The advantage - May 2021

May 19, 2021

the advantage

MindBeacon adding new treatment protocols to their clinical offerings

Since launching the MindBeacon Therapist Guided Program in 2018, the team there has been regularly updating available treatment programs. Here’s what’s now available:

  • New and improved Social Anxiety Therapist Guided Program (adjusting to life after COVID-19) – Designed to help plan members work through challenges related to social anxiety and to help them adjust to a new normal post-COVID-19. You can find more information about this program here.
  • New Managing Alcohol Use Therapist Guided Program – To support those who have found their use of alcohol increase, particularly during the pandemic. The program is designed to offer evidence-based education and guidance for plan members who want to change their drinking habits. You can find more information about this program here.

Coming soon are a new Coping with Chronic Conditions Illness Program and a refresh of the Stress Management Program.

Enhancements added to the MindBeacon per-employee per-month program

Since March 2020, we’ve been offering a per-employee per-month (PEPM) option for the MindBeacon Therapist Guided Program. Read about it again in the March 2020 issue of The advantage. The PEPM option allows you to demonstrate to your plan members that their mental health is an important priority to you by completely eliminating the out-of-pocket component of the program. The MindBeacon team is excited to share that they have recently enhanced their PEPM program to include the following at no additional cost.

  • A year-long mental health campaign that includes a “Question & Answer” from a therapist each month addressing a common mental health concern – such as social anxiety, isolation and loneliness, relationships, and life challenges. Content will be distributed via a monthly newsletter and additional content is available that can be shared with plan members.
  • Informative and engaging monthly webinars (in English and French).
  • Activities planned for mental health milestone dates in Canada, with access provided to a new microsite to support pandemic mental health recovery, available here.
  • Peer-to-peer community support powered by Togetherall, the world’s leader in online peer-to-peer mental health support – clinically moderated by mental health professionals. This will allow plan members dealing with unmanageable levels of stress or anxiety to actively and safely support one another, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Watch this short video to learn more.

Contact your account team to learn more about MindBeacon or for a PEPM quote.

Introducing Inkblot as GSC’s new EAP provider

As we shared via a recent press release, our new cutting-edge employee assistance program (EAP), offered in partnership with Inkblot Technologies (Inkblot), is now live.

Back in March, the GSC group of companies acquired Inkblot, one of Canada’s leading and fastest growing digital-first mental health services companies, as part of our vision to remove barriers to health care and create one of Canada’s most impactful digital health ecosystems. Fast-forward to today, and we are excited to share an innovative EAP offering that pairs the highest quality on-demand counselling with a wide range of advisory services across the full spectrum of care. Even better, the Inkblot solution leverages proven technology to deliver the most tailored experience in the marketplace.

The highlights

  • A unique matching system that allows plan members to select the counsellor they wish to work with and self-book appointments with sessions available within 24-48 hours
  • Commitment to diversity and inclusivity by virtue of our ability to match plan members to counsellors based on their first language, religion, and culture
  • Pandemic-proof, digital-first expertise through a secure video-counselling delivery platform with telephonic and in-person counselling available: five hours of individual counselling and five hours of couples counselling per plan member and eligible dependent
  • Ability to continue with the same counsellor when shifting from the plan sponsor-paid EAP to longer-term counselling, with costs reimbursable under the benefits plan, health care spending account, or paid privately – at rates that are half the national average
  • Advisory services to help with everything from legal and financial questions to childcare and eldercare resources along with career counselling, health coaching, and life transitions support
  • Mental health training for plan members and managers included at no additional cost

Next steps

If you have any questions or wish to request a quote, please contact your GSC account team, who can provide additional information on Inkblot and our EAP offering.

Gender affirmation offering included as a standard benefit in all Group plans

GSC continues to make diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) a high priority, and over the past year has been developing a robust gender affirmation offering – positioning plan sponsors to align their benefits plan coverage with their own DE&I commitments to support plan members throughout their gender transition journey.

While traditional benefit plans address some components of the journey, we firmly believe that they fall short of covering the scope of transition needs. GSC’s offering steps in to reimburse expenses that are above and beyond typical plan designs. Equally, the offering helps to fill the gaps tied to services not covered under provincial or territorial government health care plans. As shared in this GSC Update, effective June 30, 2021, our gender affirmation offering will be included in all ASO and non-refund Group plans as a standard benefit.

