Group benefits are bundles of insurance for employee benefits and other group benefit plans. Many Canadians have insurance through their employers, referred to as “group benefits”, though many don’t fully understand the details of these policies. Do you know what insurance you have through your employer? Understanding your group benefits reduces worry, saves you money, and helps you protect yourself and your family. It also builds an appreciation of the benefits your employer has paid on your behalf, and of those you pay for personally through payroll deductions.
Employee benefit programs provide advantages to employers as well as employees. They are a valuable addition to your pay and provide a base upon which you can build to fully protect yourself and your family. For employers, group benefits represent a large amount of the compensation paid to staff. A broad benefits package is a powerful tool with which to attract and retain employees; improve employee morale through increased financial security; and deliver tax effective compensation.
What is included in group benefits?
Essentially, group benefits are a master insurance policy through which a policyholder (the employer) insures a group of people (the plan members) with a common bond; for example, as staff members of the same company. If staff members pay benefit premiums, they can choose to opt out of the program. Group benefits packages usually include a variety of insurance, but those that cover dental work and prescription drugs are among the most common. Many packages also include life insurance, disability insurance and extended health insurance, which reimburses expenses not covered by provincial health plan. The coverage may apply to the employee and to the employee’s spouse and/or dependent children.
Other common benefits include
- accidental death and dismemberment insurance,
- short and long-term disability benefits,
- vision care,
- early intervention programs,
- group retirement savings products,
- health care spending accounts,
- flex spending accounts, and
- employee assistance programs, which provide professional, confidential counselling for the employee and family members.
There are many possibilities, so it’s good to check what is available to you. Today, people have more choice due to the development of flexible benefits programs. These programs enable staff members to decide how to “spend” their employer benefits dollars by customizing their benefits to their needs.
Why do group benefits differ between employers?
In choosing group benefits packages to offer staff members, employers face many options. Some packages are very basic while others are more complex, providing many services and options at different prices. It’s a balancing act: employers strive to meet the needs of their staff while keeping their own costs reasonable. The employer must decide what portion of the cost (the deductible) staff members will pay. The higher the deductible, the lower the cost will be for the employer. Staff members value benefits highly. According to an annual health-care survey by the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-aventis, employees value group benefits coverage. Among more than 2,000 respondents, 52 per cent said they preferred their benefits over a $15,000 cash payment and 92 per cent preferred them over a proposed extra week of vacation.
Knowledge is power.
Busy staff members become familiar with the benefits they use most often — usually dental or drug coverage — but it’s important to know what else you’re covered for. It could save you money. For example, families where both spouses have group benefits can have the two coverages work together to pay the entire cost of such things as dental work and eyeglasses. Do you know what covers your dependent children; when their coverage begins or stops; or how to extend it if they stay in school after age 18? If not, contact your human resources department to find out.
Can I help control plan costs?
You can help control costs by knowing what your dental plan covers and what is being charged to it. Here are some things employee can do:
- Don’t sign blank claim forms, and
- ask for explanations of the treatments received and procedure codes on the claim form.
- Arrange a second opinion if you’re concerned about a proposed treatment. And
- remember: not all dentists charge the same amount for identical procedures. Another way to reduce costs is by
- controlling dispensing fees and by
- choosing generic over name-brand drugs. Prescription drug costs include not just the price of the medication but also charges for the pharmacist’s services.
- Dispensing fees vary between pharmacies, so shop around.
The use of generic drugs also reduces claims costs. Generics meet the same standards of quality, safety and effectiveness as brand name drugs but at up to 50 per cent less cost.
Your employer isn’t the only source of group benefits.
Some group benefits are available through university or college alumni groups, professional associations, auto clubs and even chain stores. Called affinity groups, they provide insurance at reduced rates because of the group sizes and varied age ranges of the members. It’s worth researching the coverage and rates these plans offer. Benefits are offered by businesses of all sizes.
The group benefits insurance business has undergone considerable change in recent years due to economic changes. Small businesses now account for 57 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product, and they are increasingly able to afford group benefits packages for their employees at reasonable costs. Understanding your group benefits is important. Talk to your employer or human resources department, or consult the company’s intranet site. Request information sessions about group benefits. It’s important to be proactive about your health and the support that exists for you and your family.
We can help you through your employer provide group or grouped benefits for employer groups of 1 - 1000 employees in a cost effective way over individual coverage. So, if you are an employee who doesn't have a group benefit program, talk to your employee about getting in touch with us. If you are an employer that would like to initiate a plan, or you are not happy with the cost, flexibility, control or service of your existing plan, give us a call, we can help you get the skinny on your current situation and the opportunities you might be missing out on. Need more info on employee benefits plan? Feel free to get in touch.
If you are a small business owner, that are too small for group insurance of any kind (usually 5 or less employees) we can still help and show you how to get the benefits and save huge and get benefits not offered by any group plan.
Total Control Group Benefits [ TotCon Group ]
If you are running a successful business with a strong cashflow, we can show you how to save and have greater control over your benefit cost expenditures, while affording the opportunity to be employee centric in your benefit offering through flexible benefit structures. All it takes is a phone call or message.