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Category Archive: News

  1. What do benefits/HR and legal all have in common?

    What do benefits/HR and legal all have in common?  Our recent webinar explored this; it was amazing how affected they all are by COVID-19.

    What we learned is that managing the new legislative landscape during COVID-19 is tough. It’s why Business Insurance Services and the United Way of Hamilton & Halton (UWHH) cohosted a webinar to help employers. It featured a Q & A format with three specialists. Ed Canning is an Employment Lawyer from Ross & McBride. You may have read his articles as they are published bi-weekly in the local paper. His insight into the ways employers can maneuver and what they need to consider was invaluable. Many more questions than answers given all the COVID-19 changes, but having the guidance from a specialist on the legal perspective of employment and benefits is important as it can have lasting and costly effects if unmanaged.  

    Adding to the team of experts was Marylisa Forsyth, an HR consultant who has a vast history of experience working for many private and public organizations. Her insight into the ways to manage through the new burdens of COVID-19 enlightened us all as to how employers do what they have to do, either hiring or terminating during COVID. The key takeaway was don’t delay. If you have any issues deal with them sooner rather than later. Ed Canning concurred.

    Then we had our very own Rosemary Marsh, a Managing Partner at Business Insurance Services. With her more than 30 years’ experience in benefits, she understands the role all three of the experts play in supporting an employer. Of most interest to employers were the new concepts that address the tsunami of mental health issues they will need to handle with their employees. This was of great interest to our more than 100 attendees. With that in mind we have attached one of our newest and greatest support tools, should it be able to assist you and your organization.

    We were proud to partner with the UWHH on this project. This event was originally an in-person event but, just like you, we had to change plans quickly. We are grateful so many joined the webinar and hope to do more to support employers. If you’d like to be a part of our next webinar, please send an email to  

  2. Wellness in the workplace: Empty hype or important trend?

    Wellness in the workplace

    Over the past decade wellness in the workplace has been gaining more attention. Why is that? Consider this:

    • Employees spend 2/3 of their awake time at work.
    • The workplace has the greatest impact on health and health-related behaviours.
    • Health affects how an employee does their job and consequently affects productivity.
    • The workplace offers an excellent opportunity to promote health given all of the above.

    With that in mind, it’s no wonder wellness is on the minds of so many managers and employees.

    Wellness in the workplace: The Benefits

    Let’s dig a little deeper into why an employer should promote a healthier workplace.

    $aves money – By investing in your employee wellness at work, you will reduce absenteeism, reap health benefits in your benefits plan, have fewer employee accidents and injuries, and improve the productivity of your organization. This all translates into an improved bottom line.

    Improves workplace culture – Healthier employees have improved morale, present a better corporate image, enhance recruiting abilities, have better labour relationships, and improve employee satisfaction as a whole.

    For employees, a healthier workplace has one very significant impact: employees are happier. Happier employees feel better, have a reduced risk of chronic diseases, are better able to make the necessary changes to improve their personal health, have reduced healthcare expenses, and derive more job satisfaction. These benefits all impact an employer’s bottom line.

    So, with all this evidence supporting why wellness is beneficial for both the employer and the employee, why aren’t all organizations eagerly implementing a wellness initiative? Is it the changing workforce dynamic and its demands that are distracting us from this important focus? Work has changed so much in recent years, with regards to how we work and where we work… could this be complicating any wellness solutions? Or is it that we’re just not adapting quickly enough and haven’t yet changed our mindsets to fully embrace broadening our work perspective in order to do what we need to do to help our employees? In today’s fast-paced, competitive world, it appears that doing nothing is no longer an option when it comes to managing the health of our employees in the workplace.

