Health & Dental Insurance Online

Now you can buy individual and family health and dental insurance directly online:

For Manulife FlexCare and FollowMe plans click HERE 

For Sun Life HCC conversion health plans click HERE

For Sun Life PHI personal health plans click HERE

Poll

What type of coverage do you most need help with?
Life / Mortgage Insurance
23%
Disability Insurance
16%
Employee Health & Dental Benefits
25%
Critical Illness Insurance
19%
Personal Health Trust/PHSP
18%
Total votes: 266

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Dear Rachel: I run a successful business with twenty employees and would like to start offering benefits, but want to get an idea of the cost first. I've looked online but can't find anything. Could you please give me some insight on what I'm getting myself into?

The answer is: it depends... but that's not very helpful! So, I've compiled a list of benefits, design options, and ballpark costs to get you started.

Demographics:

Age - Is your average employee age 35? Great news! Your Life Insurance and Long Term Disability premiums will reflect this. Conversely, if your employees are all in their 60's it can really affect costs.

Gender - Did you know that statistically, women are more likely than men to make a Long Term Disability claim? This can be reflected in your disability premiums when your employee base trends towards one gender or the other.

Volume - Single or family? Depending on whether your employees have dependents, rates for Health, Dental and Vision can vary. Expect to pay approximately double the Single rate for Family coverage.

Life and Dependent Life Insurance, Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD&D), Short and Long Term Disability and Critical Illness coverage amounts all vary depending on plan design. They can be indexed to earnings or offered as a flat amount; your premium cost is based on the total volume of coverage.

Sample monthly rates:

- Life Insurance can range from $0.10 to $1.00 per $1,000 of coverage; Dependent Life Insurance can range from $1.00 to $4.00 per employee with dependents.

- AD&D from $0.03 to $0.25 per $1,000.

- Short and Long Term Disability can range vastly depending on the plan design; expect to pay between $0.20 and $1.00 per $10 of weekly earnings for Short Term, and between $0.20 and $3.00 per $100 of monthly earnings for Long Term Disability.

- Critical Illness can range from $0.10 to $4.00 per $1,000 of coverage.

Industry - Are your employees working in a professional office at a desk? Or are they involved in manual tasks such as lifting inventory and using heavy machinery? Depending on what industry your business is in, your employees are more likely to make certain types of claims.

Turnover - If you've had a benefits plan for a while, have you marketed your plan more than every three years? Does your employee base have a lot of "churn"? This can add up to extra risk for the insurer that you may not be a loyal customer, or that there will be additional administration required. Insurance carriers love stable employee bases because it helps them to predict claiming patterns more accurately when setting rates.

Benefits:

Extended Health Coverage (EHC): What's driving the cost of EHC is prescription drug coverage; drugs tend to comprise the majority of claims your employees will make. Typical coverage is 80% coinsurance (or 20% out of pocket to the employee), and a marquee plan will offer 100%.

Other "rate affecters": Paramedical practitioner coverage for services such as physio, chiro, and massage. Typical coverage ranges from $200 to $500 per practitioner per year. Hospital room upgrades can include a semi-private or private room.

What You'll Pay: Rates for Health coverage generally range from $30 Single to $150 per employee with dependents per month.

Dental: Dental plans are usually divided into three increasing levels of coverage, Basic, Major and Orthodontic Services. Basic covers regular cleanings and check-ups. The best plans cover recall exams every six months, but this can range to 9 or 12 months. Major coverage is for more in depth work such as crowns and bridges. Orthodontics can be limited to dependent children only or be inclusive of adults.

Other "rate affecters": Each of these coverage levels comes with its own coinsurance level and possible deductibles. Cream of the crop plans offer 100% Basic, 80% Major and 50% Orthodontics, but for some small businesses offering only 80% Basic can be a welcome perk. Coverage maximums also affect the rate; offerings range from $500 to $3,000 for each of Basic and Major or a combination of the two. Ortho usually comes with a lifetime maximum of $1,000 but this can range from $500 to $5,000.

What You'll Pay: Rates for Dental coverage generally range from $30 Single to $150 per Employee with Dependents per month.

Health Spending Accounts / Cost Plus: There are ways to offer flexible personalized coverage without insurance. These arrangements allow small business owners to set annual limits, and employees to spend coverage credits at their own discretion.

Again, it needs to be said that these are ballpark figures and your rates will be specific to your plan and the employees it will cover. If you want to get started with a quote or for more information, please feel free to contact me at rachel@truebenefits.ca or 604.872.2866. Or, you can request a quote here.

When setting up your payroll system or doing T4s, you'll need to know which employee benefits are taxable.

The benefits for which an employer’s contributions are taxable are: Life & Dependent Life Insurance, AD&D Insurance, Critical Illness Insurance and Provincial Medical Services Plan premiums.

