The Empire Life Insurance Company and the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Associations (CLHIA) in a recent advisor webinar on trends in the group benefits industry, together discussed key developments for the industry, including mental health claims trends, access to telemedicine and increased costs.

They say continued mental health support, increased need for access to health care services, customer experience improvements and a heighted need for consultative, advice-based work with clients are all key trends affecting group insurers today.

“In 2021, the insurance industry paid out $580 million in mental health claims, up 75 per cent since 2019,” says the CLHIA’s president and CEO, Stephen Frank. “We anticipate that we’re going to continue to see that kind of growth thanks to less mental health stigma in society and greater supports in place.” 

He continued saying that in addition to dramatically improving access to mental health services through product enhancements during the pandemic, companies have also introduced telemedicine services.

More, he says “this may evolve into insurers having to start thinking about creating concierge or navigation services to support employees accessing their benefits and health care.” He adds that demand for access to diagnostic services is also growing but need to be delivered within the parameters of the Canada Health Act. “The crisis in health care is an opportunity for us to do better for Canadians, to do better for patients,” he says.

With increased costs already impacting benefits, such as the increase in dental fees, the association head says it is also lobbying professional associations and provinces. 

Finally, Frank emphasized the increasing importance of proactive client contact, communication and advice. “Giving clients options is really important. As an industry we need to do more to create different options for advisors and their clients. We still have a lot of complexity in our business. We have to simplify that initial decision making process for clients and provide more flexible package solutions.”