This is the Friday GAB. Your weekly round up of all the things happening in and around the group benefits industry.
I've been MIA for a few weeks and missed all kinds of great updates. There were a few big acquisitions like Capri and Rogers merging under a new name and StoneRidge acquiring the group Biz at the MultiCare Group.
I missed the Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey webinar. But I'm on the advisory board so I had a sneak peek into the report months ago. Still, a fav of mine. I'll write my top takeaways from the survey soon.
I also missed the Equitable Life Road Show. I LOVE industry events and this one stung as it's my day job too.
Equitable Life also dropped a ton of product updates
1. Gender Affirmation product - optional for employers to add. And a third gender box will be added to all forms as the default instead of being available on request.
2. enhanced iCBT product available to all Equitable Plan members effective now
3. Partnership with Opifiny - Opifiny is an online platform that streamlines the disability claims process for consulting physicians, benefits plan sponsors, and disability plan members. Equitable Life will be using Opifiny for ongoing disability claims management, modernizing the process of gathering medical assessments and information.
Not a new product drop, but I want to remind everyone that pharmacogenomics coverage is available not just with Equitable Life but with lots of carriers. Ask your AE what options are available. Equitable for example makes the product available to any plan member for a reduced cost or has an option for employers to add the coverage. And pharmacogenomics are claimable under the HSA. This benefit is flying under the radar big time and is an affordable talking point. Manulife and PPI recently shared some case study and ROI from their partnership.
Moving onto other insurers Desjardins and GroupSource also just dropped their gender affirmation products. Everyone's is super different to talk to your AE and get the details. Desjardins also released a very very excellent tool for plan sponsors to better understand the product, and why they would offer it. A must watch for everyone really. It's an unlisted YouTube link so you'll need your Desjardin peeps to share it with you.
I don't usually share much people news because it's just too difficult to keep track of but Desjardins also announced on Wednesday that any Ferguson has been appointed VP of Business Development. And the Benefit Alliance Group has a new President - Carolyne Eagan. Big congrats to Amy and Carolyne!
RBC launched a helpful billing update. Now plan sponsors will be provided a list of employees that have become eligible for coverage above the NEM.
If you're in Calgary or Vancouver to want an excuse to travel to one of those places and want some CE credits. CGIB is hosting two CE packed education days. You can find out more here.
Sun LIfe caused a stir when they shared a go-date for the proposed change to the EI duration period. This caused a flurry of questions to insurers from advisors. But I think an effort to be helpful was more a hinderance as we STILL DONT KNOW! And the date they shared isn't' the for sure go-date. It can't be until the government says it is and they haven't. Here's what I know from our recent meetings with CLHIA.
EI Extension Timelines:
EI remains an unmanaged plan so from an industry perspective, we still believe in the value of having an STD program in place and in having a shorter waiting period for LTD.
There might be changes to some plans because of the EI extension (this would include adjusting carve out plans to 26 weeks, and possibly offering changes to LTD elimination periods). Plans will most certainty need to be updated to qualify for the rate reduction program, but it's likely the government will allow a long lead in for plan sponsors to make changes to their STD.
In summary, while there is information available, nothing is concrete so far. Most insurers are looking at making changes to their plans.
In other fun government news, Alberta is going to regulate psychedelics for therapy. Before you get excited and start asking insurers if they will coverage these drugs, the answer is no. Right now they are still illegal substances. Doctors and researchers can apply to Health Canada to use them in clinical trials and get special access for therapy. Insurers will have to build a prior authorization process to allow cover for these drugs on group benefit plans. But I don't know why they would bother for only one province where a small number of physicians will be able to treat patients. The effort to do include coverage under a group benefit plan isn't worth it (yet - looking at you Ontartio).
I'm sure there's lots more to share but this is getting long so that's the Friday GAB. Happy Thanksgiving.