Jackson And Associates
Current Trends

Group Benefits

Drug Price Regulations Delayed……Again

As reported here one year back when the initial delay occurred, the regulations intended to protect Canadian consumers and plan sponsors from excessive drug prices have been delayed once again.

The Regulations Amending the Patented Medicine regulations are now scheduled to come into effect July 1, 2022, exactly one year from the date when Health Canada had initially proposed they be implemented after allowing extra time to the pharmaceutical manufacturers to make the changes required by the new reporting requirements.

These regulations, proposed by the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, are the result of consultations with stakeholders that began in November 2019 with draft guidelines released in July 2020. Health Canada then proposed the delay as referenced.

This latest delay is intended to provide additional time for stakeholders, industry and government to continue discussions related to the changing pharmaceutical landscape that has been impacted by the COVID pandemic.

We will continue to monitor this situation however the continued delays are proving costly for plan sponsors.

Time to Rethink Plan Design

The last two years have seen tremendous changes in how the workplace is operating and also in how (and where) employees are working.

A recent Gallup study involving nearly 7,500 employees found 23% reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while there were 44% who reported feeling burned out sometimes.

A survey by the HR Research Institute of almost 300 HR professionals found only 34% indicated their company had a formal policy for flexible working arrangements. Of the companies involved, 48% had managers in charge of making work arrangements for their individual teams while 31% allow their employees to choose how much time they spend onsite.

In a report by Dialogue Health Technologies (the second annual Canadian Attitudes on Health and Virtual Care Report) showed, of the 1,760 canvassed between September 8 to 21 in 2021, 82% are committed to taking better care of themselves and 39% plan on using their employee benefit plan to do so.

There has been a trend towards additional flexibility on group benefit plan designs to accommodate an ever broadening of employee demographics due to age and dependent status and we believe in adding more flexibility due the drastic changes impacting employee workplaces including the social aspects of interacting with work colleagues. Considerations for design changes include plans that accommodate the following:

  • Lifestyle changes including those for diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Access to virtual healthcare services including mental health professionals
  • Access to resources to help employees take better care of themselves including resources to enable them to establish health & wellness goals

The surveys referenced indicate each workplace may have different policies and circumstances and that, combined with the different employee demographics of an organization (based on their size, industry and location) means tailoring your group benefit plan to support your business model and claims experience is increasingly important.

Dental Fee Guide Increases for 2022

Each year the provincial dental associations adjust their fees for specific services and, while the fee increase can be different for a Basic service like an Exam versus a service like a crown, each province does have an “average increase” for all services.

The following chart outlines these increases by province and territory based on information available at this time.

  • Province
  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nova Scotia
  • Nunavut
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
  • Yukon
  • MAverage Fee Increase (%)
  • 3.90
  • 3.96
  • 5.79
  • 2.52
  • 5.00
  • 3.39
  • 3.00
  • 3.10
  • 4.75
  • 4.75
  • 5.00
  • 3.23
  • N/A

It’s important that plan sponsors appreciate the actual design of their benefit plan can influence what percentage increase should be applied when their insurer/plan administrator proposes an increase as some services are actually increasing below these averages.

Group Savings

CSA Provides Guidance for ESG

The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) has published guidance for investment funds on their disclosure practices that relate to environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations, particularly for those funds whose investment objectives reference ESG factors as well as those that are branded as ESG-related funds. The guidance addresses areas of disclosure including investment objectives, fund names, investment strategies, risk disclosure, continuous disclosure and sales communications.

As ESG investing is on the rise, the intent is to help investment funds and the fund managers, enhance the regulatory disclosure documents and ensure that sales communications of ESG-related funds are not misleading and remain consistent with the funds’ regulatory offering documents.

For additional information please refer to www.osc.ca for CSA Staff Notice 81-334 ESG-Related Investment Fund Disclosure.

Education Required on Savings Plans

A recent survey by the Bank of Montreal found that 64% of Canadians know the difference between a registered retirement savings plan (RSP) and a tax-free savings account (TFSA). Of those surveyed, the younger investors – ages 18 to 34 – were less likely to be knowledgeable about the plans. While 73% of survey respondents indicated they are knowledgeable about TFSAs, only 49% are aware an account can hold cash and at least one investment.

The survey indicated Canadians primarily use their TFSA accounts for a variety of financial goals with 44% using them for retirement savings, 43% as a savings account but only 15% to achieve financial independence as early as possible.

Legislative

BC Introduces Paid Sick Leave

Effective January 1, 2022, workers in British Columbia (BC) are entitled to 5 paid sick days per year based on recent changes to the BC Employment Standards Act (ESA).

In order to qualify, employees must have been employed for at least 90 days. Certain professions (i.e. such as doctors, lawyers and engineers) are exempt from this provision under the ESA.

Previously, employees were only entitled to 3 days of unpaid sick leave under the ESA. While some employers offered paid sick leave to their employees previously anyway, these 5 days are a mandated minimum now.

Employers should make the appropriate adjustments as required to their sick leave policy which should also include what types of absences qualify as “sick leave”, expectations around how much notice and what type of documentation employees have to provide in order to take the leave.

BC Expands Biosimilar Program

British Columbia (BC) is expanding their provincial drug benefit to include two rapid-acting insulins. Effective June 2022, BC Pharmacare will no longer provide coverage for the biologic drugs Humalog and NovoRapid and any individuals taking these drugs will have 6 months to transition to the biosimilar versions, Admelog and Trurapi.

Most insurance providers are increasingly following the provincial government’s biosimilar transition policy however, plan sponsors should confirm their approach and all options available and also communicate accordingly to the plan members