BC Budget 2023 – Implications For Employers

 In General News, Group Insurance & Benefits

The BC Provincial Government’s 2023 Budget was presented by Finance Minister Karine Conroy on February 28, 2023. Although details for the proposals are not contained in the Budget, the following possible implications for employers can be identified:

1. Mental Health

The Budget contains new funding for mental health, addiction or substance abuse services across the continuum of care including prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery. To the extent that this new initiative is effective in preventing and treating mental health among members of the workforce, this would mitigate employers’ extended health and disability costs for claims related to mental health.

For many employer-sponsored group benefit programs mental health is driving up costs:

  • Over one-third of disability claims are mental health related, making up the largest category of short- and long-term disability claim diagnoses.
  • Drugs for treatment of mental health such as depression, and anxiety have increased significantly and are now often in the top three categories of drug claims paid by therapeutic class.
  • Mental health practitioner claims are also on the rise taking over the top one or two spots which were typically occupied by massage, chiropractor or physiotherapy claims.

2. Prescription Contraception

Effective April 1, 2023, the Medical Services Plan of BC (“MSP”) will make prescription contraception free to all residents. The following prescription contraceptives will be covered:

  • oral hormone pills, commonly known as the pill;
  • subdermal (under-the-skin) injections and implants;
  • copper and hormonal intrauterine devices, also known as IUDs; and,
  • Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill.

The extended health plans provided by some employers currently contain reimbursement for prescription contraception. With this coverage now to be provided through MSP, those employers which currently offer such coverage will experience a reduction in their extended health plan costs.

Insurance companies which offer extended benefit plans are presently analyzing how the MSP’s prescription contraception coverage will be administered and expect to communicate with their policyholders in the near future.

3. Enhancing The Labour Supply

The Budget states that the Government’s Future Ready plan will be released in the Spring of 2023. Among other initiatives, this plan proposes to provide:

  • more affordable and accessible post-secondary education and skills training; and
  • funding to assist small and medium-sized businesses in finding and implementing solutions to existing labour market challenges as well as prepare for a changing economy.

Many employers continue to face challenges in attracting and retaining an adequate skilled workforce. Although the impact of the Future Ready plan initiatives would not likely be immediate, the initiatives should assist employers in addressing their employment challenges.

The full Provincial 2023 Budget may be accessed at https://www.bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/2023/default.htm

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