This is the Friday GAB, a place where the group benefits tea is shared weekly.
It's been a minute since the last GAB, apologies for leaving you thirsty. Partly news has been light, and partly I've been busy. People often ask me how I manage to post every week and the truth is sometime I don't.
This week's tea is hot. Everyone's favorite travel provider for employee benefit plans has announced they are exiting the Canadian group benefit travel market. Allianz will continue to accept and support new claims until June 30, 2023. Allianz supported many insurers including some of the "big 3". Insurers won't leave you high and dry. They are busy finding new partners to support this key benefit.
In really funny timing Benefits Canada published an article this week about travel insurance. The author writes "The group contract that’s included in most benefits plans doesn’t have any pre-existing condition clauses so it’s a much more comprehensive coverage." This can easily be misinterpreted in a way that leads one to believe group benefit travel will cover any out of country claim. But Group travel is still targeted towards the unforeseen and unexpected. A lack of written pre-X doesn't mean that there is not language in the contract to prevent non-emergent or expected/foreseeable claims from being reimbursed. Please read and understand you unique travel contract.
Also in third party employee benefit news, and also travel related... Travelex Insurance Services announced an expansion into Canada. Meanwhile Allstate and APOLLO announced layoffs.
The province of Ontario announced a reduced reimbursement amount for virtual healthcare visits. The significantly lower reimbursement amount will mean that many virtual care providers will not have a viable business structure and will shut down. With a Canada-wide shortage of primary care, this is a big blow to individuals, especially lower income earners and parents.
In employee benefit insurance news, PBC announced Sarah Hoffman as their President and CEO. Sun Life announced a Family Building Program. Important to note that many of the services included in this program - fitness classes, vitamins, fees - are not insurance items and not an allowable expense according to the CRA. This means they are taxable benefits to the employee upon use.
I like that the industry is expanding beyond insured, non taxable benefits. However, this will add complexity to the delivery of benefits. Communicating that when used a benefit is taxable will be challenging for plan sponsors and group benefit advisors. Employees may end up with an expense that they did not account for.
Last, the feds finally announced the go date on the extension of EI sickness benefits. The date is Dec 18. The benefit payment period will be extended from 15 weeks to 26 weeks. Que the LTD amendments.
And that's your Friday GAB