    Wellness in the workplace: How to get started

    To help get you started, we have summarized a few quick and easy wellness initiatives that we have seen our clients implement. They cost you nothing but the time and focus to get them started. Maybe this will help you start your own Wellness Program or at least spark the flow of ideas:

    1. Start a walking group at lunch.
    2. Food at meetings: put out a bowl of apples as a snack, rather than unhealthy options.
    3. Create a health committee to help promote the education of healthy living in your workplace; you may be surprised what employees come up with!
    4. For employees who are offsite or work from home, do a stop-drop-and-exercise email blast to engage those employees who are not physically with the rest of the organization. Have them participate and communicate back to you what they did to partake.
    5. Start a FaceTime walking group, so that all employees can partake in the walk regardless of where they work.
    6. If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), tap into this amazing resource and do a regular lunch with your employees to educate them on subjects that are and will be of interest to them.
    7. Bring in guest speakers to address different health issues. A nutritionist to talk about healthy eating choices on the run; a chiropractor to talk about stretching and the importance of doing so for good health; or implement a smoke cessation program, available at 1-877-513-5333 or Smokers’ Helpline offers a free and personalized tool to help employees to quit smoking.

    Whatever you decide to implement, research shows that doing nothing will cost your organization money, and doing something will most certainly pay your organization dividends.

    For more information on how to develop your employee wellness next steps or to discuss benefits in general, please call Rosemary Marsh at 905-777-9990, ext. 202, or email her at rmarsh@bisinc.caat Our expertise is your advantage!

  3. Pharmacogenetics: What is it, and what does it have to do with your benefits?

    Pharmacogenetics: What is it




    1. the branch of pharmacology concerned with the effect of genetic factors on reactions to drugs

    What you need to know about pharmacogenetics

    Pharmacogenetics: Have you heard this new term being mentioned in different health discussions? It’s one of the latest evolutions in drug tests, and it has now reached the group benefits arena. This advance now enables testing to determine a person’s genes’ response to a drug, before actually taking the drug.

    Pharmacogenetics is the study of inherited genetic differences in our drug metabolic pathways. It’s one of those differentiating factors that impacts one person’s response to a drug versus another’s. So, while doctors previously prescribed on the basis of age, gender, weight, liver and kidney function, pharmacogenetics enables doctors to select the best medication and dose for a given patient using genetic data. Doctors can now identify genes that cause serious side effects, and as a result, can avoid such outcomes by determining if their patient has a specific gene. It’s thanks to the sharing of scientific results from institutes that have, for many years, studied the effects of genes and medications that we have this advance in pharmacogenetic testing.

    When pharmacogenetic testing makes sense

    The use of pharmacogenetic testing is becoming a very helpful tool for individuals for whom higher-cost drugs are prescribed as an option to improve outcomes. In fact, in the group benefits arena, some carriers are beginning to implement this testing as part of their process.

    Costs for pharmacogenetic testing (PGx) range from $250 to $500, based on our research in Canada. You can request a PGx test from an online provider, or you can ask a healthcare professional to order the test. Some pharmacies may assist in ordering this test when a physician has requested a change in prescription. Some group benefit plans may even cover the cost when a doctor requests the test, depending on a plan’s laboratory diagnostic testing coverage. Healthcare Spending Accounts (HCSA) should allow this expense when it is requested by a physician. Best to inquire with your provider, in advance, what restrictions and coverage are provided in your plan.

    It’s important to be aware of this evolution in testing, especially when you may be struggling with finding the right drug for a condition. Where group benefits are concerned, don’t be surprised if you get asked to participate in this type of testing before a carrier confirms acceptance of a high cost drug; the goal being to get the right drug at the right time for the right person.

    For more information on what pharmacogenetic testing means to your group benefit experience, please contact Rosemary Marsh at 905-777-9990, ext. 202 or via email at Our expertise is your advantage!

  4. Problems with group benefits you might have forgotten about

    Forgotten problems with group benefits

    We often discuss some of the more common challenges surrounding group benefits. While these problems are important, there are also a few lesser-known issues that are just as crucial to keep in mind.

    Let’s take a look at four problems with group benefits you might have forgotten about:

    Keep your contract current and up-to-date

    If you think your insurance carrier will just pay any claim because you’re paying the premium, guess again. If the contract isn’t right, the carrier has the right to refund the premium and leave the claimant responsible for the uninsured liability.

    Be honest and up front with your broker so the issues can be addressed in advance of any claim issues.

    Attention to details matters

    Some may think that benefits are no big deal. But, there are many legal implications today that hinge on the finer details, and these easily-missed details may surprise you.

