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youngandthrifty.ca shares the secrets on how to take advantage of your extended health benefits and maximize your return and employment.

As you probably know by now, I dislike letting things go to waste, especially if that means letting my extended health benefits go to waste.

In Canada, we are lucky to have hospital stays and doctor visits covered by our Medical Services Plan (though we pay for it heavily through taxes of course, and in some provinces, we even pay for it monthly).  Most employers has part of the benefits package, give you extended health.  Extended health is extra care not covered by our provincial medical services plan.  Some of these benefits may include massage therapy, prescription glasses, medications, dental care, physiotherapy, and even acupuncture treatments.  Of course, each service has its limit, for example, I can only claim $100 per calender year for acupuncture treatments.

It Pays to be Organized

acupuncture Pictures, Images and PhotosWith extended benefits, it pays to be organized.  I have always been “on top” of using my extended health benefits, even timing things properly in order to maximize the returns and possible gains from my benefits.  I admit that I enjoy planning and using my benefits to maximize their returns.  My benefit package is as follows:  I get 80% reimbursed for extended health.  Once I hit $1000 in claims (that equals $200 spent out of my pocket), then the coverage is 100% (which means $0 out of pocket thereafter for claims).  I tried to use this to my benefit.  For example, I waited until I claimed $1000 one year- I did this because I go to massage therapy on a monthly basis.  It was then that I claimed my new orthotic insoles, which cost $400.  Normally, it would cost me 20% of $400, but because I had reached my claims maximum, I didn’t have to pay 20% of $400.  Instead, I paid $0.  Which gave me more pep to my step!

I also keep track of when I can get another pair of free glasses or contacts.  My extended health covers a set cost of glasses or contacts every two years.  I know when I am “allowed” to get a new pair of glasses or contacts in order for them to be covered by the insurance company.  That way, I won’t have to worry about buying my glasses or contacts online (extended health doesn’t pay for shipping and handling, by the way).

I Submit Right Away

As you can probably tell, I am even anal about submitting my claims.  Thankfully the insurance provider now has an “e-claim” service where it makes submitting your claims super easy.  I’m not the type of person to claim it “all at once” and hoard the receipts until I get a substantial amount.  I submit very soon after I get my receipt.  I know it’s probably more work for the insurance provider, but I enjoy getting my money back as soon as possible.  I am aware I am being a hypocrite because I don’t do the same for my taxes, but I suppose there’s something so permanent about filling out a T1213 form!

Stacking (not coupons, that is)

Some professionals even accept credit cards for their services.  You can collect points on travel or whatever on your credit card and pay for only a fraction of it.  If my monthly $90 massage could be paid for by credit card, I would be even closer to getting my flights and vacations paid for by reward points.  Unfortunately my massage therapist only accepts cash.  I know there are many massage therapists out there who accept credit cards, but I am loyal to mine and she makes my back feel like a million bucks.

What’s Stopping You?

Many of my colleagues and even my boyfriend don’t seem to use their extended health benefits regularly.  I am the exception and I’m not sure why.  When you get free (or heavily discounted) massage therapy/physiotherapy/acupuncture why not use it?  Why not strengthen the economy of self-employed health professionals?  Is it the concept of having to put all that  money “up front”?  Is it worrying that your coverage isn’t unlimited?  It definitely pays to review your coverage regularly because you may forget what you can claim.  Another reason to take advantage of your extended health benefits is that most of what is covered under the umbrella of “extended health” are considered preventative health measures.  Taking care of yourself now keeps you happy, healthy, and continually productive for your employer.

Readers, do you use your extended health benefits?  Are these types of benefits covered under US employee benefit packages too?

Article comments

knurd says:

I’m doing the math right now and it does’t seem worth it. Yes, if your work is paying for benefits (and I don’t mean they deduct from your pay every 2 weeks to go towards a group plan) then it IS free money. But my work does’t offer it and the cheapest plan I can find is around $65/mo. For what I use (dental and chiro/massage) I would only be covered up to $800 in total for 80% of the costs. So after paying about $800/year in monthly fees + the other 20%, I don’t understand how this saves money.

