Drug claims expected to rise in 2019: survey

Plan sponsors can expect to see a three to five per cent increase in prescription drug claims in 2019, according to Buck’s annual Canadian health-care trend survey.

However, the survey noted, since insurance providers also add a market inflation factor, the projected increase is actually 10.99 per cent, down from 12.45 per cent in 2018. Based on 2018 claims trends, the survey found prescription drug costs represent the majority of private payer health spend and have the greatest influence on employer benefits cost trends. 

“Our survey shows that although actual drug claims remain relatively stable, insurers continue to project a faster rate of increase due to market inflation,” said Lizann Reitmeier, health practice leader in Canada for Buck, in a press release. “Insurance providers factor projected market inflation into the rate setting calculation, and this has the potential to drive plan costs both higher and faster than the actual trend in health-care spending.”

Read: Rising cost of drugs, benefits plans top priorities for employers: survey

It also found the use of dental services is on the rise, increasingly slightly over the past two years to 5.86 per cent in 2019. And while hospital inflation factors consistently reduced between 2015 and 2018, this trend reversed in 2019 with the insurer trend increasing to 10.03 per cent from 2.6 per cent in 2018. However, this cost represents a relatively small portion of plan spend.

The survey noted medical advances, demographic trends and regulatory oversight will influence health-care costs over the next few years, so employers should consider how their plans will evolve to ensure employees are healthy and productive, while keeping costs under control.

“Medical, prescription drug and dental care coverage make up an important component of employees’ total compensation,” said Reitmeier. “To help contain costs, companies need to think creatively about how they can encourage a healthy lifestyle for employees and embrace medical advances in testing and treatment to achieve better health outcomes.”

Read: Private drug plan claims, cost per claimant on the rise, finds new research