Health-care professionals were given a helping hand with their finances at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as executives running their retirement plans recognized the need for extra support.
Pensions & Investments brought together three retirement executives for a webinar Tuesday, as part of the lead-up to the WorldPensionSummit 2021, to consider the measures health-care-related retirement providers took over the past year or so to ensure participants were well supported and provided for as they battled on the front line. Expanded support ranged from ensuring participant well-being to changing plan design.
Executives at the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, Toronto, were able to "deliver some peace of mind for our members" through changes to plan design, said Steve McCormick, senior vice president, plan operations. Executives at the plan, which had C$104 billion ($81.4 billion) in assets as of Dec. 31, realized that "even in health care, there were certain roles that were being furloughed ... and we wanted to do something to address that group," he said.
HOOPP already had a provision in place that allowed participants on health-related leave to continue to accrue benefits without making any contribution. "This has always been an important feature of our plan in the health-care sector — we really want to have empathy for individuals."
Staff and the plan's board came together to adjust that provision, meaning anyone enrolled in the plan who was furloughed as a result of the pandemic or lockdown had the benefit extended to them, "so that those individuals who were not able to work during that period of time would at least have some peace of mind ... from a retirement security position," Mr. McCormick said.
The plan itself went into the pandemic with a surplus and also ended 2020 with a surplus — with a 119% funding ratio as of Dec. 31.
Executives were then able to approve an improvement in benefits for active participants in the plan. Effective April 1, active participants received an increase in their benefits for contributory service in 2018, 2019 and/or 2020, with an increase of up to C$426, according to the plan's website.