Life and health insurers commend Quebec for launching dialogue on health care

MONTREAL, Feb. 16, 2006 – “The life and health insurance industry commends the Government of Quebec for launching a constructive and timely public dialogue on reinforcing the sustainability of Quebec’s health system,” said Yves Millette, Senior Vice President, Quebec Affairs, for the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA).

For many years, health insurance plans delivered by the industry have played a major role in meeting five million Quebecers’ health care needs. Most of these plans are traditional extended health group insurance plans but new products such as critical illness insurance and long term care insurance have been emerging rapidly. Over the last five years, private health plans have grown at an annual average rate of 12%, testifying to the constantly growing needs of Quebecers for supplementary health insurance protection. In 2004, private health insurance plans paid $2.8 billion for health expenses not covered by Quebec’s public health insurance plan. This included, for example, $190 million in payments to Quebec’s hospitals, $220 million for services such as long-term care and paramedical assistance, and $1.5 billion for prescription drug costs of Quebecers.

In relation to prescription drugs, the industry has been working in partnership with the Quebec government in delivering the Universal Drug Plan for the past nine years. Working together, the public and private sectors ensure that all Quebecers have high-quality drug coverage.

“In these and other ways, the industry and the health insurance plans it delivers have been complementing Quebec’s public health system and reducing the financial pressures on the public system. The industry is committed to continuing to contribute to this important social goal,” explained Mr. Millette.

Private health insurance for medical services not covered by the public system is currently permitted in Quebec and all other provinces. For medical services which are covered by the public system, four provinces currently permit private insurance. Quebec, as well as five other provinces, currently ban private insurance for such services.

“Due to the Chaoulli decision, dialogue in this area is clearly timely and, over the weeks ahead, the industry looks forward to carefully assessing the approaches set out in the Consultation Paper and to contributing its perspectives to the deliberations of the Parliamentary Committee,” concluded Mr. Millette.

Operating since 1894, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association represents companies that together account for 99 per cent of Canada’s life and health insurance business.