Canadian insurers paid out more than $97 billion in benefits from life and health insurance products in 2020, according to the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association’s annual fact book.

The period, which included the first nine months of the coronavirus pandemic, included $420 million paid out for psychology-related claims to support mental health, up 24 per cent since 2019. It also included $154 million for individual and group life insurance claims from deaths related to the virus and an additional $150 million for disability claims above what was projected for 2020 to support workers while they recovered.

Because of actions taken by insurers, employers and other plan sponsors, more than 26 million Canadians benefited from access to health benefits at the end of 2020 — the same as before the pandemic, noted the report.

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“Millions of Canadians rely on life and health insurance products during times of crisis; for all of us, 2020 was one of those times,” said Stephen Frank (pictured), president and chief executive officer of the CLHIA, in a press release. “Insurers can be proud of the proactive steps they took through premium reductions and deferrals to help employers through the pandemic and to protect the workplace drug and health benefits their employees count on.”

The breakdown across supplementary health benefits included $7.2 billion paid out for dental, $1 million for vision care, $500 million for chiropractic care, $800 million for massage therapy, $600 million for physiotherapy, $400 million for psychology and $900 million for other paramedical benefits.

In addition, $12 billion was paid out in prescription medication claims in 2020, with insurers paying out more than $650 million in coverage for rare disease drugs. Between 2012 and 2019, expenditures for rare disease grew by 32 per cent — more than six-times the rate of other prescription drugs.

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On the retirement side, this year’s fact book found more than 85 per cent of small employers that provide pensions, registered retirement savings plans, tax-free savings accounts and registered retirement income funds to their employees do so through life and insurance providers. This amounts to $747 billion in employer-sponsored plans.

Over the last decade, accumulation annuities have driven growth in retirement assets held by insurers — up an average of six per cent annually since 2010. The majority (79 per cent) of assets were in the accumulation stage in 2020. And insurers provided $46 billion in annuity payments.

Total benefits paid for health, insurance and retirement increased 40 per cent compared to a decade ago.

Read: Pension benefits continue to lead growth in Canadian insurance industry: CLHIA