Group Benefit Plans with Virtual Doctor Visits and Prescriptions
Three Canadian insurance carriers are ahead of the curve; now offering group benefit plans with virtual doctor visits and prescriptions to companies with as few as 2 employees. Today, we call this telemedicine. Employers can elect to upgrade their plans and include access to healthcare professionals 24/7. So employees and their families may get diagnosis, prescriptions, specialist or lab referrals, from the comfort of their own home or workplace.
What are the benefits to the employer and/or the employees? Reduced employee absenteeism, convenience, timely care and better overall health for employees. Not surprisingly, a BC study showed significant benefits among patients who chose a virtual physician visit over an in-person visit:
- 87% avoided work absence
- 57% avoided an in-person visit with a doctor or their regular place of care
Telemedicine is the first Canadian group benefits plan feature with true, measurable impact on employee absenteeism and productivity. Employers can access and track how many employees avoid a work place absence as a result of using the service.
How much does it cost to add virtual healthcare to group benefit plans?
The rates range from as little as $2/single employee to as much as $12. The exact quotes depend on number of employees, insurance carrier and your province of residence. Individuals can also purchase memberships on their own.
Can an employer add this service at no cost?
Yes and No. Through a group benefits plan review, companies are often able to generate savings without a change in benefits or insurance carrier. Those savings can then be allocated to this or another service. If group benefit plans are not set up optimally, savings can be significant. For a plan review and to find out if your plan is set up optimally, CLICK HERE for our Quote/Consultation Form.
What if your existing plan is not with one of the three insurance carriers which offer this service? There are providers, which sell directly to organizations. To the right, is our most competitive provider pricing chart. In fact, these rates are more competitive than the ones quoted by two of the three insurers offering the upgrade.
Which three insurance carriers offer access to telemedicine under their group benefit plans?
The biggest insurance carriers in Canada are the first to add this offer to their product shelf. Great-West Life (CanadaLife), Sun Life Financial and Manulife Financial. Surprisingly, the rates quoted vary by as much as $10 per employee. Where pricing is that much higher, we recommend purchasing the service directly from a provider. The only insurance carrier offering competitive rates at the moment is Sun Life Financial (based on pricing provided in June 2019). Sun Life’s product is slightly better priced than our preferred provider quoted in the pricing chart above.
Why are virtual doctor visits and prescriptions not included under provincial plans?
Most likely, it is because the infrastructure is costly to setup. However, as we see more insurance carriers entering the market, that can change. The Canadian healthcare system, employers, plan members, and medical professionals can all greatly benefit from this service.
Imagine the benefits! By having doctor visits and prescriptions available virtually, 57% of patients will not make a trip to the doctor.
- Significant savings to our healthcare system because with 57% less patients might mean 50% less walk-in clinics.
- Improved productivity, as employees will not miss work to get the most common prescriptions.
- Virtual employment opportunities in the medical field will provide a safer working environment. There will also be a more efficient use of our medical professionals’ time.
- And finally, with the reduced number of commuters and paper files, benefits to the environment.
Does this virtual interaction leave more room for errors and misdiagnosis?
Patients in some European countries (like the United Kingdom) as well as the United States use telemedicine regularly. In fact, Kaiser Permanente, the largest health network in the United States has been using technology for this purpose for longer than a decade. In 2016 they released data on findings from their 110million physician visits. 52% of these visits were conducted via online or virtual portals. The data clearly showed that misdiagnosis did not increase when comparing virtual to in-person physician visits. In fact, malpractice claims decreased and patient satisfaction increased [2, 3]. There is ongoing debate. However, there is strong consensus that at least for the most common, minor health issues like sinus or stomach problems, patients benefit just the same from a virtual consultation .
***DISCLAIMER: Products and services in the insurer marketplace change all the time. We appreciate and thank any our readers for any feedback and updates. Please leave us a comment with any feedback on the topic of telemedicine and group benefit plans.