What’s the future of health benefits in Canada? A hybrid model of core coverage and personalized benefits is a likely scenario, speakers at an event in Toronto said on Wednesday.
“Our vision is really a hybrid model, where you have this traditional benefit program there to support your employee should something happen, something unpredictable that could have a big financial impact on their life, but combined with this broader view and their well-being,” said Julie Duchesne, a partner and leader of Mercer’s health business.
Duchesne made the comment as she and colleague Brian Lindenberg presented their insights at the Toronto instalment of Mercer’s second-annual series of events on the future of health care at the Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Last year’s event featured seven predictions for the future of health care by 2025. They included an estimated 130 per cent increase in health-care costs and the rise of personalized medicine like pharmacogenetics.
“It was an eight-year prediction window, so we’re year one into our predictions. We actually feel pretty good, generally speaking, about our predictions. We feel we’re kind of on track and as the future unfolds, it will unfold in a way that’s consistent with what we’ve predicted,” said Lindenberg.
One prediction that missed the mark, he noted, was around public health-care reform and pharmacare, which Lindenberg said in 2017 would never happen in Canada.
“Clearly, we might have missed a sign. But in our defence, a lot of people missed that same sign. Clearly there’s an increased enthusiasm for implementing the national pharmacare program,” said Lindenberg.
Speaking to the need for personalized benefits, Lindenberg referenced the issues of rising costs and the war for talent, both in terms of attracting and retaining employees.
“The game is clearly changing. In order to win that war for talent, we strongly believe you need to engage your workforce in a different way. You need to acknowledge the individual preferences of each of your employees and future employees. You need to leverage technology and what’s happening in terms of the vendor landscape to deliver a more personalized approach to your employees within the context of the age of the individual,” he said.
According to Duchesne, gathering data is key to developing a personalized approach and implementing targeted benefit programs. Targeted programs are essential to meeting the needs of multiple generations of workers and setting organizations apart, she said.
According to a global survey by Mercer conducted in 2016, 96 per cent of employers collected data but only 45 per cent used it in support of decision-making processes. Duchesne noted there are many different forms of data in the benefits field, including information about disability, use of wellness and employee assistance programs and demographics.
“The first opportunity we see is making sense of all that data through what we call data analytics. This is really important in order to better understand your workforce, your demographic and where you should invest in order to best control your costs over time,” said Duchesne.
According to Lindenberg, an important data set for plan sponsors and employers is around what employees want, need and feel they’re receiving. He noted a recent survey that suggested employees value health more than wealth or career progression.
“Close to 50 per cent of your employees would like to see you invest more in workplace wellness. That’s what they need. However, your employees are also skeptical. Thirty-seven per cent of your employees don’t expect you to invest a whole lot more within the next two years and only 19 per cent think you’re investing enough,” he said.
Noting the disconnect between what workers need and what employers are offering or able to deliver, Lindenberg said knowing where to invest in wellness goes back to data, understanding cost drivers and risk factors and then putting the information into the context of employee needs and wants.
“Once you know what the strategy is . . . you can figure out how to leverage some of those new vendors and that new technology in terms of making your workplace wellness strategy really sing,” he said.
As I continue my work with the non-profit organization that works with our start-up community I was thinking about the impact a strong mentor can have on the development of a relatively inexperienced entrepreneur. I never really reached out for the help of a mentor to later on in my career, that is on me. The value of a great mentor is quite simple they have gained valuable business and life experience during their careers that they can pass on to their students or lesser experienced entrepreneurs. They usually ask great questions to uncover what is going with you and your business. They can help you avoid mistakes they have made along the way, that can save you and your business financial and emotional pain. Mentors generally have developed substantial networks they might be willing to share with you, once they are convinced you are on the right path. So why would a successful business person go out of their way to help some stranger just starting up a new business without financial reward? In one word, “paying it forward”. In addition these are people of high moral character who appreciate the success they have experienced and want to share their knowledge and success with others. To all those mentors out there lending a helping hand, you make this a planet just a little better place to endure.
In a previous blog I talked about putting ego aside for the good of an organization. This time around I might be appear to be contradicting myself, but hear me out. Life in the scheme of the universe is but a blip and if you can’t have some enjoyment and fun in your work environment then what is the point? In life we all go through struggles with life partners, co-workers, customers, volunteers, board members and the list goes on. There are times when we achieve success and other times when fall flat on our face. The question one faces is that are your values constantly being undermined in the environment where you hang your hat. Do you find yourself compromising endlessly with your peers, partner, customers but not receiving any reciprocity? Are you feeling angry and isolated at most encounters with your cohorts because philosophically you are not pulling in the same direction? This is not an isolated incident it doesn’t mean you are flawed. People grow and evolve in different ways. They take different paths and directions and sometimes it is in everyones’ best interest at that juncture to part ways. If you dread being in the same room with some of your peers think long and hard at what the issues are that make it so difficult to deal with them. It is always better to try and resolve the issues at hand, but there are some instances where circumstances are such that things are beyond repair. In reality we are diverse and yes we can overcome many issues and hurdles, but sometimes we are not always the right fit for a certain business or partner, such is life.
Continuing with the theme of my recent blog leaving your ego out of it. I continue to deal with some individuals in my volunteer working life that for reasons that psychologists could explain seem to derive pleasure in making petty attacks on my character for decisions that I make of moving our organization forward. This has been going on for some time and as much as I have been trying to placate these people I can’t seem to please them. On balance like any volunteer organization there are just a few of us doing the heavy lifting and the remainder of the people show up to meetings and either make suggestions, criticize and if you requested might roll up their sleeves to help with a particular task. At issue are the participants that spend most of their time just critiquing and contributing little else. They say as you get older you mature and I am hoping that axiom holds true for me. My temptation has been to react and defend myself and tell my detractors where to go, but a tiny voice inside me has been telling me to take the high road and avoid the temptation to get into a confrontation. So far I have been listening to my inner-voice and remaining calm and reserved. Internally of course I have had some choice words to say to my negative colleagues. Something interesting has transpired the other day one of the people who has been responsible for some of the negative behaviour has seemingly started behave in a far more collegial way towards me, so perhaps taking the high road was the correct strategy and better course of action than hostility and negativity that we often follow when we are confronted.