High-cost drug strategy, flexible annuities in CLHIA wish list for federal budget

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association is asking the federal government to develop a strategy for access to high-cost drugs and to make flexible annuity options available for a variety of retirement savings vehicles.

In its 2020 budget submission to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, the association called for the federal government to work with provincial and territorial governments and insurers to support workplace and individual drug plans.

It also asked the government to develop a strategy that ensures all Canadians can access high-cost treatments for chronic and rare diseases, and to establish a list of medications that all Canadians will have coverage for, regardless of whether they use a private or public plan.

Read: CARP sets out wish list for DB pension protections in 2020 budget submission

“High-cost drugs for chronic and rare diseases are a challenging and evolving class of prescription drugs,” said the CLHIA in its submission. “Their unique characteristics and high costs may require a separate strategy around coverage in order to ensure that Canadians have access — for example, by harmonizing catastrophic drug coverage across the country.”

It commended the government’s $500-million funding commitment to high-cost drugs for rare diseases in the 2019 budget, but added that “it is critical that the government develops a strategy which deals with all catastrophic drug costs, including biologics, gene therapies and other specialty drugs used to treat health conditions affecting a large number of Canadians.”

The association made similar requests in its submissions to the Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador governments in the lead up to their provincial budgets. For Quebec, the CLHIA expressed interest in working with the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance.

Read: Industry praises budget proposals to allow variable annuities for CAP members

On the retirement side, the CLHIA asked the federal government to make flexible annuities available for registered retirement savings plans, registered retirement income funds and tax-free savings accounts.

In last year’s federal budget, the government proposed enabling advanced life deferred annuities for defined contribution plans, RRSPs and RRIFs, among others — but excluded TFSAs. It also proposed making variable annuities available for DC and pooled registered pension plan members.

The CLHIA also asked the federal government to make freestanding VPLAs available to pool participants in all registered retirement plans through a service provider. It also suggested that TFSA holders be able to waive liquidity requirements to make ALDAs available for those accounts, as outlined in a December white paper.

“Many Canadians are using TFSAs to supplement retirement savings,” noted the CLHIA’s submission. “These individuals should have the flexibility to secure their retirement through a guaranteed lifetime income from that plan.”

Read: CLHIA white paper calls for more flexible annuities in CAPs, TFSAs