In Canada, the year-over-year cost increase for claims under a medical plan on a per-person basis is projected to reach 8.6 per cent this year, up from eight per cent in 2021, according to a new report by Mercer Canada.

The report, which analyzed responses from 210 insurers across 59 countries, found the year-over-year cost is expected to increase to 9.5 per cent globally.

In terms of top areas of concerns, global respondents listed metabolic and cardiovascular risk, along with cancer and circulatory diseases, while 51 per cent said they’re seeing life insurance claims coming in above pre-pandemic levels.

Read: 2022 Drug Plan Trends Report: High-cost drugs, DEI shaping drug plans

While two-thirds of all respondents said they expect to cover inpatient coronavirus care in 2022, 34 per cent have or are considering invoking pre-existing condition limitations relating to long-haul coronavirus infections and 21 per cent are considering new long-haul coronavirus exclusions. About a quarter (23 per cent) said they won’t cover any coronavirus inpatient, outpatient, testing or vaccination costs and eight per cent have already made policy changes to add future pandemic-related exclusions.

While 47 per cent of plan members said they value access to virtual mental-health counselling, only 33 per cent of insurers provide or cover access to this service. Similarly, while 42 per cent of plan members said they value tools to manage addiction and substance abuse, only 10 per cent provide these tools. Just 26 per cent of insurers said they don’t provide any mental-health coverage.

Read: How can employers support coronavirus long-haulers?

More than two-thirds (70 per cent) of insurers offer or cover telemedicine services for simple health issues like a rash or cold, while 61 per cent of insurers provide video, telephone or text access for the treatment of significant issues such as diabetes. And while half of plan members said wearable technology to manage health conditions like diabetes and heart failure is “highly” or “extremely” valuable, just 18 per cent of insurers offer or cover these devices.

Insurers said their top strategic priorities regarding group medical insurance include data analytics (34 per cent), provider management (21 per cent), quality care-focused benefits design (20 per cent) and plan member technologies (10 per cent). Only three per cent of insurers cited their mental-health provision as a key priority and just one per cent are prioritizing preparedness planning for future pandemics and natural disasters.

Roughly a third (30 per cent) of insurers said they’re reviewing medical networks to ensure the diversity of providers, while 27 per cent have changed eligibility access to make coverage more inclusive of LGBTQ+ employees, such as allowing partners of the same gender to be named on medical plans.

Read: Employer health benefits cost trends to rise 8.1% globally in 2022: survey