In developing this offering, GSC consulted with a wide range of organizations, including the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH) and the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH), to strengthen our understanding of the gaps that exist today and the messaging that will resonate most effectively in the transgender community. You can count on GSC, as a health and dental specialist, to ensure that all government supports have been appropriately applied before claims are reimbursed.

Our gender affirmation offering includes two categories, and our standard approach will be to include both categories within all Group plans as of
June 30, 2021:

  • Foundation: Includes reimbursement for core surgeries not covered by provincial or territorial coverage and services that assist in the physical alignment of the individual’s transitioned gender. Examples include vocal surgery, tracheal shave, chest contouring/breast construction, vaginal dilators, facial feminization, and laser hair removal.
  • Focused: Includes reimbursement for surgical enhancement of the individual’s features that follows their accepted gender ideal. Procedures include nose surgery, liposuction/lipofilling, face/eyelid lift, lip/cheek fillers, hair transplant/implants, and gluteal lift/implants.

Reimbursement of eligible expenses is subject to a diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” from a medical doctor, in addition to a reasonable and customary (R&C) fee per claim of $5,000 and an overall lifetime maximum of $10,000. These R&C fees are designed to strike a balance between reducing the cost burden on plan members and maintaining plan sustainability.

Cost impacts will flow through extended health services experience and any changes will be applied at renewal. To provide additional context on what this offering could mean for benefit plans, we estimate that the impact will be less than 0.5 per cent of total health costs across GSC’s entire book of business. Keep in mind too that, as mentioned above, plan members will be pointed to provincial programs first. If no provincial funding is available, they will turn to their benefits plan.

Stay tuned for sample materials to help you promote the gender affirmation offering to your plan members in the build-up to the launch date. And if you decide that you do not wish to offer this option to your plan members, or you have questions about the offering, contact your account team by June 11, 2021.

COVID-19 travel coverage extended through 2021

As you may recall, last summer we announced a significant update for all GSC plan sponsors with out-of-country travel coverage – in short, we added coverage for emergency medical expenses related to COVID-19 to all standard GSC travel plans, up to the existing maximums and limitations of each plan, for an initial period (ending June 30, 2021).

We are now able to confirm that we have extended this period until December 31, 2021.

A quick reminder on our rationale here – these remain difficult times, and while we continue to support government advisoriesas the primary guideline, we understand that some GSC plan members will make their own choices around travelling. We firmly believe that providing them with peace of mind is the right thing to do.

While we acknowledge that only some plan members will look to make travel plans this year, we encourage you to point those that do to the GSC Support Centrefor more details on the prudent steps to take before booking/undertaking travel. This includes the importance of consulting the travel restrictions and guidelines in place at their destination before departure, as well as the reporting, testing, and quarantine requirements that may be necessary upon re-entry into Canada.

Promote virtual physiotherapy to your plan members

In the December 2020 issue of The advantage, we reminded you of the pilot that took place between GSC and Phzio Canada, the findings of the pilot, and that we were Phzio Canada’s first Canadian carrier partner. We also shared that preferred pricing was available to GSC plan members to access treatment via their platform – delivered by registered physiotherapists in all provinces across Canada in English and French.

At $59 for an initial visit and $49 for a follow-up visit, GSC-preferred prices are much lower than the fees charged in the physiotherapy community. With all claims being billed via providerConnect®, plan members pay out-of-pocket only for the amount their plan won’t reimburse – noting all claim payments flow through the traditional claims experience and are subject to a plan’s existing physiotherapy limitations.

And if a great user experience, virtual care delivered at a reduced cost, and not needing to submit a claim on their own time wasn’t enough, all GSC plan members have access to Phzio Canada’s MSK360 product: a free resource portal that can be used to address and prevent musculoskeletal and ergonomic issues via videos that demonstrate stretches and best practices.

Read more about the Phzio platform on the Health Care Discounts page on our corporate website. If you want to start promoting the Phzio platform and MSK360 portal to your plan members, you can use this resource.

Maple adds another value-add service to their platform

GSC formed a partnership with Maple, Canada’s leading telemedicine provider back in December 2019 to offer access to telemedicine as an optional addition to benefit plans at a per-employee per-month rate for plan sponsors, in addition to providing preferred per-visit rates for plan members. And in November 2020, GSC’s virtual health initiative launched which offered free access to Maple for Group and post-secondary student plan members effective December 1, 2020, for a limited time. Read about it again here.