    Watching television commercials about how convenient it is to buy insurance online with no fuss — just click-click and you’re done — make us uneasy. That’s because there’s so much that you don’t know you’re missing when you remove personal interaction. This void can become a major issue when it’s time to file a claim.

    We would never recommend the click-click approach and group benefits are the very same. In managing the little details, your broker can ensure there are no surprises that could be costly.

    Your calendar is a valuable tool

    There are certain events that need to be managed closely: salary changes, when to add a new employee, when to terminate benefits, and when to send out disability claim forms, to name just a few. Use your calendar to ensure you address all those to-do’s.

    Missed deadlines can evolve into issues that have the potential to be very costly and could even cause your employees hardship. Try setting an event notification on your computer or phone’s calendar to remind you of these important items.

    Value the role your benefits administrator plays

    The whole experience of a group insurance plan centers on the abilities of the plan administrator. While the administrator may have many other functions, their role in the group plan will have the greatest effect on the employees’ benefit experience.

    It’s for this reason we suggest that administrators take the time to familiarize themselves with the insurance carrier’s “online how-to” sections and tutorials, rather than attempting to figure things out on the fly. Outcomes will be improved for both your administrator and your employees. As busy as we all are, sometimes, taking the time now can save us from having to spend even more time and money in the long run.

    For more information on how you can enhance your group benefit experience, please contact Rosemary Marsh at 905-777-9990, ext. 202 or via email at Our expertise is your advantage!

  5. 7 employee benefits that aren’t insurance benefits

    7 employee benefits that aren’t insurance benefits

    These are changing times. With many employers facing challenges finding and hiring employees, it’s interesting to take a look at the creative tools some of our clients have used to find and keep their new hires. Certainly, insurance benefits are one recruiting tool, but there are many employee benefits that aren’t insurance benefits that are appealing to new prospects.

    The new hiring process

    More employers are hiring employment agencies who specialize in maneuvering online social media platforms and finding the right candidates, before those candidates even apply; social media allows recruiters to find a perfect candidate the first time they recommend a new hire. But once that perfect fit is found, how best to keep them?

    While we often talk about how traditional insurance benefits can be an amazing tool to do just this, there are also other ways to promote employee engagement and a great work environment. So, consider the following benefits — that aren’t benefits — as innovate approaches to improving your work culture.

    Unplug room: Create a place for your employees to relax, rest their eyes, and rejuvenate during the workday. Promote it as a 5-minute time out to refresh.

    Travelling massage therapist: Hire a massage therapist in your workplace to offer staff neck and shoulder massages. It will ease their tension and set you apart. Employees want to work for employers who care.

    EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs): EAPs are more popular now than they ever were. They’ve evolved to offer online and phone fitness training tools for your employees to tap into, promoting healthy living in a way that’s easy to use and helpful. Check with your EAP provider to see if this is offered.

    Virtual doctors: Some providers are embedding this new benefit into their platform. For employees managing a busy life and in need of a medical consult, doctors accessible via video call or phone are a big win. Employers wins too; issues are addressed quickly and efficiently with less time needed away from work.

    A potluck lunch: Bringing your team together through the sharing of food is always a good idea. A greater sense of community can encourage a higher level of engagement, promote a happier environment, and improve employee tenure.

    Take your dog to work day: Dogs are man’s best friend, and your employees with dogs think so too. By allowing them to bring their well-trained dog to work for a day, they get to connect with other employees in a way they may never have before, provided there are no allergy issues to consider. Remember: more engagement means more tenure. Dogs are also known to relieve stress, so there is a dual benefit in promoting dogs in the workplace.

    Lunch and meditation hour: With computers and cell phones so prominent, the need to unplug and turn off our minds has never been more desired. Hire a meditation specialist or use an online meditation tool. You just need a quiet room and someone to organize the event. Turning off our minds is becoming a necessary exercise that will promote calmness and improve creativity and health.

    With the speed of life moving so fast and things changing just as quickly, the need to evolve our ideas surrounding work environments is crucial. It is often said that the more you give, the more you get. Give one or more of these ideas a try and you and your employees are sure to reap more benefits than you never expected.

