government or public health support.

And more than one-half (52 per cent) of plan sponsors formally track absenteeism, a 14-point increase from the previous year. Additionally, seven in 10 plan work with their insurance carrier or benefits consultant to analyze the drivers of absenteeism at their companies, though 44 per cent do not act upon the information.

Latest stories