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Spearhead healthier lifestyles without disruptive policy changes

By Michael Serbinis


Employee benefits are costly – typically the second largest expense for employers – and the trend will continue as healthcare costs continue to skyrocket.

Premiums for employer-provided health insurance rose five per cent for family plans and three per cent for single premiums over the last year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75 per cent of healthcare costs derive from preventable chronic conditions, yet only three per cent is spent on prevention.

While expanding preventative healthcare to be more accessible and flexible will reduce healthcare costs over time, organizations must play a key role in helping their employees remain healthy now. People are an organization’s primary competitive advantage. Therefore, it’s imperative for HR leaders to implement a culture of wellness and prevention.


Prioritize health and wellness

The future of health will be driven by small, habit-sized lifestyle changes – improving diets, exercising more and getting regular check-ups. This mentality can be applied in the workplace as well; health and wellness programs are no longer just extracurricular, out-of-office activities. Employers can be influential in spearheading a healthier lifestyle without making disruptive policy changes.

For instance, employers can implement simple and repeatable programs such as onsite flu shots, nutrition consultations and group fitness classes. The connection between mental and physical health cannot be ignored: People with serious mental health conditions have a higher risk of experiencing chronic physical conditions and vice versa. While this may seem like a daunting topic to address, mental health improvements can be made in small increments too. This can include allocating mental health days, offering counselling, financial education or even something as simple as having meditation rooms and encouraging breaks throughout the day to unwind can enhance an employee’s mental state.


Accelerate prevention with personalized offerings

Effective prevention requires personalization. No two people are alike and as the workforce continues to diversify, there is a need to disrupt the archaic, traditional benefits model to meet their unique needs. Per The Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey 2016, “one-size fits none” plans will satisfy less than 20 per cent by 2025.

Benefit packages that give employees greater flexibility enable them to prioritize the preventative care that is most meaningful to them. Health Spending Accounts (HSAs) are non-taxable offerings that provide employee reimbursements for eligible health expenses not covered by provincial health insurance plans. They can cover a wide range of benefits from custom-fit orthotics to in vitro fertility treatments. The number of HSA accounts will climb from around 21 million in 2017 to more than 34 million in 2020, proving the demand for more personalized benefits.

Lifestyle Spending Accounts (LSAs) are another popular offering enabling employees to take a more personalized approach to their proactive health. Unlike HSAs, LSAs cover lifestyle and wellness expenses such as gym memberships, nutritionist, child care, art therapy, yoga classes and more. Employers allocate a yearly sum and employees can spend funds within lifestyle and wellness parameters set by the employer. These funds empower employees to engage with their benefits and live a healthier life.


Harness the power of technology

According to Cognizant’s Digital Mandate for Health Plans Report, 84 per cent of people prefer to interact digitally with their insurance provider. Therefore, we can expect HR leaders and benefits managers to embrace technology to provide more personalized offerings and use data to more desirable benefit plans.

Thanks to technology, access to care has never been more immediate. Through a user-friendly interface, employees have instant access to a plethora of services, eliminating the hassle of seeking out the care needed. For example, many employers offer virtual telehealth services that use digital connectivity to personalize health and wellness services. Others may offer concierge services that can deliver personalized healthcare at one’s fingertips. Depending on the service, members can chat with a registered nurse in seconds and ask any question through a seamless chat functionality within their health benefits platform for more personalized and engaging care.

Digital tools can also be useful in encouraging employees to live a healthier life. Employers can provide offerings to help their employees track and measure against their goals as well as incentivize employees by providing a prize if they hit a certain milestone. Digital food logs, sleep trackers, etc., can help employees be more proactive when it comes to their health.
The future of health will be led by prevention. It’s about providing digital, personalized and on-demand service that empower employees to be healthy every day.


Michael Serbinis is the CEO and founder of League. Attend his presentation, “The Future of Health Insurance is About Health, Not Insurance,” on Jan. 30 at 3 p.m.

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