After what seemed like a never-ending and bitterly cold winter, summer vacation season is but a mere few weeks away. With school almost out for the kids, vacation plans are able to kick into high year allowing for some much needed rest, relaxation, or perhaps even that long anticipated grand holiday you've always dreamed of.
With travel comes thoughts of packing and trip preparation. Here are some tips to think about as you plan for your upcoming summer vacation:
1) Be early. If you are flying, it helps to book your tickets early to secure the best deal in dates and pricing. Whenever you fly, it is helpful to bring along a valid passport.
Plan to arrive early at the airport. Parking may be an issues as well as the potential for long lines at secure checkpoints. Also, plan your travel and accomodation itineraries early. In the 'high' season, which usually is summertime, hotels and car rentals book up quickly.
2) Keep a watch out. Keeping an eye on your belonging as well as the people you're traveling with is important. It may be easy to get distracted, and in big airports and bustling cities, there are those who would like to relieve you of your wallet, identification and valuables.
3) Keep your important information handy. Ensure that you keep your identification including your benefits and out of country coverage information handy. An emergency is never planned, but when it happens, you want to be ready and avoid the stress of not being able to access important contact information quickly.
4) Review your coverage. Knowing information specific to your group benefits coverage is is helpful should an emergency arise when you are traveling. Update your smartphone with your travel assistance group number and your employee benefits identification and the toll-free number or keep your ID card in a safe and easily accessible place. Please check out my blog on out of country coverage and other travel tips for more information.
If you are traveling abroad, it is helpful to know where normal travel coverage and services are not guaranteed by your benefits provider. Many provide a list where coverage is guaranteed. To avoid surprises on your trip, I encourage you to source this list before you zip up your suitcase and head out the door.
Some people wonder why they need travel assistance at all. The benefits include helping you find a hospital or clinic nearby that can provide you with the necessary treatment. The travel assistance provider can contact the hospital in advance of your arrival to give them a heads up as well as arranging for direct payment of medical bills. This is one less thing you need to worry about when facing a medical emergency. If needed, the travel assistance provider will arrange to have you returned home to Canada should additional treatment be needed.
For more tips and benefits coverage best practices, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
The results of the 2014 Sanofi Canada Healthcare survey reveal that the generational cohorts do not share the same view toward employee benefits. As mentioned in Part 1 of this blog topic, Generation Y (born 1980-2000) holds more of a sense of entitlement toward benefits. With the exception of health spending accounts, this generation is less likely that other generations to rate each part of their health benefit plan as important.
But what about Boomers (Born 1946-1964) and Generation X (Born 1965-1979)? The survey finds that when these cohorts were asked what options they would consider to enhance their employee benefits plan, the selections turned toward eldercare slightly ahead of personal benefit offerings such as fitness equipment and genetic testing. This response perhaps mirrors what is happening in the Canadian landscape. Many working Canadians are considered part of the "sandwich generation" that is raising children as well as supporting their aging parents and/or relatives.
The 2012 National Study on Work, Life and Caregiving reported that 40% of caregivers admit to overriding feelings of anger and frustration, while 25% are anxious. The Study also found that caregivers were much more likely to miss work.
Aside from the generational issues at play, there is a misperception that employee benefits will continue post retirement. In fact, the survey found that 48% of plan members expect access to their current health benefits while the reality is that only 23% of the plan sponsors offer post-retiree benefits. It is employees working for companies with 1,000 or more employees who are more likely to have this expectation. Employees working for a small businesses generally don't share the belief that they will receive benefits post retirement.
Beyond the size of the organization, regionally, there are differences in the views of plan members. Those working in Ontario are more likely at 52% to expect benefits while Albertans are less likely at 31%. Non-union employees in the private sector have lower expectations at 28% then unionized employees in the public sector at 53%. Not surprising, 83% of plans with unions provide access to existing or separate plans after retirement. In the private sector, this percentage drops to 8%.
So what can be done? One answer that the advisory panel and others consider vital is the need for greater, more engaging communication that happens sooner rather than later. Plan members close to retirement (63%) are more at risk of expecting benefits than employees who are 18-34 years old (42%). Benefits communications should educate about the basics of group insurance coverage as well as provide practical steps that equip the plan member when it comes to making better and more informed choices now and in the future.
Understanding the value of benefits among the different generations as well as dispelling misperceptions about continuation of post-retirement benefits can be a challenging prospect, particularly when a plan sponsor wears many different hats.
We're here to help. Contact us so that you can spend more time focusing on what you do best.
This week marks the launch of the 2014 edition of the annual Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey. With presentations taking place across Canada, opportunities are created to gain insights about health benefit plans and the views of plan members.
Conducted from January 6-13, 2014 with a national sample of 1,502 primary holders of group health benefit plans, the survey now in its 17th year reveals that plan members are increasingly interested in the workplace doing more to support personal health.
The opinion leaders and employers profiled in the report indicate that more information is needed along with a fresh approach from benefit providers. What factors into the conversation is the concept that stakeholders recognize the need to manage health, not just manage the cost of benefits. Throughout the report, the message is consistent: those who manage health benefit plans as an investment, not a cost, reap the returns of improved productivity, reduced absenteeism and higher levels of employee engagement.
As the workforce ages, the propensity for sickness increases. In fact, half of the Canadian workforce has at least one chronic disease. The survey revealed that plan sponsors who look to create healthier workplaces not only improve their competitive advantage, but they help lower the stress on Canada's public healthcare system. As a result of the survey findings, the private sector is sent a call to action message: regroup and partner to seek sustainable solutions to unmanaged chronic disease as it is the biggest cost driver for plan sponsors.
This report also focuses on two timely and relevant topics: generation gaps and benefits after retirement. With more and more Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) retiring, the window for Generation Y (born 1980-2000) to assert themselves is increasing. Differing from their post-war, baby boomer parents, they are more likely to see benefits as a right and they also are more willing to trade benefits for cash. Part 2 of this blog topic covers key findings related to the generational differences.
With regard to benefits after retirement, the survey reported that 48% of plan members expect access to their current health benefit plan after retirement. With one third of the workforce looking to retire in the next 15-20 years, plan sponsors and carriers will be challenged to raise awareness around post-retiree benefit options. Currently, less than 23% of surveyed plan sponsors offer post-retirement benefits.
A common theme that resonated with the opinion leaders and profiled plan sponsors included the importance of addressing misconceptions and improving communications to feature the purpose of employee benefit plans. Communicating the value of benefit plans to employees is nothing new, but there are innovative and engaging ways to move the dial forward on the topic. For help in addressing this issue or to explore additional details regarding the Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey, please 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.