We hear these days of alarming growth in inflation, especially in housing and gasoline. That dreaded “I” word permeates discussions as affordability becomes a dominant issue.
One area that could actually see prices drop, however, is our prescription drug coverage.
We are used to assuming that our health care system is better than that of our southern friends, but in reality Americans have over 90% of their prescription drugs filled with generics, whereas in Canada we we only have about 73%.
Generic drugs have the same ingredients, undergo the same rigorous testing and are just as safe and effective, the only difference is that they are more affordable than branded options. For example, if we increased our prescription drug coverage through generic drugs by just 1%, we could save more than $703 million.
This is a critical public policy area where governments could realize significant savings.
But it is also an area where consumers themselves, and employers, can make significant savings in this time of rising prices. Indeed, this is an area where HR personnel and others making decisions about employee drug plans have the opportunity to save money for everyone involved.
As one insurance broker recently noted, “I’ve never been able to convince a client to include the mandatory generic clause. Given the right information, my clients take this for granted. It is simply a question of education.
We need to make this “evidence” a reality by ensuring that all employers have generic drug substitution policies to encourage patients and prescribers to choose the most cost-effective drugs. This means that the drug plan would reimburse at cost a generic drug rather than a more expensive brand name option, which would result in savings for the employer and for the employee, who would obtain the same medical ingredients at a lower price. cost.
This change means that insurance coverage is further extended to reduce the employee’s out-of-pocket expenses. Such a change would maximize their shared dollars so everyone involved would have more money to redirect to other priorities.
Provinces in Canada deal with designating generic drugs as “interchangeable” with branded versions, and many insurers rely on public formulary listings for mandatory generic substitution policies. Provinces should do a better job of making generic substitution more readily available so that patients and employers can realize this savings potential.
Specifically, in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, interchangeability is limited to publicly funded drugs, which limits access to low-cost generic versions of prescription drugs not covered by government drug plans. Meanwhile, British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and New Brunswick, for example, leave this decision to the discretion of pharmacists, and only drugs listed on formularies are automatically included.
Instead, we need all provinces to allow generic substitution to be readily available so employees and employers can save money on their drug plans.
As Manulife said, “When it comes to your prescription drugs, why pay more than you have to?