Maple’s direct access to Canadian-licensed physicians within minutes using their bilingual platform – via instant message, video, or audio call, offers a truly differentiated experience when compared to other telemedicine solutions. Plan members and their eligible dependents can receive medical advice, prescriptions, lab requisitions, and more. Access is available in all provinces and territories through two service models, both available at competitive rates.

What’s new and unique with Maple?

When a plan member receives a prescription for a drug or a note for a medical item, sometimes a special authorization form must be completed and submitted to GSC. Plan members using Maple, and who need to have one of these special authorization forms completed, can now use the “GSC Authorization Form Coordinator” service on the Maple platform. This means plan members won’t need to take time away from work and arrange for a visit outside of their home to get their authorization form completed – one less thing to worry about.

A Maple physician will review and sign the completed form, and better yet – it’s submitted directly to GSC on the plan member’s behalf. For plan members accessing Maple via the plan sponsor-paid Premium model, there is no additional cost to use this service. And for plan members accessing Maple’s Standard model, this new service is available at a cost of $18.50 (no tax applies). Note: This service is not currently available within the discount program, only through the two per-employee per-month options (the Standard and Premium models).

A great plan member experience…

Plan members using Maple over the past year have been sharing outstanding feedback. And with this newest value-add service, they will feel that their needs are being met and fulfilled in a timely manner. Here’s what plan members are saying:

“All clinics are closed today and now we have what we need for tomorrow when things open up. Very great service.”

“My first time using it. It was simple and efficient. Got what I needed in less than five minutes!”

“Fast, easy and saved me missing work to go to the doctor.”

“Great service. It actually relieved my worry. The doctor I spoke to was absolutely right. The hospital did exactly what he said she needed.”

Contact your account team to learn more about what Maple offers and for a quote.

Plan member communication enhancements

GSC is always looking for new ways to reach our plan members to ensure they remain informed. From updates on our new digital offerings and mobile features to health industry news to important health and benefits plan details, we love to share information that makes their lives easier. Our next step in expanding our plan member reach is through the use of SMS text messaging and additional email communications.

Introducing SMS text messaging

While emails are an effective form of communication, there are some unavoidable challenges: spam filters, junk folders, and frequently changing email addresses to name a few. Through Online Services, we have been collecting mobile phone numbers from plan members on a voluntary basis (during registration and through their account profile) – and we are now in the planning stages of putting these to use!

Later this year, we will begin sending short SMS text messages to plan members whenever we have really important information to share regarding their benefits plan. Texts will be received at no cost to the plan member, and with an over 90 per cent open rate for text messages in comparison to around 45 per cent for emails, we are thrilled to be able to introduce a new and more effective way to communicate.

Additional email communications

We collect plan member email addresses in two ways: 1) when the individual plan member registers for Online Services, and 2) from plan sponsors at enrolment. (If you aren’t yet sending plan member emails to GSC via enrolment, please contact your account team.) While we have reached plan members via this first channel for many years, we have recently introduced a new and improved email tool which positions us in the near future to also send communications to plan members via the enrolment email addresses provided by plan sponsors (rest assured that no plan member will receive the same email twice).

Being more ‘in the know’

By expanding our reach, we are better positioned to ensure plan members are aware of the latest and greatest at GSC, which we hope leads to an increase in plan member engagement and an enhanced plan member experience.

GST/HST amounts shown on claims-based billing statements

GSC billing statements issued to plan sponsors currently include estimated GST/HST amounts resulting from paid claims, such as massage therapy and medical items in some provinces. This amount is included in the total monthly claims but is also shown as a separate amount under “Current Statement Items.” We understand that some plan sponsors claim these amounts as input tax credits, and the choice to do so is at your own discretion.

At this time an appeal is before the Federal Court of Appeal arguing against a Tax Court of Canada decision which denied these GST/HST amounts being claimed as input tax credits. Therefore, we encourage you to seek independent tax advice when determining whether to claim the GST/HST amounts.

This communication is simply for your information and is a recommendation only; there is no action you are required to take at this time.

Footer on your billing statement

You may notice a note in the footer of your billing statement (beneath GSC’s address) regarding confidentiality. This is a reminder that these statements contain sensitive information and must remain confidential.