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The Great-West Life Assurance Company, London Life Insurance Company and The Canada Life Assurance Company have become one company – The Canada Life Assurance Company. Discover the new Canada Life

The Great-West Life Assurance Company, London Life Insurance Company and The Canada Life Assurance Company have become one company – The Canada Life Assurance Company. Discover the new Canada Life

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Freedom 55 Financial is a division of The Canada Life Assurance Company and the information you requested can be found here.

What are the financial impacts of chronic disease?

Key takeaways

  • Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) estimates over half of Canadian adults have at least 1 of 10 common chronic diseases. 1 of 10 common chronic diseases.
  • A 2023 report from Canada Life has shown that chronic diseases such as diabetes and mental health conditions are the leading drivers of claim costs.
  • Offering a group benefits plan that helps members manage chronic diseases can help reduce absenteeism and improve morale.

What’s chronic disease? 

Chronic diseases are more common than you think. While they’re not always visible, and those experiencing them may never disclose it, the impacts can be significant. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) estimates almost half of Canadian adults aged  20 and above have at least 1 of 10 common chronic conditions.

Chronic diseases are noncommunicable diseases that are persistent and often progress slowly. They can be treated and managed, but not cured. There are many chronic disease classifications out there, but the most common are cancers, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.  

Chronic diseases don’t just affect the health and well-being of Canadians. They can also create financial burdens for those living with these diseases, their families and the healthcare system. From medical costs to indirect expenses such as lost productivity and reduced quality of life, the economic implications of chronic disease are significant.

The cost of chronic disease

According to PHAC, chronic diseases and other illnesses cost the Canadian economy $190 billion annually, including $122 billion in indirect income and productivity losses, and $68 billion in direct healthcare costs. Much of the costs are out-of-pocket costs for those living with chronic diseases. To help manage their health conditions, many Canadians pay out-of-pocket for medications, devices and treatments, whether they have an employee benefits plan or not. 

Because chronic diseases are long-term, those affected often incur ongoing expenses for years or even decades. A significant example of this is diabetes which, according to Canada Life data, continues to be on an upward trend since 2021. Diabetes-related expenses represented 17.3% of total drug spending in 2023. The same data also noted that mental health conditions were the leading driver of claim costs between 2021 and 2023.

While the direct costs are significant, there are also indirect costs to living with a chronic disease. In a Benefits Canada survey, about 40% of plan members reported they take time off work due to their chronic disease. Illness-related absenteeism and disability often results in reduced income and, in the long run, limited career advancement opportunities. 

Managing the costs of chronic disease 

Not all chronic diseases can be prevented, but many of them can be managed through lifestyle choices.   

Early detection

Early detection is an important way to help manage chronic disease and prevent them from escalating. In cases where there are warning signs of a chronic disease, early intervention can help reduce the risk of long-term impacts. Having regular check-ups and consultations with medical practitioners and knowing what the common warning signs for chronic diseases can look and feel like can be essential in preventing an emergency.

Lifestyle and wellness

PHAC connects obesity as the highest risk factors of chronic disease in Canada. PHACOpens a new website in a new window also noted that one-third of children in Canada are overweight or obese, and more than one-fourth of adults are obese.

Lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating, tobacco, alcohol and exposure to unhealthy environments are common risk factors for chronic disease. 

The good news is that the risk of getting certain chronic diseases can be reduced. According to Statistics Canada, adopting healthy habits can play a big role in preventing and managing certain chronic diseases.  

Making physical activity and healthy eating a priority can significantly reduce the risk of developing a chronic disease. Healthy environments don’t just refer to clean physical environments, but can also include your workspace, your relationships and other factors that can dictate your emotional and mental well-being.  

Prioritizing regular physical activity, reducing stress, adopting healthier eating habits and lifestyle changes can all make a significant difference in preventing and managing obesity, and therefore, chronic diseases.

Now having a better understanding of how common chronic disease is, plan sponsors can work with their benefits provider to see what wellness programs, resources and strategies they can adopt to help members that currently live with chronic diseases, as well as those looking to prevent it. 

The impact of chronic disease on Canada’s workforce

The impact of chronic diseases on Canadian employers is daunting. More than half of the Canadian workforce is directly effected, with over 54% of benefits plan members currently living with at least one chronic disease according to a Benefits Canada Healthcare survey.

It’s estimated that Canadian employers lose $6 billion dollars annually in productivity from absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover, meaning that even when unwell members are well enough to work, their productivity can still be greatly impacted by their illness.

How can plan sponsors support members affected by chronic disease?

While members do not have to disclose their health conditions, plan sponsors have an opportunity to help all members live better, regardless of whether they’re currently living with a chronic disease or not. They can support members by helping them understand what is covered in their group benefits plan.

For example, most group benefit plans provide paramedical services and drugs coverage for several chronic diseases like diabetes, arthritis, stroke and others. Some medical devices like breathing equipment, orthopedic equipment, mobility aids, hearing aids, some diabetic supplies and other medical supplies are also covered by group benefits plans. This could save members hundreds or thousands of dollars.

We have a variety of resources to help members who may be impacted. Plan sponsors can speak to their Canada Life group representative to learn about how you can enhance current group benefits plan and increase members’ awareness of what’s already available to them.  

For example, you may already have or wish to add:

  • Consult+: This virtual primary care allows members to access a virtual walk-in clinic 24/7. Consult+ also has an employee assistance program (EAP) that provides members counselling and support on matters regarding family, relationships, childcare, career, legal, finance and mental health. This can help members save time from waiting rooms and support their work as normal.

  • Mental Health Services by Consult+: This is a comprehensive mental health program plan sponsors can choose to add to their plan. It provides members with access to medical professionals specializing in several areas including sleep, anxiety, depression, conflict and relationship management, time management, mourning and loss, burnout and more. Members also get access to unlimited basic mental health consultations and medical professionals who can diagnose and prescribe for new mental health conditions.

  • Teladoc:  Members can find Canadian specialists based on their criteria and get answers to basic questions about their health conditions and treatment options from experts. Members looking for a second opinion or looking to connect with a different type of doctor can also find that here.

  • Contact and CoreContact by Telus Health: Members can access mental health, financial and legal support. This is a great resource for members who are going through family-related challenges and need support in balancing other obligations. 

  • Wealthgoal: Offers tools, calculators and strategies for financial saving and planning. It’s a great tool to provide members with financial support.

  • Health Connected: This is a hub of important information to help members stay healthy. It offers plenty of resources on healthy eating, what that means, the importance of physical activity and ways to track the progress of your health journey.

  • Pillcheck: Members can get the genetic information they need to determine the appropriate medications that can help them best manage their pain or chronic disease.  

What’s next?

The information provided is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the date of publication. This information is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only. For specific situations you should consult the appropriate legal, accounting or tax advisor.

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