How many people do you know who don't think they have to pay out of pocket for hearing aids or home care hospital stays? Perhaps more than you can imagine as
according to a 2014 Canadian Health Index, 89% of Canadians believe they are fully covered for all costs associated with hospital stays and psychiatric treatment.
In addition, 4 out of 5 Canadians don't expect to pay out of pocket for nursing home/long-term care resident, hearing aids, and home care. Confusion exists because there is complementary coverage provided by both government and employer health plans, yet some common necessary medical services are not fully covered.
To help address the confusion, a series of healthcare guides organized by province and address coverage options and personal costs were developed. These guides include information pertaining to Disability, Home Care, Long Term Care, Palliative Care, Prescription Drugs, and Travel Emergency Medical.
A 2014 study prepared by Fraser Institute found that because Canadians may not be billed directly for medical services, they do pay for some of it via Canada's tax system. This scenario also creates a dampened awareness and appreciation for the true costs born by Canadians because there is no dedicated health insurance tax.
The Fraser report revealed that in 2014, a typical Canadian family with two parents and two children paid to $11,786 for public health care in insurance. The cost related directly to the size of the family. The report also showed that in the last decade, public health care insurance for the average Canadian family has increased 53% and 1.5 times faster than average income (34.7%) and more than three times as fast as the cost of food (15.6%).
The more employers have a sense for what employees believe about government sponsored benefits coverage, the more they can do to help educate them and build a stronger appreciation for employer-funded benefits coverage and the need for savings in light of many of the perhaps unexpected out of pocket public health care costs.
Communication strategies are an integral part of benefits and savings awareness campaigns. In many cases, it is the ability to surface misunderstandings about coverage and costs that pack a significant punch and provide the motivation to change employee behaviour. There are many reports such as the Sun Life Health Index and the Fraser Institute Study that we review, summarize, and bring to our clients attention. For additional information or support for your benefits communication campaign, we invite you to contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Cyberattacks seems to happen with greater frequency as employers become more reliant on the use of technology and the Internet.
What are cyberattacks?
They generally fall into three specific categories including an unwanted infiltration of a secure computer network, Distributed Denial of Service Attacks (DDOS) and planting of inaccurate information.
You may be more familiar with the first type, which is the infiltration of a company's computer system with viruses and malware. This infiltration is a growing concern for employers both north and south of the border. The need to protect confidential and proprietary information has never been more important in a tech-savvy world where hackers dream up new ways to extract company secrets with seemingly endless ideas and energy.
For plan sponsors and service providers who collect highly confidential information about their plan members, their awareness of cyberattacks and their growing concern continues to mount. We read about cyberattacks from headlines like the 2013 Target announcement revealing that sensitive data from approximately 70 million individuals had been compromised. In 2014, AOL, Microsoft and eBay were no strangers to cyberattacks either.
Ethical hackers -- those who have turned protector of a company's sensitive data -- say that there are two type of employers: those who know they have been hacked and those who don't. What can be done to prevent it from happening to you?
Here are some tips employers can share with employees to help prevent internet-wide vulnerability:
1) The password. Make certain you have a strong and unique one that is difficult to guess. One suggestion would be to create a random sentence and take the first letter of each word in that sentence to create an acronym. Also, don't use the same password for multiple services. I know it is easier to remember only one password, but it is not as secure. Once a hacker has your password, he suddenly has all of them.
2) Enable 2-factor authentication. Google has recently implemented this approach to help you when logging into your account. This involves entering a code sent to your smartphone to confirm your identity. It may seem like a bit of a nuisance, but it does provide that extra security measure.
3) Apply software updates when prompted and read the fine print before installing apps. Don't ignore these prompts by Apple, Google and Microsoft as they often contain security bug fixes and patches. Be aware of the type of information you approve, including the apps publisher, for an app that wants to access your contacts, location, and phone's camera.
4) Hard drives and thumb drives - watch what you insert into your computer or laptop. This is an area where many employers have clamped down. Inserting a random USB stick could be dangerous. Know your source before you plug it in and avoid putting your computer and the company at risk.
5) Avoid sending personal data via email. Critical plan member info as well as credit card information, bank account info, and Social Insurance Numbers should never be sent via email. Also, avoid logging into important accounts on public computers. If you must do so, wipe the browser's history when you're done.
6) Phishing scams. Pay attention to emails or websites that are designed to appear normal but demand that you provide personal information. These are generally easy to spot in that they often have spelling errors and poor grammar. Many companies have filters in place, but from time to time, these phishing scams will seep through a company's firewall.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to cyberattacks, particularly in the world of employee benefits and pensions where so much sensitive data is shared with service providers. We understand the need for heightened awareness and precautionary measures in this area and believe in the implementation of critical cyber-safety measures. We invite you to contact us to discuss this as well as any of your benefits and pension plan needs. We're here to help so you can focus on what you do best.