    If you would like to learn more about the group benefits we offer and what we can do for our clients, please contact Steve Marsh at 905-777-9990, ext. 200, or via email at Our expertise is your advantage!

  6. Thinking of adding a Retirement Plan?

    Do your group benefits expose you to legal risk?

    If your plan includes a Retirement Plan, congratulations! You’ve given your company a critical competitive hiring advantage; a Retirement Plan is key tool for recruiting and attracting new employees to your organization. And of course, adding a Retirement Plan is a great way to reward your current employees, and helps improve retention and staff tenure levels.

    While only approximately 20% of employers offer a Retirement Program, many employers are now discovering how incredibly important a Retirement Plan can be — especially for those struggling to lure and retain staff.

    Retirement Plans come in many formats, including Defined Contribution Pension Plans, Defined Benefit Pension Plans, GRRSP’s and GRRSP/DPSP Plans. Today most employers lean toward the GRRSP/DPSP plan option, where possible. This style of plan is more flexible and enables the employer to control more of the plan rules and protect the company contribution to the plan. This is done through “vesting” rules. Vesting is a participation timeline requirement the employee must meet in order to receive the company contributions at termination. Rules in a GRRSP/DPSP can stipulate this requirement and protect the company contributions from being accessed by short term employees.

    Most plans offer an Employee/Employer match program where the amount the employee contributes is matched by the employer. Most plans offer between 3 – 5% contribution matches. This means whatever the employee contributes the employer matches, up to a set maximum amount. Typically, there are no direct costs incurred for the Employer to set up a GRRSP/DPSP as the fees for running the program are included in the Investment Management Fees (IMFs) the employee pays through each fund. An employer’s main administrative role is to deduct the employee’s contribution and remit both the employer and employees’ portion on a monthly basis to the carrier.

    All retirement providers offer a host of funding options, but the key to a well-run plan is simplicity. Employees are not typically investor-savvy, as a result most providers offer simplified solutions to as an option. A common simplified choice is a Target Date Fund, which is often referred to as an autopilot fund. This style of fund requires little effort from an employee, as the employee makes one choice by selecting their target retirement year, which in turn determines the Target Date fund best suited to them. Once selected this fund automatically addresses the changing risk needs as the employee ages and will automatically make fund changes to reflect their evolving needs.

    For employers thinking about introducing a retirement plan, be sure to use a qualified broker to assist you through the right design decisions and help manage the program on an ongoing basis. A good broker will assist you in your CAP Compliance requirements and provide you with an annual summary to help you meet and protect your organizations interests, and build a sound CAP file to be referred to in future years should past efforts and diligence need to be confirmed.

    Business Insurance Services offers a wide range of services to guide and assists clients through the steps of implementing and maintaining a Retirement Plan. For assistance please contact Rosemary Marsh at 905-777-9990, or via email at if you’d like to discuss any of the above. Our expertise is your advantage.

  7. Is cheating your group insurance plan fraud?

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    You bet it is, and carriers are — understandably — doing more than ever to educate employees that cheating your group insurance plan is fraud and will not be tolerated.

    In fact, these more aggressive actions by carriers have resulted in employees being charged, and employers in turn are terminating employees who cheat their group plans. In other words, there are real, and severe, consequences for cheating.

    Never before has the industry put more focus on insurance plan fraud prevention than what you’re seeing today. Ads appear on television, in magazines and in publications educating employees that any fraud is unacceptable and illegal. Carriers are investing heavily in fraud prevention as well, through the programing of algorithms in their claims systems to detect unusual activity.

    Many carriers have increased their staff in this area as well; in some carrier operations, staffing in insurance plan fraud departments has jumped from 4 to 80 employees over the past five years. Add to this more sophisticated hiring practices where past police and investigative personnel form part of the insurance carriers’ team, and you can see how seriously carriers are taking their efforts to reduce fraudulent claims usage.

    What does this mean to you as an employer? Fraud costs your plan money and while your carrier is doing everything they can to ensure they address all that fraud does to your plan, there are actions you can take as an employer to protect the financial interests of your plan. The three key areas of focus are as follows:

    Time – take the time to treat your group plan like the important budget item it is. Too often employers don’t have or take the time to even review their plan as an important budgetary cost item. This is one of the costliest ways to manage your benefits program. As with any unaddressed budgetary item in your organization, costs will rise, and group benefits are no different.