For other group benefits such as: Extended Health Care, Vision Care, Dental Care and Health Spending Accounts, employer contributions are tax-free.

In the case of Disability Insurance, employer contributions have potential taxation consequences for the employee if claims are paid.
 
Group Life & Dependent Life Insurance
·         Employer paid life insurance premiums are a taxable benefit to the employee, and added to the employee’s T4
·         Death Benefits are not taxable to the recipient
 
Accidental Death & Dismemberment & Critical Illness (Non-ROP) Insurance
·         Employer paid life insurance premiums are a taxable benefit to the employee, and added to the employee’s T4 (new for 2013)
·         Benefits are not taxable to the recipient
 
Extended Health Care, Vision Care, Dental Care and Health Spending Accounts (HSA)
·         Employer paid premiums are not a taxable benefit to the employee
 
Disability Insurance (Weekly Indemnity and Long Term Disability)
·         Employer paid premiums are not a taxable benefit to the employee
·         Any employer contributions to the premium will result in disability benefits paid to employees to become subject to income tax
·         Employers may choose to do payroll deductions from employees to ensure disability claim payments are tax free, OR, employers may pay the premiums and employees will pay income tax on the disability benefits received
·         Some companies choose to add the disability premiums to each employee’s T4 as is done with Life Insurance; however, the CRA may not find this an acceptable method of making the benefits tax free
 
Provincial Medical Services Plans such as BC MSP
·         Employer paid premiums are a taxable benefit to the employee

This information is provided for the purposes of designing benefits cost sharing arrangements; for detailed tax information please consult with your business accountant.
 
 

After starting a successful business, every entrepreneur begins to wonder about whether they can now afford health and dental coverage. They may have given up employer benefits in order to pursue their dreams, but now they have a big dental appointment looming and they want them back.

There are several solutions designed specifically for the self-employed that are cost effective, tax deductible and straightforward to set up, including: individual health and dental plans, private health services plans (PHSP), and small business group insurance plans.

Individual Health Plans are purchased from an insurer to cover supplementary health and dental expenses such as prescriptions, cleanings, and specialists such as chiropractors and registered massage therapists.

The health and dental coverages are bundled into modular basic, mid-range or enhanced plan designs. Additional coverages can be purchased for items such vision care or travel insurance. Basic plans can usually be obtained without medical evidence, but be forewarned, the top tier coverage bundles generally require a medical questionnaire, and approval is not guaranteed.

These plans are great for sole-proprietors or businesses with one or two employees. There are also products specifically designed for people who have just left an employer plan, so make sure this option is explored within 60 days of leaving an employer group plan if applicable.

Premium costs are based on several factors such as the plan design, applicant’s age, and how many people will be covered under the policy. For those under age 45, expect to spend between $50 and $100 per month per person. The premiums may be eligible for deduction as a business expense.

A Private Health Services Plan (PHSP) is a plan set up between an employer and a trust company for the tax-free reimbursement of medical and dental expenses. It is not an insured plan, but allows an employer to provide benefits in a tax-effective manner under Section 248(1) of the Income Tax Act.

This is fast becoming one of the most popular methods for entrepreneurs to manage health costs. Any expenses that qualify for the Medical Tax Credit will qualify under a PHSP. This includes a wide variety of items that range from laser eye surgery, to medical equipment and orthodontics (Note: cosmetic medical or dental procedures are excluded from coverage).

 A PHSP can be set up for sole-proprietors or an incorporated company. Under current CRA guidelines, sole-proprietors have restrictions on the amount of claims that can be submitted through the plan each year. To set up a PHSP, expect to spend between $200 and $400 initially.  

Administration fees of 10% are charged on paid claims, and are the only ongoing cost, which makes them a great option for the budget conscious. All of the set-up and administrative fees, along with the paid claims, are deductible as business expenses.

Employee Benefit Plans allow small employers the opportunity to offer staff coverage at group rates. One of the biggest perks of group coverage is that the benefits are provided to employees without the need to disclose medical evidence or medical history.

Increasingly, benefits are being implemented to retain valued staff and lure key people away from larger businesses. Insurers have improved their offerings to allow small employers to provide customized plan designs.

Some of the most popular benefits include: life and disability insurance, health, dental and vision care, and employee wellness programs. Flexible health spending accounts, which operate like a bank account for health and dental costs, and critical illness insurance, which pays a tax-free lump sum benefit in the event of a covered condition such as cancer or heart attack, have recently become available for small employers.

A group plan is available for companies with two or more employees; however, feasibility increases when there are at least five. There is ongoing administration required in the form of updating the insurer of new hires, terminations, and changes in earnings, in addition to educating employees about the coverage. All eligible employees are expected to participate, and cannot pick and choose their coverage.

