There’s been a lot in the news lately about the pace of costs to health care. Depending on what you read health care costs, including costs of drugs, are expected to continue to rise – but the extent – or pace – of that increase is debatable.
So what does this mean? Are health care and drug costs still an issue when it comes to the sustainability of health care and health plans.
Drugs costs are still an issue
The impact of drug costs in Canada is still an issue, but it’s not all tied to the rise of biologics. It also has to do with utilization.
Canadians are living longer and, for many, drugs are responsible. With a population working well beyond what we once considered average retirement age – costs will continue to rise as an aging workforce deals with health issues that usually come in our later years. There has never been a better time to take a serious look at how our benefit plans are working – or not – to reduce risk of chronic disease. But what’s the right approach?
Slow and steady wins the race
Remember that old fable about the tortoise and the hare? The steady paced tortoise wins the race. The over confident hare relies on quick gains –sprinting and then napping–ultimately oversleeping and losing.
The same can be said about how we win the benefit plan affordability race. It’s not about quick gains like decreasing coverage, a quick fix in treatment without dealing with the cause, or assuming costs are no more a problem based on stats of the day.
To keep costs in line going forward, plan sponsors and employers need to invest in long term gains by keeping a steady pace. That steady pace is fueled by the right supports and approaches that promote long term wellness and the avoidance of chronic disease further down the track.
It’s how we get there
A big part of the journey towards wellness—and the long term impact healthy employees can have on a plan’s affordability—is taking the time and the commitment to empower employees to manage their health and risk of chronic disease. The steps aren’t that complicated – stop smoking, exercise, drink in moderation, and eat fruits and vegetables to help avoid serious events like heart attacks.
Behaviour changes like these can be encouraged among employees through approaches supported – and offered – by your benefit provider. Your benefit provider will know how to set the pace and make sure your course is in line with your organization’s wellness strategy.
So should employers and benefit providers take the time to invest in long term wellness rather than embracing short term gains and trends? Depends – do you want to be the tortoise or the hare?