Financial relief options for Albertans during COVID-19
Updated: June 26, 2020
Alberta Blue Cross® is your partner in wellness, and we know this is a difficult time for many people and businesses. If your financial wellness has been affected by the pandemic, there are relief options available to you.
For our individual plan customers
On April 21, we were the first and only benefits provider to temporarily reduce plan premiums by 25 per cent for all individual health plan customers. This premium reduction was applied automatically effective May 1, 2020, across all individual health plans for the months of May, June and July.
With the province now in stage two of its relaunch strategy, many businesses have reopened or are preparing to. This includes dental offices and health service providers, which means you are now able to access all your benefits again.
Based on this information and our ongoing assessment of the health environment, your plan premiums will be returning to regular rates effective August 1, 2020. Your monthly payment will be automatically adjusted on your next preauthorized withdrawal accordingly. For our customers who pay their plan premiums through regular invoices; you will also see the same change automatically reflected on your next bill.
Please note this is not a deferral; we will not be looking to recover these premium reductions in the future.
We’ve received feedback from our customers experiencing financial difficulty and unable to use their benefit plan as they traditionally would due to social distancing practices, health service provider availability and essential services designations.
While many health service providers have transitioned to virtual appointments and benefits such as prescription drugs continue to be accessed without disruption, use of dental benefits and some other extended health care benefits declined during the pandemic; however, with the province now in stage two of it’s relaunch strategy, many health service providers and dental offices have reopened or are preparing to, which means you are now able to access your benefits again.
If you have already paid for your May premiums or beyond, your next premium payment will be adjusted accordingly. You do not need to apply for this reduction or repay these savings in the future.
No. These premium savings are there to help with cash-flow during these times and we will not be recovering premiums in the future.
Nothing; the 25 per cent premium reduction was automatically applied on your behalf for the months of May, June and July.
If you and your family are facing financial uncertainty during this challenging time, contact our team at 1-844-803-2111 and we’ll help you find a solution that works for you. We’ll look at your plan to see if it’s meeting your needs and then walk through a variety of options which include
- reviewing various coverage options: because of the flexibility of our plans, you can change your coverage level to reduce your premiums.
- changing your payment frequency: for example, you can change your payments from monthly to weekly or every two weeks to make your payments more manageable.
For our travel plan customers
If you would like to submit a refund request for an upcoming trip, fill out and submit the Travel Refund Request form or call us at 1-800-394-1965. We offer full refunds for trips not taken.
For our group business customers
On April 21, we temporarily reduced health and dental plan premiums across all insured (non-refund) group plans to do our part to help with the COVID-19 situation. This premium reduction was applied automatically effective May 1, 2020, for April, May and June. We did this to help businesses with their cash flow during these difficult times.
After ongoing assessment of the health environment, we will be returning premiums to regular rates effective July 1, 2020, and insured (non-refund) groups will see regular premium amounts on their next billing. As the environment is still uncertain, we will continue to diligently monitor the situation to assess whether future adjustments will be required.
Nothing, if your group is non-refund, the reduction for June and the retroactive refunds for April and May were all included on the June bill you received in May.
With the province slowly returning to normal and the relaxation of physical distancing, many businesses are starting to reopen. This includes dental offices and health service providers, which means plan members will now be able to access all their benefits again. Therefore, we will be returning premiums to regular rates effective July 1, 2020, and insured (non-refund) groups will see regular premium amounts on their next billing.
No. These premium credits are there to help with cash-flow during these times and we will not be recovering premiums in the future.
As we invoice our non-refund group clients in advance, your May billing has already been delivered. However, by applying the reduction retroactively to April, you will see credits for both April and May, as well as a reduced premium amount for June on your June invoice.
For all our insured group plan customers, we will be extending your time to pay and ensure there are no claims suspension activities for an additional 31 days beyond your current grace period. This will be re-evaluated again in two months and we will inform you of any changes.
These changes will be applied automatically—you do not have to contact us.
For those who may have already exhausted their 30-day grace period, or with any other questions, please reach out to your account executive or plan advisor.
Recognizing that many employers will be forced to lay off employees during this period, we want to provide you with some other coverage options.
Health and dental
Coverage can be extended for employees for up to six months due to a temporary lay-off.
Life insurance and disability benefits
Short- and long-term disability coverage can be extended up to one month. All other life benefits can be extended up to six months.
Effective immediately, short-term disability claims for COVID-19 will be managed according to the following directives:
- Short-term disability claim for COVID-19 supported by positive test result: the short-term disability waiting period is waived completely, regardless of policy or hospital provisions. In a rare situation where an individual has limited symptoms but still has a positive test, the claim would be paid, and the waiting period waived, provided the individual is not able to work from home.
- Short-term disability claim for flu-like symptoms but no COVID-19 testing: these cases are to be processed as a normal short-term disability claim. The waiting period applies.
- Short-term disability claim for quarantine and mild symptoms that do not meet the definition of disability under the policy, no positive COVID 19 test: does not qualify for benefits so the claim will be denied, and the individual will be redirected to Employment Insurance (EI).
- Short-term disability claim for quarantine no symptoms: told to quarantine by the government or a health-care professional are not payable short-term disability claims. Individuals should be referred to EI for benefits.
During the outset of COVID-19, the standard requirement for minimum hours worked in our contracts was relaxed with no need to amend your contract. Beginning September 1, 2020, should the hours worked for your employees fall below what is noted in your group contract, please contact your plan advisor or Alberta Blue Cross account executive to determine if your contract needs to be amended.
Coverage amounts will remain unchanged for your employees unless directed by you. Salary based benefits will remain at their current levels and the premiums charged will not change. This will keep benefit amounts in place when your employees need them the most as we move through this period of uncertainty.
If your business is slowing down temporarily, you may be considering EI Work-Share. Government COVID-19 legislation has extended the maximum period that an EI Work-Share can be continued to 76 weeks (from 38 weeks). Eligible employees must have an average reduction in work from 10 per cent to 60 per cent over the life of the Work-Share agreement.
Please review the Service Now website for more information.
Employees who work a reduced work week (for example, three days), and are participating in the EI Work-Share program can continue coverage provided they continue to meet the minimum number of scheduled hours required to remain eligible under the contract. Any earnings-based benefits are reduced to the amount the employee earns from the plan sponsor only. Any other amounts provided through the EI program are not insurable.
For our customers who have benefits through their employer
Check with your employer to see what their policies are for your return to work. Remember, sick and vacation policies differ between employers. If your Alberta Blue Cross plan has disability coverage, we have instituted special practices to handle disability claims related to COVID-19.
In recognition of the increasing pressure on our medical clinics and hospitals due to COVID-19, an Attending Physician Statement (APS) will not be required as part of a claim submission for Short Term Disability absences related to the COVID-19. This is a time-limited exception as we move through the flu season.
In absence of an APS, we still require confirmation of your condition, including symptoms and any medical treatment. Accordingly, we require you to complete the Plan Member Confirmation of Illness form, created with other insurers through the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association. This form can be found here.
We have also waived the elimination period for COVID-19 claims, so you will not have to wait to receive your short-term disability coverage.
We have affordable individual health and dental benefit plan options available to ensure you can still access the benefits you need to maintain your family’s health and well-being. If you sign up for an individual health plan within 30 days of losing your benefit coverage through your job, we will waive all waiting periods.
Our benefit specialists are available to help you navigate what’s available to you. You can purchase a plan online or give us a call and we can walk you through your options.
Government of Alberta programs
Alberta Blue Cross administers a variety of government-sponsored programs including the Non-Group Coverage Program, which includes the opportunity for a subsidized premium based on taxable income.