CLHIA calling for pension innovation, access to cheaper drugs in provincial budgets

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association is highlighting new retirement savings options and access to cheaper drugs in its priorities for the Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador provincial budgets.

In its submission to Newfoundland’s finance minister, the CLHIA called for the government to make pooled registered pension plans available in the province. Citing Statistics Canada data that showed just 20 per cent of employees in workplaces with fewer than 50 employees have access to an employer-provided retirement plan, the association said PRPPs could make a meaningful difference, “ensuring greater fairness in terms of access and affordable workplace retirement pension plans.”

Read: PRPPs continue to languish as provinces vary in enthusiasm for new option

In its submission, the CLHIA noted that PRPPs’ built-in features, such as automatic enrolment and escalation of contribution rates over time, can counter plan member inaction. “These features have been extremely effective in increasing pension participation and adequacy internationally. We believe that PRPPs can significantly improve the future retirement savings of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and urge the province to act quickly to facilitate PRPPs.”

The submission advocated for the province to adopt Quebec’s approach, which requires all employers above a certain size to offer some type of workplace retirement plan. In Quebec’s case, the threshold is five employees.

In addition, the CLHIA called on the Newfoundland and Labrador government to monitor and parallel the federal government’s forthcoming measures to introduce advanced life deferred annuities and variable payment life annuities as options for members of defined contribution pensions and other deferred income plans.

Read: Feds proposals for variable benefits present opportunity to revisit PRPP rules: PIAC

On the prescription drug side, the CLHIA suggested federal, provincial and territorial governments work with private insurers to develop a standard list of medications that Canadians can access regardless of their location or if they have a workplace benefits plan, and also to increase access to high-cost medications “in a fiscally sustainable way.”

In its submissions to Newfoundland and Labrador and to Quebec, the CLHIA also asked the provinces to ensure that any drug reform protects group and individual insurance plans.

The association’s submission to the Quebec government expressed interest in working with the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance.

“Through the alliance, the federal government and the provinces jointly negotiate lower prices for patented and generic drugs,” it said. “In the case of generic drugs, the pCPA uses a formula that reduces prices equally for all Canadians. However, when it comes to patented drugs, the cost reductions negotiated by the pCPA only benefit those covered under the public plan. We want to ensure that the prices negotiated by the government for brand-name drugs are also beneficial to the privately insured.”

Read: Liberals’ election win implications for pharmacare, pension legislation