Costs for group benefits can range significantly and will be heavily dependent on the coverage design, employee demographics and employer’s industry. It definitely pays to have your advisor shop for the best rates from a variety of insurers. Each year, the plan will renew and the insurer will have an opportunity to adjust your rates based on plan utilization. This can mean that heavily used plans will result in rate increases for the group, so looking into a pooled plan arrangement may be beneficial.

Group plan premiums are deductible as business expenses, and the benefits can often be provided to employees on a tax-free basis.

Entrepreneurs who are interested in learning more about their health and dental coverage options should talk to an advisor who specializes in working with small business owners.
 

One of the most common questions we get is from employees who are covered under several benefits plans. Where do I send the claims first?

If you are covered for health and dental benefits under more than one plan, your benefits will be co-ordinated based on guidelines developed by the Canadian Life & Health Insurance Association (CLHIA). In all cases, the total amount of reimbursement you receive will not exceed 100% of the eligible expense incurred.

1. You should first submit your claims through your own employer group plan, and if your spouse has an employer plan, their claims should go through their group plan first. Remainders can then be sent to the other spouse's plan.
2. If you are submitting the balance of expenses to another plan afterwards, you must include the original explanation of benefits (itemization of expenses) that you receive from the first insurer.
3. Claims for dependent children must be submitted to the plan of the parent who has the earlier birthday in the calendar year (the year of birth is not considered), either when the parents are cohabiting or when there is a shared custody arrangement in the event of separation or divorce. So, a parent born on Feb. 1st will send the childrens' claims in first if her husband's birthday is Dec 1st.
4. In the case both parents have the same birthdate, the primary carrier is the plan of the parent whose first initial comes first in the alphabet. In this case, Allen would submit before Sarah.
5. If you are separated or divorced, and have full custody of any dependent children, the plan that will pay benefits for your children will be determined in the following order:
• The plan of the parent with custody of the child. Then:
• The plan of the spouse of the parent with custody of the child. Then:
• The plan of the parent without custody of the child. Then:
• The plan of the spouse of the parent without custody of the child. Then:
6. Any remaining balances can be submitted to a Health Care Spending Account, if available.

Whew, simple right... Any questions? Please feel free to contact us at info@truebenefits.ca or 604.872.2866.
 

Many of our clients are champions of the environment, and we are proud to work on their behalf to provide benefits to employees in the most sustainable manner possible.

The insurance industry is still a very paper intensive business; but we are doing what we can to improve the situation. Here are the top 5 strategies that True Benefits suggests to create an effective and conscientious benefits plan.

#1: Suppress Printed Materials: True Benefits can arrange with your insurance carrier to reduce the printed material produced. Employee benefit booklets, contracting, and administrative guides can all be offered in digital format. Employees can log into a secure website that will contain all of their benefits details.

#2: Implement Online Management: Plan Administrators can save time and reduce paperwork by managing the plan online, using features such as archived billing and instant reporting; employees can set up direct deposit and email claims notifications, and access coverage information. True Benefits works one-on-one to train your Administrator, and review the online system with employees as a group.

#3: Offer Pay Direct Claims: A pay-direct card enables employees to submit claims directly from the point of sale to the insurer. This saves the employee from filling out a paper form, while offering the benefit of instant reimbursement.

#4: Choose the Right Insurer: Several carriers now offer employees the ability to submit their claims directly over the internet using a secure online portal. Claims can be adjudicated with no paperwork and paid directly into the employee’s bank account. An email confirmation is sent instead of the traditional mailed statement.

#5: Encourage and Support Employee Wellness: Offering an Employee Wellness Program provides employees with a confidential resource to make healthy choices such as quitting smoking, improving nutrition or fitness, and managing stress. Employees feel more engaged when their place of business pursues making a positive difference in their lives. Best of all, many insurers are now offering Wellness Programs as a complimentary component of their extended health care coverage.

At True Benefits our focus is employee benefits; we specialize in helping small and mid-sized BC businesses create fantastic plans. The clients we work with care deeply about their employees and are recognized for providing some of the most creative and sought after benefits available.

 

Many US employers, especially software and digital animation firms, are moving into Vancouver and setting up shop. We're lucky in BC to have many talented animators, artists, developers and programmers.

What do American companies need to know when opening a Canadian branch?

The web address to help start you on your way to get a business number from the Federal Goverment is: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/bn-ne/rgstr/menu-eng.html. You will have to phone as a non-resident rather than use the web, but there is contact information on the page. Or for BC visit http://www.bcbusinessregistry.ca/.

