Reforming private drug coverage in Canada: Inefficient drug benefit design and the barriers to change in unionized settings Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Prescription drugs are the highest single cost component for employees' benefits packages in Canada. While industry literature considers cost-containment for prescription drug costs to be a priority for insurers and employers, the implementation of cost-containment measures for private drug plans in Canada remains more of a myth than a reality. Through 18 semi-structured phone interviews conducted with experts from private sector companies, unions, insurers and plan advisors, this study explores the reasons behind this incapacity to implement cost-containment measures by examining how private sector employers negotiate drug benefit design in unionized settings. Respondents were asked questions on how employee benefits are negotiated; the relationships between the players who influence drug benefit design; the role of these players' strategies in influencing plan design; the broad system that underpins drug benefit design; and the potential for a universal pharmacare program in Canada. The study shows that there is consensus about the need to educate employees and employers, more collaboration and data-sharing between these two sets of players, and for external intervention from government to help transform established norms in terms of private drug plan design.


  • O'Brady, Sean
  • O’Brady, Sean
  • Gagnon, Marc-André
  • Cassels, Alan

publication date

  • February 2015