iA launches inclusive coverage for diverse employees

'It should be normal that we represent and invest in these types of coverages,' VP of client experience at iA says

iA launches inclusive coverage for diverse employees
Janie Bilodeau, VP - Client Experience, Marketing and Products at iA

Having a diverse workplace is an important asset for any organization. Not only does it acknowledge the individual strengths of each employee and the potential they bring but implementing DEI practices allows employees to be themselves and be celebrated for who they are.

To celebrate diversity in the workplace, one of the country’s largest group insurers has launched new inclusive coverages designed to support their members and dependents in their personal and family development.

These inclusive coverages, which will be offered under two categories: gender affirmation support and family support, will be an asset, iA Financial Group claims, for employers who wish to deploy or reinforce their equity, diversity and inclusion strategy. 

Janie Bilodeau, vice-president - Client Experience, Marketing and Products at iA, says the launch came from a focus on emerging needs in the market and to reflect the changing demographics of society. “We have entered an era where we needed to make bolder moves as the population has more needs and is getting more diverse. It was time for us to design a range of inclusive coverage options that can be added to our clients' group insurance plans,” she says.

Bilodeau added that while it's not mandatory, iA felt that they needed to have “a broad spectrum of possibilities for employers to lead the industry”.

According to Statistics Canada, 1 in 300 people aged 15 and over identify themselves as transgender or non-binary. Additionally, statistics from the World Health Organization says more than 1 in 6 people in Canada is affected by infertility. These stats alone were enough for iA to introduce coverage for their plan members and their dependents.

Breaking down the coverage categories, Bilodeau noted under gender affirmation support, the steps involved for coverage vary per individual. The base criteria, however, is that the insured person be 18 years of age or older, have been diagnosed with gender dysmorphia by a physician and they’ve obtained authorization from the health insurance plan of their province of residence for gender affirmation surgeries.

While a wide range of care and treatment options can be considered, associated costs can sometimes be an obstacle. This coverage provides reimbursement for feminization or masculinization surgery, as well as for gender-affirming care and treatments.

Under family support, there are three sub-categories, Bilodeau highlighted: Fertility, surrogacy and adoption. Since the costs associated with fertility drugs, treatments and surrogacy-related medical expenses are often substantial, fertility and surrogacy coverage options help to reduce the financial stress associated with starting or expanding a family. Additionally, fertility and surrogacy coverage options are complementary to the health insurance plan of the insured person’s province of residence.

iA also offers coverage to help make the process more affordable for future parents who wish to grow their families through adoption. These family support coverage options can be added under the supplemental health insurance benefit. “We’re aiming at different needs and different dreams for people to have a family, so we're offering different means to support the achievement of that dream,” Bilodeau said. “Not everybody will want to follow the same path depending on their specific situation.”

“We're helping real people with real needs, and that has a huge impact on their wellbeing and them being happy and living a fruitful and happy life. This is part of our mission: to be present and help Canadians with their wellbeing,” she added.

 Since the launch of the product offerings, Bilodeau says requests for fertility is the one that is the most requested, more so than adoption coverage, but there’s “not enough to say this represents a trend.” She also noted that it depends on what employers want to offer their employees for benefits.

“All of these coverages are a-la-carte. Some employers are taking them all. Others are taking one or two, so it also depends on how the employer wants to support their employees with their benefits. We have helped plan members in every one of these categories so far,” Bilodeau said.

Bilodeau claims iA is a philanthropic company that takes care of its community, its employees and recognizes their employees’ diversity. “We have different communities within iA that foster and celebrate diversity. From women to First Nations communities, Afro-descendant communities and the DEI and LGBTQ+ communities. It's part of our view of getting involved in the community and getting involved with our employees. It should be normal that we support and invest in these types of coverages.”

“Having a family is a dream for many, and being comfortable in your own body and your own mind is also important,” Bilodeau added. “These are journeys that may cost a lot of money if you don't have help. By launching these products, we feel we're contributing and fulfilling our mission.”

As for what’s next for iA, there’s future coverages they hope to entertain their members with. They’re currently experimenting and answering some important needs and trends in healthcare like diabetes, obesity drugs, and menopause, to name a few.

“There's so many different needs, we’re tackling them all,” Bilodeau said. ‘We're looking at what the possibilities could be for us to help even more Canadians with their wellbeing.”