Tag Archives: Telus

More health benefit plan members want flexibility

By Sheryl Smolkin

The 2015 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey reveals that virtually all health plan members are positive about their current health plans but almost two-thirds of employees responding to the survey would like the opportunity to spend their benefit dollars on programs that are more tailored to the needs of their family. 

Ninety-four percent of plan members are positive when describing the overall quality of their health benefits, with 58% describing them as very good or excellent. This result has been consistent since the Sanofi survey first posed the question in 2006. 

Similarly, 93% of respondents believe their health benefit plan meets their needs and 56% of this group judge that it does so extremely or very well. Health benefits also continue to be an effective means to attract and retain employees, as 77% of respondents say they would not move to a job that did not include health benefits (rising to 80% in Manitoba/Saskatchewan and decreasing to 66% in Quebec). 

When asked which statement most closely describes their plan, 77% of plan members selected “a traditional plan that defines what is covered and the levels of coverage” and 23% selected “a ‘flex’ plan that allows them to choose levels of coverage.” When then asked which type of plan they prefer, 64% of members opted for the less-prevalent flex plan and 36% opted for the traditional plan. 

A separate survey of plan sponsors indicates that 32% offer flex plans. Larger employers (more than 500 employees) are more likely to do so at 50%, followed by mid-size (34%, 101–500 employees) and smaller employers (18%, up to 100 employees). 

Plan members, meanwhile, are consistent no matter the size of their organization. Approximately two-thirds said they prefer a flex plan over a traditional plan. 

“Plan members see great value in having a health benefit plan, but they also want to have a voice in decisions around what is covered. That’s a huge challenge for plan sponsors, but perhaps this is an opportunity and the time is right to make change,” says Susan Belmore-Vermes, director group benefits solutions, at Health Association Nova Scotia. “The question is, how do we as an industry create a strategy to redesign plans that are decades old for many of us?” 

Plan members’ high satisfaction levels can also contribute toward a sense of complacency in benefits management, warn members of the advisory board. As a result, change is generally a response to “burning platforms” rather than evolving needs. 

“Plan members are telling us there’s a desire for flexibility and personalization, and the timing is right because we’re seeing greater differences between the generations and we have this great ‘bulge’ of baby boomers in the workforce right now. The ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach of traditional plans doesn’t really suit this reality,” says Marilee Mark, vice-president, market development, at Sun Life Financial. 

As well, plan members’ changing needs do not necessarily point to added costs for the employer. “For example, there’s a growing interest in getting access to resources and education,” says Mark. 

Board members also point to a potential sleeping giant: chronic disease. “Chronic disease in the workplace is very prevalent and employers are not paying attention to it. We can’t wait for it to become a burning platform,” notes Carol Craig, director of human resources, benefits and pensions at TELUS. 

When plan members were presented with seven possible new benefit offerings, they said they would most likely use onsite screening with a healthcare professional to determine personal risks for chronic diseases (45%) followed by on-site immunization for infectious diseases (40%) and coverage for fitness/yoga classes (34%). 

Plan members also reported using paramedical services (i.e. massage therapy, physiotherapy, chiropractic services) an average of 7.3 times in the last year, the second highest rate of utilization after prescription medicine (9.5 times).

Jan 12: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

By now we have all taken the leap from the old year to the new, but during the transition, some of our favourite bloggers analyzed the year gone by and offered suggestions for the days and months ahead.

In 2014, Mark Seed at My Own Advisor made some financial predictions. In  2014 Financial Predictions Final Update he revisits these predictions as compared to how things actually played out. He forecasted that the Dow Jones Industrial Average would finish the year at 16,700 but in fact it rose to 17,823.07. He also suggested that the Canadian Dollar would end the year at $0.90 compared to the US Dollar but by December 31st it had dropped to $0.86. But he did correctly anticipate dividend increases from Fortis, Telus, Walmart and AT&T.

On Boomer and Echo, Robb Engen asks What Will It Take For You To Save More This Year? He suggests the 52-week money saving challenge that was all the rage in 2014. Save $1 in week one, $2 in week two, $3 in week three, and so on until you have about $1,400 saved by the end of the year. Or, increase the degree of difficulty and try to put away $10 in week one, $20 in week two, $30 in week three, and so on until you’ve saved nearly $14,000.

Adam on Modest Money offers 3 Reasons to Start Small with Online Investing. By starting small you can get comfortable with both your broker and the investment tools offered and also decrease your risk.

Retire Happy blogger Sarah Milton proposes boosting your financial fitness by creating a positive relationship with money, making good money management a habit and cutting yourself some slack.

And finally, as part of the Masters of Money series on Get Smarter about Money, Rob Carrick asks Dividend stocks for retirement income – can you handle it? A well-chosen portfolio of dividend stocks can reasonably be expected to give you a far more generous annual cost of living increase than even an indexed pension, while also delivering solid long-term capital gains. But the bottom line is that they are still equities and if the bottom falls out of the stock market it could take your investment portfolio with it.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Jul 8: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin


This week we have a mixed bag of articles and blogs that will help you save more and spend less.

First of all, if you shop online (and who doesn’t), check out RetailMeNot’s new, dedicated Canadian site. Coupon codes from well-known retailers like Aeropostale, Banana Republic, J.Crew, Lowe’s, Roots, Sears and Starbucks can save you a bundle.

In Press Zero: How to get great customer service without losing it , Squawkfox aka Kerry K. Taylor reports that it took her less than ten minutes to cancel her home phone. During this time she spoke with two Telus customer service guys, shared a few laughs, got offered a 40% discount, and hung up victorious without having to wait the required full 30 days to be free of her phone bill.

If you’re willing to plan ahead and step outside your usual routine, you can take that trip of a lifetime and still manage to hold onto a good portion of your money. Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil from The Planet D give valuable tips in Summer travel on a budget on brighterlife.ca.

Are you heading off to university for the first time this fall? Don’t forget hidden costs like moving expenses, apartment insurance, laundry costs and stocking the kitchen with basic staples you may take for granted at home. Also check out the book  More money for beer and textbooks.

And finally, on Len Penzo dot com, offbeat personal finance blogger Len Penzo explains why he runs his household like a business (and why you should too) including a humorous but practical organizational chart which splits responsibilities between himself (the CEO) and his wife (the CFO).

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere. Share the information with on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.