In Canada, the year-over-year cost increase for claims under a medical plan on a per-person basis is projected to reach seven per cent in 2023, according to a new report by Mercer.

The report, which analyzed responses from more than 200 insurers across 56 countries, found the global year-over-year cost is expected to increase to 12.6 per cent. Despite forecasted double-digit medical trend rates in some markets, more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of insurers said they expect plan sponsors to prioritize plan design improvements.

Nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of respondents said they’re experiencing changes in group medical plan claims patterns due to deferred care during the coronavirus pandemic. Insurers also said the pandemic is contributing to higher per-claim costs due to deferred care (58 per cent), more later-stage illness diagnoses (55 per cent,; increased use of mental-health services (40 per cent), higher incidence of chronic conditions due to lifestyle changes (37 per cent) and increased use of musculoskeletal services (24 per cent).

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The survey also found insurers have widely adopted modern health solutions such as telemedicine (72 per cent), apps to find doctors or medical care (49 per cent) and insurance coverage or programs that reduce the cost of mental-health treatments (39 per cent).

Respondents are also considering offering several new solutions, including apps and/or wearable technology to manage well-being (49 per cent), apps that suggest possible diagnoses for simple medical issues (37 per cent) and home testing kits for common conditions (32 per cent).

The survey also noted there are gaps in mental-health coverage. Two-thirds (66 per cent) of insurers said they cover psychological and/or psychiatric counselling sessions, while 53 per cent said they cover inpatient treatment for mental health.

Insurers said they’re also providing mental-health support through virtual counselling (40 per cent); communications on mental-health topics, including how to access crisis support lines (38 per cent); preventative resilience or mindfulness coaching (27 per cent); and by covering substance abuse treatment (eight per cent). Fewer than a fifth (16 per cent) said they don’t provide plans that cover mental-health services.

And half of insurers said they’ve made or plan to make coverage more inclusive for LGBTQ2S+ plan members by changing eligibility requirements and eligible expenses.

Read: Cost of medical plan claims expected to increase in 2022: report