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What you’re getting – and what you’re not – with your group benefits plan

thumbnailQuick! When you think group health options what comes to mind? Physios, chiros and dentists, maybe? But wait – there’s more.

Today’s group benefit plans cover a multitude of products and services that allow employers to help keep their employees happy and healthy. And let’s face it, a happier, healthier workforce is beneficial to everyone.

When was the last time you looked at what your plan covers? Have there been new products that you’re unaware of? Following is a look at the basics and some of the lesser known options available today.

Basic group benefit options

Essentially, all plans from the various providers cover standard paramedical services – chiropractor, physiotherapy, massage therapy and prescription coverage and, more recently, acupuncture and naturopath – as well as minor and major dental work. Life insurance, travel insurance and long-term disability are also part of your standard program.

As an insurance broker, I have no problem with these plans, but I do like to make my clients aware of the extras that may be tacked onto these programs that don’t offer value for money. While the booklets sent out by the various providers may seem pretty impressive, you should ask yourself, do all my employees and I want to contribute to a plan that includes glasses and wigs when only one or two of us will actually utilize them? Or perhaps you already have your own personal life insurance and critical illness coverage? Maybe a different plan in conjunction with a Health Spending Account might be better option.

Lesser known and not-so-basic employee benefits

A game-changer in recent years are Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that focus on mental health through counselling, wellness workshops, professional consultation and trauma services. Some of them are extremely effective, while others are more of a cash grab.

The last 18 months have also seen the emergence of Lifestyle Spending Accounts (LSA) as a form of group benefit. With LSAs, anything that is a “lifestyle expense” can be paid for by the business. The employee is still taxed on it, as a cash bonus would be, but it gives employers control over where that “cash bonus” is going. Many companies use LSAs as a form of incentive or profit sharing with the stipulation that it has to be spent on something health related (i.e., a new stroller or veterinary bills rather than, say, scratch & wins and Lucky Lager).

You can even get Identity Theft Coverage with some of the plans. If you have enough money, someone somewhere can make a plan that will get you what you want. Unfortunately some of them will do it whether you need it or not.

The take away

When it comes to group benefit plans, over the years there have been lots of changes – some good, some bad. We’ve seen them become less flexible and, frankly, a lot more expensive. That being said, there are way more options available to employees. The best way to find out what all those options are, what you and your employees need and whether you are getting the best value out of it is to talk with an insurance broker.

At ADI Benefits we will work with you to wade through the options and find out what is relevant for you and your employees. Unlike most other brokers, we work with numerous providers and we also offer Health Spending Account options. Ask us about group plans today!