sanofi-aventis Canada Inc.
PARIS : SAN
NYSE : SNY

sanofi-aventis Canada Inc.

June 14, 2007 08:00 ET

sanofi-aventis Canada Inc.: Are Health Benefit Plans the Remedy for Canada's Labour Shortage?

Offering Coverage into Retirement Encourages Employees to Stay in the Workforce Longer

LAVAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - June 14, 2007) - Against a backdrop of growing skills shortages, health benefit plans can become a strategic tool for Canadian employers to attract and retain top talent. In addition, these plans can play a meaningful role in an employee's decision to postpone retirement. These findings and others are drawn from the 10th edition of The sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey released today. The national survey of 1,700 employee health benefit plan members is the most comprehensive research to examine the perceptions, needs and issues of Canadians about their employer-sponsored health benefit plans. The survey also explores employee attitudes about the role of the public health system and the workplace.

Benefit Plans Can Help Employers Mitigate the Labour Crunch

The departure of the post-war baby-boomers from the workforce has already begun, further worsening the labour crunch for many Canadian employers. However, offering employees health benefit plans that continue into retirement can mitigate this issue. According to the survey findings, almost two-thirds of respondents aged 55 and older confirm they would be 'very' or 'somewhat likely' to continue working or return to the workforce after retirement if their employer would offer prescription drug (65%) or dental coverage (61%) that would continue into retirement. Even among younger employees (under age 55), access to prescription drug and dental coverage that continues into retirement is an important factor (68% and 63% respectively) in their decision to move to a new employer.

The importance of health benefit plans as an attraction and retention tool is also demonstrated by the strong relationship between these plans and job satisfaction. Ninety-five per cent of employees who say their health benefit plan is 'excellent' also indicate they are satisfied with their job. Additionally, more than nine in 10 respondents (91%) place these plans among the critical factors (excluding salary) that define 'a good job' along with other important considerations such as being 'treated well by the organization' (96%), 'supportive co-workers' (94%), 'trusting one's co-workers' (93%) and 'competent management' (92%).

Chris Bonnett, a member of The sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey Advisory Board and president of Toronto-based H3 Consulting / businesshealth, says, "While these indicators are consistent with other research findings that focus on trust, fairness and quality of management and leadership, it is surprising to see how high employees rank a good benefit package among the factors that define job satisfaction."

The Importance of Effective Communication

Since employees place such high importance on health benefit plans, employers should continue to invest in communication that improves understanding of these plans. While an increasing number of respondents (86% compared to 80% in 2004), say their employer has done a 'very good' or 'good job' communicating plan coverage information, fewer (68% versus 72% in 2005) say they understand their plan 'extremely' or 'very well.'

The importance of good plan communication is demonstrated by the link it has to job satisfaction. Ninety-four per cent of those who say their employer has done a 'very good job' communicating benefit plans are also satisfied with their job, compared to 77% of those who say communication is 'poor' or 'very poor.' Additionally, those who say plan communication is 'poor' or 'very poor' are also more likely to have considered leaving their job in the last 12 months (45%, versus 24% who say their plan communication is 'very good').

The importance of well-communicated health benefit plans goes beyond their contribution to job satisfaction. Improving member understanding can also help employers control the rapidly increasing cost of these plans. Among respondents who say their health benefit plan meets their needs 'extremely well,' the survey says 81% 'strongly' or 'somewhat agree' they have an obligation to help their employer control plan costs.

"These connections are important for employers," adds Chris Bonnett. "High-quality communication that improves understanding should also speak to cost issues and the need for plan members to control their use of the plan. Strong plan communication can help create reasonable expectations about current and future coverage."

Government and Employer Protection

Every year, The sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey looks at how respondents perceive the public healthcare system. While the number of plan members who feel the quality of Canada's healthcare system is 'excellent' or 'very good' (32%) is comparable to previous surveys, there is a steady decline in the proportion of respondents who describe the system as 'poor' or 'very poor' (only 14%, down from 17% in 2002 and 20% in 1997).

This year's survey also indicates respondents have high expectations when it comes to the government's role and responsibility for costly healthcare interventions. Most respondents to The sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey want the government to take a lead role in paying for expensive medicines for serious illnesses such as cancer (87%), and for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol (70%). Respondents also think the government should be primarily responsible for the cost of diagnostic services (79%), vaccines for conditions like hepatitis (70%), and preventive health services (60%). The majority of respondents (78%) would also like to see the government set minimum standards for health benefit plan coverage.

"These findings provide significant insights for governments and plan sponsors alike. For governments that are considering changes to their healthcare and drug programs, the survey shows that employees expect them to ensure patients have access to expensive treatments, as well as diagnostic and preventive services," notes Jacques L'Esperance, president of J. L'Esperance Actuariat Conseil Inc. and a member of The sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey Advisory Board. "For employers, the survey indicates employees are conscious of the rising costs of health services, but they also feel vulnerable and concerned about access to high quality benefit plans. If employers become complacent about coverage quality, employees will expect the government to protect their interests."

Additional Key Findings:

- Further underscoring the importance employees place on these plans, 61% say they would choose their health benefit plan over $20,000 cash. When asked, 95% say they know their plans cost their employer less than $20,000, but they realize their health costs could exceed $20,000 and these plans offer them security and peace of mind.

- A strong majority of respondents (80%) say their drug plan is 'very important' and 78% say the same about their dental plan.

- Respondents identified wait times for surgery and diagnostic procedures (40%), followed by not enough doctors and nurses (29%) as the two most important healthcare issues that had not been dealt with by their governments.

About the Survey

Sanofi-aventis commissioned Ipsos-Reid to conduct the 2007 survey, the 10th in the series. Ipsos-Reid fielded The sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey between January 10 and 28, 2007, with a random national sample of 1,700 primary health benefit plan members. One can say with 95 per cent certainty that the results are within +/- 2.4 percentage points of what they would have been had the entire population been polled.

To view the survey in its entirety, visit www.sanofi-aventis.ca.

About sanofi-aventis

Sanofi-aventis is one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies. Backed by a world-class R&D organization, sanofi-aventis is developing leading positions in seven major therapeutic areas: cardiovascular, thrombosis, oncology, metabolic diseases, central nervous system, internal medicine, and vaccines. Sanofi-aventis is listed in Paris (EURONEXT:SAN) and in New York (NYSE:SNY).

In Canada, sanofi-aventis employs more than 1,000 people and is headquartered in Laval, Quebec.

Contact Information