Response to the Toronto Star – part II

“Hi Donald.  Thanks for your email and comments. You make some good points.  The article was really a look at how we use benefits at different ages and stages and how that has changed rather than suggesting that they aren’t needed or helpful. They are certainly needed and certainly beneficial.”

(regards) Adam Mayers, Personal Finance Editor Toronto Star| 416-869-4821 amayers@thestar.ca

Hello Adam, and thank you kindly for responding back.

I appreciate that your intention was to write the article highlighting how people use their employee health benefits at different ages and stages.  While your article could have referred to more data, and indeed in a more objective way, I suspect many found your intentions arcane and purposefully inflammatory.

I read Mr. Willow’s white paper you referenced, Employee Benefits Plans Not Reflecting Canada’s Health Challenges According to New Study, and Mr. Willows presents a sincere concern with how health benefits are utilized.  We collectively would do well to heed his advice.  However your article focuses on comments not included in the document, and I’m assuming were made in a private conversation.  Mr. Willows is portrayed as skeptical and ignorant when referring to chiropractic, physiotherapy and massage as “the Three Amigos”, massage “as a lifestyle”, “a special treat” and “considered something for the wealthy”.

Your article provides me with the impression that the sharing of data or trends from Greenshield’s study – indeed helpful and useful information for workers, employers, insurers and health care providers alike – is shadowed in a pall of antagonism and distrust for the intentions of these health care providers.

There was so much good information that could have been extracted from the Greenshield paper.  For example, Mr. Willow’s describes how only 1% of benefits are utilized on dietitians and nutritionists.  He hints at the social determinants of health, and sets up an opportunity to discuss how worker benefits could be better prescribed and directed, perhaps in line with personalized medicine.

We must all ask the question; if workers are not making the right choices with their available benefits, how can we ensure best evidence and health policy direct them?  Perhaps there is a way to align the interests of workers, their employers, insurers and health care providers.  This focus is where your article could do the most good.

Mr. Willows references concern for benefits used by people of younger ages.  I think this is reflective of the societal impact on health at younger and younger ages.  I certainly see this in my practice.  Mr. Willows may be interested to learn that, beyond the treatment of strain and pain, massage therapy in implicated for health enhancement and wellness, which contributes lower health costs.  C.K. Andrade in her seminal book Outcomes Based Massage recognizes benefits beyond simply injury rehabilitation, including: improved energy and sleep, better social functioning and family relationships, a sense of well-being, improved mood, relaxation and coping skills, mindfulness and greater life satisfaction, positive attitude and empathy towards others.  Cultivating these health benefits could go a long way to addressing the serious, insidious illnesses Mr. Willows references.

Resources are limited, and more cost-benefits analyses are needed in the utilization of employee health benefits, no question.  I suggest not inflaming the relationship between insurers and health care providers but instead using the media to foster a dialogue on how to better care for workers with the resources available.

Thank you,

Don Dillon

cc David Willows, Vice President, Strategic Market Solutions, Green Shield Canada david.willows@greenshield.ca

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