    Expertise – finding the right partner to help you manage through the tumultuous group benefits arena will save you time and money. A qualified broker partner will know how a group plan works both in underwriting and in practice and will be able to delve into what your plans drivers are, to manipulate the outcomes, and align it with the goals of your organization. A good broker partner will be nimble in offering creative solutions that will address the long-term impact of your plan financially as well as competitively.

    Communication – never has communication been more important to group benefits than it is today. It’s really the key to your benefit results. Communicating between all stakeholders can greatly influence outcomes. Add to that the importance of communicating well to your employees from the onboarding stage and ongoing. Doing this right and in a format that suits your organization and your employees will domino the effects of offering a group benefits program and can improve your financial outcomes.

    For more information on how to trump up your group benefit experience, please contact Rosemary Marsh at 905-777-9990, ext. 202 or via email at Our expertise is your advantage!

  8. As an employer, do your group benefits expose you to legal risk?

    Do your group benefits expose you to legal risk?

    Technological innovations have made group plan administration easier than ever. With online enrolment and online claims processing and billings, both you and your employees can interact and manage your benefits plans anytime, anywhere.

    But with this evolution, there has been a shift in where the burden of responsibility and liability lies. While employers have empowered their people to self-manage many aspects of their benefits plans, employers still maintain responsibility should any issues arise, and naturally, there can be legal implications. The shift to a do-it-yourself model has been great, but you are still responsible for ensuring your people know how to use their benefits plans and what their coverage entails.

    There are many responsibilities to consider, but for this article we have focused on the following three main areas:

    • Enrolment forms
    • Life events
    • Staying current

    Always get complete, accurate enrolment forms

    It may sound simple, but having every employee complete an enrolment form is a critical piece of the administration puzzle. This one document ensures the employee is enrolled, registers a legal beneficiary in the event of death, and binds the carrier to insure all those listed in the document. Without this document properly completed and submitted within 31 days of being eligible for the group plan, there can be carrier denials that may cause the employee to pursue legal action, depending on the situation.

    Stay on top of life events

    A “life event” is a term insurance carriers use and is a key rule within a group insurance plan. Life events allow an employee to make changes without any medical questions asked, such as a change in marital status, an addition to the family, or when a spouse has a job change that affects benefits. Carriers will allow these changes to be made as long as they are considered a life event, by the carrier’s definition, and they were advised within 31 days of the change. Failure to provide proper notice can result in denial. When this occurs, the employer can be at fault and could be legally liable. It’s for this reason that employee education is important: it ensures that employees are aware of the requirement, and protects employers as it confirms that they have done their part to assist employees in managing this detail.

    Keep employee and beneficiary information current

    Enrolment forms include both the beneficiary and the income, two key pieces of information that should be updated regularly. The income reported on group insurance plans can affect the level of insurance for life insurance, AD&D and short- or long-term disability, if applicable, and requires regular updates to ensure there are no errors concerning employee information. Errors can cause an issue at claim time that is easily avoided if administration updates are part of the employer’s process. All employee beneficiary designation forms should be updated regularly to ensure they reflect the employee’s current intent. Making this a part of an annually scheduled process to remind employees of their responsibility to update their beneficiary goes a long way in reducing any legal liability for an organization.

    It’s surprising just how important that enrolment form is! If you’d like to discuss this or any of the other due diligence items we regularly review with our clients, please contact Steve Marsh at Business Insurance Services or 905.777.9990, ext. 200.

  9. Three reasons why group benefits are so costly — and how you can address them

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    Group benefit costs continue to rise, but that’s not something you don’t already know. What you might not realize is why.

    Naturally, there are many varying reasons for general rate adjustments, and we don’t need to discuss the various justifications for why health and dental costs are on the rise. But it is worth reviewing the deeper-seeded components that factor in to plan costs — especially because, as an employer, you have some measure of control over these costs.