You'll need to register with WorkSafe BC: http://www.worksafebc.com/insurance/registering_for_coverage/register_with_worksafebc/default.asp

Payroll will also need to be handled. On Payroll is a Vancouver firm which specializes in managing payroll and HR services for US companies that have a location in Canada:  Speak to Natasha at 1-800-955-0806 x 227, or visit their website at http://onpayroll.ca/

Employee benefits will also be a big factor in hiring those talented workers. Please feel free to call our office at 604.872.2866 to discuss your expansion plans. We've helped many new offices set up comprehensive benefits plans, even before all the staff have been hired.

Good news: BC's Ministry of Health Services, the BC Pharmacy Association (BCPhA) and the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores (CACDS) have negotiated a new Pharmacy Services Agreement that is now in effect. Although the agreement is not binding on individual pharmacies, it is expected that the majority will comply.

This is good news because employee benefits plan sponsors will benefit from the savings on lower cost generics on the BC PharmaCare formulary. The expected savings between October 15, 2010 and July 3, 2011 is estimated to be 3.7% of drug costs. Savings will vary significantly by plan depending on the coverage design and employee demographics.

As of Oct. 15th, 2010, new generic drugs will be priced at 42% of brand name, and existing generics will be priced at 50% of brand name. Starting in July 2011, all generics will move to 40%, and in April 2012, they will be even further reduced to 35% of brand name! 

In a move to appease pharmacies, dispensing fees will be rising slightly during the upcoming two years. Some benefits plans are designed to have a dispensing fee deductible, so the changes will not impact potential savings.

For more information, please feel free to call our office at 604.872.2866.

The Employment Insurance (EI) maximum yearly insurable earnings increased from $43,200 to $44,200 effective January 1st, 2011. As a result, the maximum weekly EI benefit amount will rise from $457 to $468.

The EI Premium Reduction Program allows employers to pay Employment Insurance premiums at a reduced rate if their employees are covered by a Short Term Disability plan that meets certain requirements set by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC).

To be considered for a premium reduction, a plan that provides Short Term Disability benefits to employees must:

• provide at least 15 weeks of benefits for Short Term Disability

• match or exceed the level of benefits provided under EI ($468 effective January 1, 2011)

• pay benefits to employees within 14 days of illness or injury

• be accessible to employees within three months of hiring

• cover employees on a 24‐hour‐a‐day basis

For additional information on the premium reduction program you can visit: www.servicecanada.gc.ca/prp.

 File this item under very cool! Sun Life just announced the launch of their free smartphone app that will allow employee benefits plan members submit health and dental claims from their phone. The app will also allow members to check their claims, and access their plan cards. This is a first for a group benefits insurer in Canada.

Hopefully other insurers follow suit. The Sun Life app launches September 7th, and will be available for Blackberry and iPhone users.

For more information click here.

In celebration of small business week 2011, a great new article is up on the CBC's website about Private Health Services Plans, and excellent vehicle for business owners to deduct their medical and dental expenses:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/smallbusiness/story/2011/09/16/f-smallbiz-phsp.html.

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by CBC for the article, please let me know what you think!

Rachel

Benefits Plans

True Benefits can help you find the best employee benefits plan.

We have access to over 25 insurers.

Clients Say:

"Rachel is professional, courteous and very knowledgeable while providing outstanding customer service. She is well prepared, delivers personal service, and understands our desire to provide the best possible benefit plan to our employees in the most cost effective manner."

Anne, HR Manager

"I appreciate having a person who is both local and accessible, and was impressed with the initial presentation outlining the options available to us. It is extremely helpful to have Rachel advocating on our behalf."

Sarah, Business Owner

"True Benefits has totally met our needs. Rachel gives personalized attention, and is very thorough. She has suggested many good ideas that we have used to benefit our employees."

Vicki, Controller

"I have referred many clients to Rachel in the past, and without exception, they have all commented to me on her professionalism, vast industry knowledge, great service, and fast response time."

 
Rowan

Thank you for everything that you have done for our family. We are grateful for all your hard work. We look forward to working with you again in the future.

Laurin

"True Benefits has an understanding and awareness of the importance of an effective benefits program. They're proactive in looking for cost effective improvements to plan design and cost containment strategies. My expectations were exceeded - Rachel delivered as promised in a timely manner."

Norrey, CFO

"Thank you Rachel. Great service as always. You anticipated our needs."

Pam, HR Director

I used True Benefits to sort through a tricky health insurance issue related to immigration status and an expired work permit.  Rachel recommended a cost effective solution and quickly verified the policy was the best choice for my situation.  My new health coverage was effective within 2 hours of my initial call to Rachel!  I highly recommend working with Rachel at True Benefits for cost effective solutions and friendly and efficient service.

Mike

Your attention to detail and willingness to never to never take "no" for an answer on my behalf left me in awe of your business ethics.

I will continue to use your services, based on your work ethic and my ability to trust that the policy you are suggesting is perfect for me.

Claire