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

The escalating cost of drugs and benefits plans are among the top priorities for Canadian employers, according to a new survey by Aon.

The survey, which polled nearly 200 Canadian plan sponsors about their priorities related to group benefits and their workforces, found rising drug costs, in general, escalating specialty drug prices, in particular, and the increasing cost of extended health are the top three priorities around group benefits. For workforce priorities, the survey’s respondents cited employee productivity and engagement, employee wellness and attracting and retaining employees.

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“The key takeaway from our survey is that plan sponsors are keenly aware of the need to manage rising benefits costs, but they also put a high priority on ensuring their employees are engaged and healthy,” said Greg Durant, Canadian health and benefits chief actuary at Aon, in a press release.

“Those might seem like competing priorities, but our view is that employers can achieve a balance. To do that, they need to take a hard look at the interaction of benefits and workforce priorities, and be willing to think outside the box. Could wellness programs reduce overall extended health costs? Might a more personalized benefits experience help attract and retain engaged employees? There are plenty of creative strategies out there for employers to meet their workforce objectives while satisfying the bottom line.”

The top 10 list for group benefits priorities was rounded out by: chronic illness and its effect on plan costs; the need to personalize the employee benefits experience; rising payroll costs; compliance/governance obligations; cost-shifting from public to private; the administrative hassle of employee benefits; and discussions about national pharmacare.

The top 10 list for workforce priorities also included: workplace mental health; employee financial wellness; family support obligations and their effect on productivity and well-being; the effect of chronic illness on productivity; the multi-generational workforce; delayed retirement and the subsequent challenges for productivity and performance; and the growing number of employees working past the normal retirement age.

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