    Let’s take a look at three of them:

    Plan Design. This could be the greatest factor in why your costs are going up. If your plan is above industry norms, you will be attracting more claims from employees but also from their dependents, as under coordination of benefits (where a couple both have coverage), you will pay what other plans wouldn’t. Have you safeguarded against abuse and over-utilization in your plan? We are living in changing times, so if your group plan hasn’t changed, you are going to have more financial pressure than you can may be able afford. The changes we are talking about are not the typical benefit cutbacks, but rather a more forensic approach to benefit design that explores what your employees truly need. This type of review will reinforce the sustainability of your group plan.

    Claims Usage. The cost of your plan is directly correlated to claims paid. This requires us to focus on specific benefits, such as your health and dental, as these typically represent 60% of your total group benefit budget. And while this ties directly into the plan design you offer, it is also impacted by the mindset of your employees. Some employees will treat their group plan as an entitlement, with little regard for how the plan is used as it is company money, not their own. For this reason, engaging employees in the relationship between claims and costs and arming them with knowledge about why it is in their best interest to always be an aware consumer, even when it concerns their benefits, is critical to improving the results of your group plan. Corporate culture can have a significant bearing on your ability to partner with your employees and impact your bottom line.

    Carrier Costs. Have you noticed how complicated group benefits are getting? This confusion can frustrate employers and encourage rash decision-making over detailed analysis. However, a carrier’s costs can absolutely be an important factor in the group benefit cost conundrum, and avoiding it can quickly exacerbate the costs. Only through in-depth analysis by a group insurance expert/advisor can you confirm if you are paying too much for your plan. You can always market your group plan to test for competitiveness, but unless your advisor knows how the pricing of a plan works, you are likely boomeranging back to the same scenario, with a bad first renewal. So scrutiny of all the components of your plan’s costs is required to ensure you are obtaining real savings and can avoid the costly process of switching carriers cyclically.

    If you would like to explore the unique tools we use to address these key group benefit factors, please contact Steve Marsh at Business Insurance Services or 905.777.9990, ext. 200, today.

  10. Virtual Doctor Services: Are You Ready to Offer This Benefit to Your Employees?

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    We’re living in an era where things change fast! We’ve seen it as technological advances are made in so many areas, from home appliances and automobiles to communications. Medical services are no exception, as we’re currently seeing the emergence of virtual doctor services.

    The concept is just as you’d surmise, given the name. Where offered, an employee has access to a doctor, via video, on their phone or using their computer. Some insurance carriers have aligned themselves with a specific provider, but where a carrier does not offer this option, it can be purchased direct from a provider of virtual doctor services. There are many different options, and pricing for this new benefit can be just as varied, ranging from $3.00 to $15.00 per employee, per month.

    Ultimately, the level of service and attention to detail will differentiate one virtual provider from another. However, when looking to add this new benefit to your plan, the key is knowing what services a provider offers and how they impact an employee’s current medical provider. Only private virtual doctor services work outside of the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) and as a result, virtual visits to a doctor have no impact on the employee’s family doctor OHIP billing. This type of provider is more costly, but also seems to provide the highest level of service.

    With hospital emergency room wait times ballooning and some geographical regions having wait lists for family doctors, it’s no wonder this benefit evolution has occurred. One provider’s experience shows 40-50% of employees with this benefit will use a virtual doctor app on their phone. Those who have used the service love its convenience and found the level of care excellent. They found it easy, timely and efficient to get an answer, and appreciated the convenience of having their prescriptions sent right to their local pharmacy for quick pick-up. In many cases, easily resolvable health issues that previously required taking time off work and a longer duration of suffering were quickly addressed and remedied. The service is quick to refer employees when situations require more direct medical attention, but many needs can be addressed using this application.

    This kind of virtual service will have a profound impact where family doctors are not readily available and should also reduce employee absenteeism and improve productivity. Some employers even look at this as a hiring benefit to attract new talent. The key is to fully understand the services offered to your employees to ensure the cost/benefit analysis is aligned with your corporate philosophy. For more information on what your options are, contact Rosemary Marsh at Business Insurance Services today.


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231 Main Street West, Main Floor
Hamilton, ON
L8P 1J4
Phone: (905) 777-9990