Kyle says:

Your math makes sense to me knurd. You might want to look at a dental-specific plan and see what options are out there for your province.

miktacular says:

Ironically enough, I work for a health services organization and we don’t have anything for glasses, and our fee schedule for dentistry is about 10 years behind everyone else (so I’m told whenever I have to shell out $200 for a checkup!). We get 80% of prescriptions covered, but also have a $500 health spending account per year which helps cover things they don’t spring for, like glasses and massages, etc. I hate it when people don’t take advantage of free money!

My health spending account is set up to automatically pay me back for everything that goes through the 80%, so I got a direct deposit the other day I wasn’t even expecting! However, I also had a $50 parking ticket, so it evened out.

OMG. I was going to write a post on this when I found out that most of my co-workers (and people around me), don’t take advantage of this. It’s practically free money!

I always calculate the maximum number of massages (or whatever service) I can get and then try to space them out throughout the year.

young says:

@fabulouslyfrugirl- I swear, we’re sisters from another mother 😉 Great minds think alike. It’s TOTALLY free money and is awesome! I think of it like, if I use more of these services, my income gets higher for the year because I don’t have to pay out of pocket for these expenses. Makes me feel even better about going for my massage.

Wow, I’m a bit jealous. Our healthcare definitely does not cover massages. That’s awesome. It is smart if they do though! They are cheaper than chiropractors and often more effective. Great post.

I must say I love our extended health benefits. We use them a lot. We use them for massage, prescriptions, and eye care. We also get a health spending account which we can use as top ups when we reach our maximums. I must say we are very fortunate to have such great plans.

young says:

@Miss T- Yay for Canadian extended health benefits!

Layli says:

I’m in the exact same boat. I use all of my benefits and no one else around me seems to know they even exist. My last job at a non-profit organization had great benefits. They paid 100% and no deductible. At my current job (where I am employed by the government…you’d think they would have amazing benefits), I only get 80% back AND I have to pay a deductible for services like vision and dental, per person AND I have to get a doctors note for many services. The combination of these factors is going to deter me some. To make an appointment with the doctor for every massage I want…it’s just annoying.

When my husband’s benefits kick in, I can at least recover the lost 20%. I recently submitted a $600 claim (for a massage, plus vision coverage for myself and my husband) and only got $395 back. Sucks!

young says:

@Layli- Wow, that’s pretty awful they ask you to do that!! I think the doctor would probably get annoyed with having to write a note for this service too, don’t you think? Are your husbands benefits better than yours? Could you not just use his benefits instead?

Melissa says:

I looooove me some benefits, but unfortunately I don’t have any anymore now that I’m a grown up with a job that doesn’t give me benefits. Haha. But until a year ago I was still covered under my parents’ plan because I was in school. A couple of months before I graduated I made sure to “use up” my benefits and booked a teeth cleaning, x-rays (my dentist even gave me tips on keeping my teeth OK because she knew I wouldn’t be back for a while!) and got a brand new pair of glasses. My mom’s insurance was awesome AND I was also covered by my stepdad’s, which covered what my mom’s didn’t, so I didn’t pay a penny out of pocket.

That said, to answer your other question, I didn’t take advantage of the plan’s other things, because massage therapy isn’t really my thing, and I don’t have any reason to go for physiotherapy or acupuncture. If I did have some issues, I absolutely would have!

For now? Here’s hoping I don’t get sicker than the care OHIP will provide for me! Haha. (Sidenote: It took me longer than it should have to figure out what you meant about the Medical Services Plan

young says:

@Melissa- Oh LOL. I thought that the term MSP was for all of Canada! (i’m such an ignorant little British Columbia!). I was wondering what OHIP stood for until you explained it in your last sentence. I’m sending you good vibes for a job that will give you benefits again 😉

Our plan doesn’t cover massages. 🙁 I really really need one though. My shoulders are so tight, ugh… I think I’ll have to bite the bullet and pay for it out of pocket.

young says:

@retirebyforty- Get Mrs. RB40 to give you one 🙂 and offer to do something for her in return. You can start your own household bartering services!

MoneyCone says:

As your southern neighbor, I’m jealous!

Benefits here depends upon the plan and your employer. And the third factor is of course your deductible.

If you are self-employed, this can be quite an issue.

young says:

@Money Cone- Do self employed people pay into an insurance company? Or do these insurance companies reject many claims?