January 4, 2010 -

According to the 2009 sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey, more than half the employees surveyed said they would choose their benefit plan over an additional cash compensation of $15,000 per year. With this in mind, Canadian employers have a unique opportunity to provide health and wellness solutions as part of their benefit plans to enhance employee health, retention and productivity.

"Employees place such a high value on their benefits because they understand that these non-salary incentives can play an important role in providing financial security for them and their families," says Karen Mason, Senior Vice President, Group - Equitable Life of Canada®. "The 2009 sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey also revealed that only 31 per cent of employees surveyed had access to a health and wellness program, meaning there are many employers not taking advantage of the opportunity to provide employees with health support, and in turn reduce avoidable absences, lost productivity and the cost of their benefit plans."

In March 2009, Equitable Life introduced EquitableHealth.ca™, at no charge as part of all its Group Benefit Plans to help employers connect their employees with online, reliable, Canadian health and wellness resources. These resources support individuals in their efforts to be at their best at home and at work.

"Absences really impact an employer's bottom line and productivity and this is why we offer EquitableHealth.ca to all our clients," says Mike Waechter, Director, Group Marketing - Equitable Life of Canada. "By giving employees the right resources to take a more active role in managing their daily health concerns and work-life balance as part of their benefit plan, you are also giving employers the opportunity to reduce the costs associated with absences and health-related claims."

However, there are times when serious health and life events require immediate and direct access to assistance, professional support, direction and expertise.

"In order to allow employers to provide true health and wellness value as part of their benefit plans, Equitable Life has now carefully selected services that will further support employees when they need it the most," explains Waechter. "By providing access to the help and support that employees need to manage and recover from specific, life altering situations, we also address the employer's need to manage the rising costs of their benefit plan."

Equitable Life has partnered with leading health care service providers and will be introducing the following services by the second quarter of 2010:

  • FeelingBetterNow® is provided by Mensante. FeelingBetterNow.com (FBN) is a confidential and anonymous interactive, web based mental health care system designed to assist family physicians and patients in the early diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of common and potentially debilitating mental health issues. FBN will help identify when an individual is at risk for common mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety and alcoholism and will provide patients and their doctors with the practical help they need to treat and follow up on these disorders using medical best practices.
  • The CAREpath Navigation System™ a cancer assistance program that helps reduce the physical and emotional impact that cancer places on employees and their families by ensuring medical best practices are utilized. When people call CAREpath, an experienced team of oncology nurses and physicians guide each individual towards the right treatment at the right place and at the right time. These professionals help individuals before their first visit to an oncologist and continue to providing guidance throughout their cancer treatment, thereby returning them to health and productive lifestyles sooner.
  • WorldCare™ Second Opinion provides expert, timely e-consultations for serious illnesses. WorldCare delivers highly specialized and personalized electronic second medical opinions from the best medical centres in North America to local attending physicians. Second opinions include a confirmation or modification of the original diagnosis and treatment recommendations, including alternative treatments and/or therapies, based upon the latest cutting-edge research from experts from member hospitals of the WorldCare ConsortiumSM.
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provided by Ceridian Canada. LifeWorks® Solutions integrates a full EAP program with work-life and wellness services and provides access to support from professional counsellors via the telephone, face-to-face sessions and online. An EAP program allows employees to seek professional support and assistance before their personal issues impact their productivity at work or lead to avoidable absences.

"This is just the start, additional services will be introduced later in 2010 and throughout 2011 because as employees become more concerned about their health, they will place an even greater value on the benefits provided to them by their employers," explains Mason. "Equitable Life is dedicated to providing access to the professional support and resources to deal with serious situations that can threaten an employee's health and work-life balance and their ability to be present and productive at work."