Should employers reduce massage coverage in their benefits plans?

With plan sponsors facing growing pressure from rising drug costs, is it time for them to cut back on paramedical services like massage therapy in order to keep their benefits plans sustainable?

That was one of the key issues raised by David Willows, vice-president of strategic market solutions at Green Shield Canada, during Benefits Canada‘s 2016 Benefits and Pensions Summit in Toronto last week.

Noting the growth of paramedical claims and the popularity of massage services in particular among teenagers and younger and healthier plan members, Willows said it’s time to rationalize paramedical spend. He noted the cost pressures on benefits plans from new medications and speciality drugs coming onto the market and suggested limiting paramedicals might be a better consideration than cutting back on potentially life-saving therapies.

Read: What is driving the rising demand for paramedical services?

The comments follow a recent Benefits Canada article that noted the concern about paramedical usage but suggested drug costs are a much greater concern. The debate over paramedicals has also taken on a generational tone with some people suggesting older employees are more likely to emphasize drug coverage while younger workers want a broader array of benefits to choose from.

Read: How to support Generation Z employees

So is it time for employers to clamp down on massage coverage? Is massage therapy a perk plan sponsors can no longer afford or are they a necessary part of a comprehensive benefits package that addresses the needs of employees of all ages? Are they a need or a want that’s no longer feasible given the pressure of rising drug costs?

The issue is the subject of the weekly Benefits Canada online poll. Have your say in the poll.

As for last week’s poll, 70 per cent of respondents said it’s time for governments to update the $100,000 threshold for disclosure of public sector salaries on the sunshine list. The majority said the list is getting too big with employees of all sorts now earning that much and suggested it’s time to catch up with inflation.