Why groups sign on

By Alain Thériault | February 27 2009 01:20PM

At Desjardins Group, Robert Desbiens, employee benefits coordinator reporting to the senior vice-president, human resources, confirms the accessibility of the group CI product.

On Jan. 1, the employees automatically joined a basic plan that gives each participant $10,000 in case of critical illness. The employer defrays 80% of the costs, which Mr. Desbiens estimates at 80¢ per employee per week ($41.60 per year). In other words, it costs the employer 64¢ per week and the employee pays 16¢ per week (for an annual total of $33.28 and $8.32 respectively).

Employees can then purchase additional amounts at their own expense by presenting proof of insurability.

What's more, Desjardins keeps the coverage in place for retirees, on a group basis. Pricing is based on the experience of both active and retired employees.

ACE INA surveyed its clients to gauge their motivations for adding CI coverage to their group plans. One technology firm began offering its group of 2000 employees optional critical illness insurance in 2007.

Plan members had been complaining that their long-term disability insurance covered them only 60% to 65% of the time. Ten claims have been submitted to date. The firm picked the plan for its "wow" factor. It dampened the impact of this choice on its budget by trimming other benefits.

A law firm with a staff of 1000 used the same approach to attract new employees. The company wanted to fill the gaps in eligibility for long-term disability.

An oil company put in place a mandatory plan that provides $50,000 in coverage for each manager and $10,000 for each employee. Employees think this plan adds significant value, the company asserts.

For other clients the choice is motivated by particular circumstances. After the boss' wife contracted breast cancer, one food chain with 1200 employees insured by ACE INA procured a basic plan that gives each employee $10,000 of CI coverage.

In an article that appeared in the June 2008 issue of Benefits and Pensions Monitor, Mr. Levy cites the results of a study conducted by Chris Longo, physician and associate professor at DeGroote School of Business involving 282 cancer patients in Ontario. The results are eloquent. One out of five patients faced a heavy financial burden because of this disease, with a cost ranging from $17,358 to $32,428 during an 11-month period (the average duration of treatment for all participants).

Brokers are noticing that the market is realizing how vital the product is "We sell a lot in group, " says Pierre Saddik, of Saddik International Actuariat Conseil, a firm that works in partnership with Les conseillers en avantages sociaux Sage, a Quebec City-based firm.

Granted, the amounts are small, $10,000 or $15,000, Mr. Saddik adds, "but advisors have understood. People don't necessarily need CI coverage of $100,000."