I was giving a presentation to a small group of employees a few months ago, touching on the high points of what their group insurance plan offered. It was a ‘Cadillac’ plan, and I was trying to convey to the plan members that they had access to a benefits package likely in the top ten percent of plans available in Canada.
A younger plan member in the second row pipes up, “Yeh, but our vision sucks…”.
I hear this often. Before I reply, I imagine the mayhem this group of professionals would unleash at the annual office party with their terrible eye-sight; stumbling around, upsetting hors d’oeuvres, thrashing into the pool… But alas, he was referring to the vision coverage on their plan.
What they had was above average, but still quite low in some of the plan members’ eyes. So I engaged them in a bit of math. We played around with some numbers and quickly agreed that changes to this benefit would not justify the added cost.
I then asked the group, “What about the limit on your disability insurance – are you comfortable with that?”
Everyone knew the details of their vision coverage, but this question was met with blank stares.
Employees need education. They need to be handed the right tools, and then encouraged by their employers to take some responsibility. When an employee sees deductions on their pay cheque, they need to understand exactly what it is they are paying for. They have entered into an insurance contract, and 9 times out of 10 they do not even understand what this is.
I have yet to see one of my clients become destitute from a bad vision claim. But I havedealt with clients who have become sick and would have lost all semblance of the life they are accustomed to had it not been for the disability coverage offered through their group insurance plan.
These plans are not necessarily there to provide employees with the newest $1,000 D&G frames. You get basic vision coverage so that you can afford to not bump into things. However, your plan IS there to offer you protection against catastrophic and life altering events.
I am being facetious, but I truly do get frustrated with the lack of engagement from the majority of plan members.
In my line of business, I have the luxury of hindsight from almost every angle. I have worked with clients who have successfully retired after a long disciplined plan to get there. I have clients who ignored planning altogether. I have had clients who were diagnosed with a major illness and did not have adequate disability or critical illness coverage. I know of people who need an exorbitantly priced life sustaining drug, and are incensed to discover that they have no coverage. No one in Canada should ever have to make the decision to sell their home and cash in their life savings to try and buy a few more pills so that they can be on this earth a bit longer. But, I have seen it happen. People are blown away at the realization that there really isn’t some sort of government safety net. (I will leave the provincial catastrophic drug program for another posting, but please rest assured, here in New Brunswick you are on your own).
This has to change. Employees should never wrongly assume that “everything will be okay” should something bad happen to them. They must understand the facts. If they don’t have full coverage through their group insurance, that’s fine; every plan is different. But they need to understand this so that they can plan accordingly through their individual coverage.
It all starts with your benefits consultant. We need to encourage employers to get proactive. Employers, you need to engage your employees. Talk about your coverage. Get your plan members talking about it. Make it fun. Make it mandatory. You are paying great sums of money to offer your employees potentially lifesaving benefits, and most of them do not even acknowledge or appreciate it! Get your advisor in there talking to your employees and singing your praises. Get them easy to understand explanations of what they have for coverage. Handing out long, painful to read booklets saturated with mind numbing legalese does not cut it. Nobody reads or understands those. You are shirking your responsibility.
Educate your employees. Make them understand that it is their responsibility too.
And please excuse me if I scream the next time someone complains that their designer glasses weren’t fully paid for through group insurance, but they have no idea that they would have no out of pocket expense should they require one of the new $75K per year biologic cancer drugs to stay alive.