It is finally here. The Liberal government decided to flex its majority muscle to give final reading and help pass legislation to create the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP).
As I've written about in past blogs, (ORPP Plan Overview, ORPP Recommendations, The Ongoing ORPP debate,) there has been much controversy about the topic from various interested parties including The Ontario Chamber of Commerce, CLHIA, CUPE, and the Progressive Conservatives who call the ORPP a job-killing payroll tax.
Many believe that making changes to the Canada Pension Plan is a more viable method of helping Canadians through their retirement years, but Ontario doesn't seem to want to wait any longer to consider this approach. The imperative rests with the concern that lower standards of living could put additional strain on the Canadian economy.
In a paper released through the government, Associate Finance Minister Mitzie Hunter states the key reasons for the ORPP include the comment that approximately 75% of Ontario workers don't have a workplace pension and that they are not saving enough to ensure a sustainable standard of living in retirement. The Ontario government's goal is to help Ontarians replace up to 70% of their pre-retirement income via the ORPP because stats show that currently there is approximately $789 billion in unused Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) room in Canada of which $302 billion was in Ontario.
What lies ahead for workers in Ontario? The passing of the ORPP bill means that a mandatory 1.9% contribution from employers and workers (up to $90,000 in earning) will commence in 2017. The process will start with larger companies and then migrate to smaller enterprises. Similar to CPP, contributions will be locked-in and Ontarians will not be able to cash out before retirement.
Whether you're in favour of the decision or not, the impact to plan sponsors remains unclear. They will need additional support in order to determine the best approach to ensuring employees have the information they need to make optimal savings decisions.
The intent is to help workers (including the self-employed) who currently don't have a plan through their workplace. The ORPP was designed with smaller employers in mind and to make the process easier administratively as well as from a cost perspective. Inspired by the CPP, it is a mandatory, inflation protected, universal, defined-benefit pension plan.
Here are two examples to help you understand how ORPP will work:
There is much yet to address regarding the impact to employers, the self employed, and Ontario workers. My team and I are staying on top of legislative changes and the potential implications for our clients. We invite you to contact us to discuss any questions you may have. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Employees frequently self report that they are stressed from excessive multi-tasking and poor work/life balance. Studies and reports consistently conclude that sickness related to stress is growing and according to a Benefits Canada article, between 1994 and 2005, Canadian employers saw a rise in arterial hypertension by 77 percent with hypertension rates among people aged 35-49 rising 127 percent.
A report by Wellergize states that 60 percent of employees spend their entire workday seated and 56 percent of employees are considered physically inactive. Sitting has become the new smoking disease. The human body was not designed to sit all day long yet most of us find ourselves in this predicament. What is the answer? Increasingly more employers are turning their attention to the benefits of wellness programs.
Wellness programs are known to help control employer healthcare costs, improve workforce health, reduce absenteeism, and increase employee morale. Typical wellness programs generally fall into two categories: activity only and outcome-based. Wellness programs include -- flu shoots and vaccines, employee assistance programs, gym membership discounts or onsite fitness facilities, smoking cessation programs, web-based resources for healthy living, and weight loss programs.
The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans just released their 2015 Workplace Wellness Trends and the findings pertain to answers provided by 479 members with 22 percent representing Canadian employers. Flu shoots ranked first as 71 percent of employers say they offer it to employees. Smoking cessation programs followed at 56 percent. Health risk assessments were provided by 51 percent of respondents and health screenings followed close behind at 50 percent.
Of the various wellness programs and initiatives, the International Foundation survey reported that the highest average worker participation rate includes health screenings at 47 percent average participation rate, full shot programs at 46 percent, and health fairs with 41 percent.
A survey conducted by Healthcare Trends Institute reported that companies work to promote healthy outcomes in various ways. Of those surveyed, 61 percent offer at least one wellness program, 43 percent offer some form of online health assessment, 35 percent provide incentives for health-related tasks, 28 percent offer biometric screening and 26.9 percent offer nothing at this time.
Employees are paying more attention to tracking a variety of measures related to their wellness efforts. The survey completed by the International Foundation indicated that 62 percent of employers say wellness efforts have improved their organizations's Health Risk Assessment and screening data. In addition, 54 percent of responding employers reported that they have improved employee engagement survey results. When it comes to reducing absenteeism, these employers also saw a decrease of 45 percent. Last, but certainly not least, 38 percent say wellness efforts have positively affected their organizations's overall bottom line.
While there are still barriers for some employers, more and more organizations are embracing the opportunity to positively influence their organization thought the introduction of wellness programs. If you're not sure where to start or you're looking to make changes to your benefits or wellness program, I invite you to connect with a trusted and knowledgeable professional. Our team stands at the ready with the expertise and resources to support your goals and optimize your plan now and with an eye to the future. Contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.