2014 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey: Role of Providers: What’s missing?

In the November edition of Spotlight on Benefits, we focused on the importance of integrating health and wellness into your business strategy and the need to find sustainable solutions for unmanaged chronic disease—the biggest cost driver for plan sponsors. 

While plan sponsors play a key role in this search for sustainable solutions, they cannot do it alone; as such, they rely on their insurance providers for support. Yet plan sponsors have mixed opinions on their provider’s performance to date. Although they are ranked highest in terms of support for wellness programs in the workplace (as compared to healthcare providers and government), 79% of plan sponsors surveyed believe their insurance providers should play a bigger role. 

Since most providers are already active in support of wellness, often through health education materials and online tools for plan members, it would appear that plan sponsors are either unaware of their providers’ offerings, or they’re looking for something different. This finding suggests the need for improved communication between providers and their clients. 

Most employers have components of wellness in their plans and work environments, which providers should capitalize on and make connections with other available resources. Providers need to offer tactical guidance such as a checklist of where to start, how to pull things together and how to market the programs to employees. In addition, consultants need to be more proactive in making their clients aware of what wellness services are available—beyond what insurance providers can offer. In fact, we should be simplifying the strategic process so that plan sponsors are not getting bogged down by too much information and possible bias.

It is clear that plan sponsors need help from the industry in workplace wellness:  they want to know how they can reduce their benefits’ costs by putting in proper wellness. They also need a better understanding of how a wellness program can be integrated with their group insurance health benefit plan. In response to this, consultants could do a better job of sharing data analytics to help identify the needs of the employee group in order to help employers set up the right wellness program. The consultant is in a key position to lead this.

With this information, plan sponsors can consider expanding benefit offerings in a way that is best suited for their organization. The key to success is moving past the typical conversations around cost containment; plan sponsors want to improve employee health, but when they ask their consultants, the consistent message is always about money. 

If we always start with managing costs, we never get to manage health —the two must be considered in tandem. There is no instant solution when we approach benefits and wellness; this is a tremendous opportunity but we need to manage expectations. The integration of benefits and wellness requires both insurance providers and consultants to reconsider their priorities but also requires a commitment from the plan sponsor—once the internal commitment is in place, you can better understand your benefits data  and use that to guide your wellness program.