Effect of Covid-19 on Employee Benefits

The Evolving State of Health Coverage

Since the healthcare situation is actively evolving, this post explains the situation as we understand it. We’ll update you as new information becomes available.

The Overview

All Canadian health, dental and insurance providers have reacted extremely quickly to the Covid-19 situation. Your coverage has not changed, although access to services has.

Here’s what we know so far.

Dental Services

Currently, only emergency dental is available at the dental office level.

Basic services are in a holding pattern until it’s safe to re-open dental offices. The same is true for Orthodontic services.

Insurance Coverage

Coverage is unaffected for things like Life Insurance, Accidental Death & Dismemberment, and Dependent Life Insurance.

The only condition is employees must remain actively enrolled within the benefits program to maintain their coverage.

Short- and Long-Term Disability

If an employee remains active at work (still on the payroll), then it’s business as usual!

Should an employee be laid off there are two options;

Option 1 – Coverage may continue for Short and Long-Term Disability up to a specified maximum of days. Maximums vary by insurer/provider so it’s essential to review your policy.

Generally, the continuation is 30 days from the end of the month in which the employee became inactive or a layoff occurs.

Option 2 – Employee coverage may continue past the “termination” date at the employer’s discretion.

Health Care Spending Accounts

Spending accounts will remain active so long as the employee remains active in the benefits program and so long as the employer continues to fund claims.

Employee Assistance Plans (EAP)

If your program facilitates an EAP, plan members have access to a full suite of telephone and online support services.

EAP programs provide confidential information, counselling and practical solutions for issues that impact your employees and their insured family members’ work, health and life.

This is an excellent time to have such an offering within your program.

We suggest reminding your plan members of this benefit.

If you don’t have an EAP program, it can be added to an existing program or offered as a stand-alone product.

Extended Health Care

All benefits remain intact. However, there are provisions within the program related to the pandemic:

  • Paramedical Services

Many of these services have been effectively shut down by provincial governments. Service providers such as massage, chiropractor, physio etc. have been closed to the public.

Counselling services may continue a non-face-to-face basis. This is another opportunity to make sure your employees understand their coverage.

  • Out of Country Travel Coverage

This item created a great deal of confusion for many of our clients.

Most insurers have taken the stance that if you travelled prior to Friday March 13th, and are still away, you are still covered.

However, insurers differ in how they approach long-term coverage. Some insurers are only extending coverage to the end of April.

If you have team members travelling or attempting to return home, it’s critical to understand your benefits coverage.

We’ve had several cases where the insurer has broadened their definition to facilitate coverage for those involved in cross-border transportation. In such cases, you must rely on your broker to act as an advocate for you.

Temporary Lay Offs

Employers in Alberta who wish to maintain an employment relationship have the option to lay off an employee for up to 60 days.

Most group insurance carriers are allowing benefits continuation for temporary laid-off employees for up to 3 months.

However, some restrictions may apply to disability and emergency travel coverage, depending on the provider.

Here is a short-list of how insurers are dealing with temporary layoffs:

Empire Life – up to 6 months (no disability)
Equitable Life – up to 3 months (all benefits)
GroupSource – up to 5 months (disability 1 month only)
Sun Life – up to 3 months (all benefits)
Victor Insurance Ltd. – up to 3 months (no disability/no Emergency Travel Assistance)

These are, to say the least, unprecedented times. What’s important is you revisit your coverage relative to your situation.

Don’t forget, we’re here to help you make sense of your benefits coverage and to help you make good decisions moving forward.

If you have questions, reach out.

We’ll continue to update you as the situation changes and information becomes clear.