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
With 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?