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Re-opening essentials

8 Essentials for Re-opening that are good for your business and your team

8 Essentials for Re-opening that are good for your business and your team

Business owners everywhere from companies of 1 to 1000's are working hard to adjust to the new normal in the world and the workplace. Whether the changes for your business are temporary, transitional or looking pretty permanent, there is a timeless approach that will help get you and your team back on track when re-opening. It's all about communication. Yes we know ... it sounds like a cliché. But even if you're already pretty good at it, 2020 call for paying even more attention to what and how you communicate with your group. 

As you bring your people back or bring new hires in, here are a few tips to help everyone feel more confident, focused and energized in the back-to-business phase and beyond. 

Talk business with your people ... often, openly, clearly. Even if your people trust you are taking care of their safety, they also need to know details about business logistics. Start with clarity about hours, pay and expectations so people know how policies and expecially any changes might impact their personal life and responsibilities. 

People also want to know about the business as a whole and how new directions or new practices might affect their ability to do their best work and how any changes will affect customers. Good people care about the big picture for the business and tend to worry if they feel service or standards are unclear or compromised.

Be open about any uncertainties you may be figuring out as you go. Let your team know where you're at on those issues, including what's worrying you. Even if you don't have answers, they'll appreciate your honesty and quite likely have good ideas for solving problems. When people feel involved and informed, they are more engaged. 

Ask, listen and learn about personal concerns. It's not that you want or need to hear all the details and stories, nor do you want to pry. But the pandemic has taken a toll in different ways for different people, from financial stress, the demands of work-from-home, loss of social or work connections, or concerns about child or elder care. The more you know what's going on with your people, the more you're equipped to offer meaningful benefits. And simply offering a word of understanding and encouragement in a world of uncertainty goes a long way. 

Ask your people what’s working for them individually, what’s not, and what’s causing stress on the job.  While you may not be able to do anything about a situation, just being aware of a team member’s particular worries or challenges, at work or at home, will give you insight on who might be struggling and where a simple adjustment could make a differenceWhen people feel the boss and colleagues care, they are more focused and committed. 

Offer the best benefits you can.  With distancing rules, personal caution and budget constraints, perks such as lunches, happy hours and gym memberships are on hold, likely for a long time. Instead, flexible work schedules, extended lunch hours for chores that now take twice as long, coupons for family take-out, or a contribution to improved home office tools are examples of the new benefits people appreciate. 

Health insurance is quickly becoming a most valued benefit. People are more concerned than ever about their health and their finances. There are some excellent, low cost options that work for businesses of all sizes, from 1-2 person shops to large groups of contract workers. If you aren’t able to cover even a portion of the bill, you can still provide information and recommend a good plan and broker. Your people will trust a suggestion from you and appreciate that you’ve helped with the homework involved in finding good insurance. 

Focus on wellness, from setting an example to encouraging awareness and self-careespecially when it comes to mental healthMake sure your people know about complimentary counseling and other resources available through your insurance (if you have a plan). Post information on community resources that can help with stress, anxiety and building coping skills and resilience for demanding times.  

Let’s not kid ourselves. While re-opening and heading back to business is a welcome relief, it’s not business as usual. But with awareness and a few simple, tangible strategies, you can help your team move forward from uncertainty and strain to feel more informed, confident, focused and productive. Healthier for them and the business. 



health insurance dollar go further

How to make your health insurance dollar go further

How to make your health insurance dollar go further 

If the past few months have triggered some serious financial planning, you definitely aren't alone, and you may be considering how your health insurance fits in. You likely purchased your health insurance plan to help pay for routine expenses and protect you and your family should the worst happen. But what about in times of financial hardship or other challenges? Can your health benefit plan actually help rather than become a stressful expense? We would argue the answer is a definite yes. A good plan should provide resources to help you through a difficult period and a good advisor should work with you to find a plan that is right for your budget. Here are some tips to make sure you're getting the best value out of your health insurance plan. 

1. Make sure you aren't overpaying.

We would never advise cancelling your plan outright if you can avoid it, particularly in times when you might need access to your emergency savings. But that doesn't mean you can't save money on premiums. Making sure you have the best value plan for your budget is important. Many of us are guilty of shopping on name recognition alone, and while a reputable company is important, big ad budgets rarely equal best value. And choosing a plan simply because it's convenient may cost you a lot over time. Talk to an experienced advisor about the plan options available to you and potential savings. A plan specifically designed for your situation, whether you run your own business or work on contract will offer best value. 

2. Use the Wellness Resources in your plan

More plans today are including wellness benefits. These resources are meant to help you through life's challenges. Check whether your plan includes an EAP (Employee Assistance Plan) or similar program. Plans vary (view Health Plus Wellness Resources here) but often include completely free, confidential and professional counselling. In addition to mental health resources, your plan may include virtual financial coaching or guides, relationship advice, physical health, fitness and nutrition advice. Taking good care of yourself is essential when dealing with stress and times of change. 

3. Help your business thrive

If you provide employee benefits, it's a natural place to consider cutback in rough times. But your people are relying on you now more than ever to feel supported. In turn, they will work harder for you. Research shows that investing in workplace benefits leads to increased productivity and employee engagement. 

If you are self-employed or just starting to build a business, the same or comparable program that provides wellness benefits often provides targeted business advice and resources to help your business succeed. A tool such as the Custom HR Advice that comes with Health Plus plans is an example. 

4. Think Long Term 

While it's easy to focus solely on cutting expenses, getting back to work, helping out loved ones, it's important to take care of your health now, mental and physical. Your insurance will help pay for important routine care, such as dental or physiotherapy to keep you healthy. If you're young and in good health, you're likely getting the lowest monthly premiums for your plan. The fact is there are no guarantees you will get the same rates if your reapply in the future or even that you'll qualify if your health changes. 

When what you're spending matters more than ever, make sure you're making the most of your health insurance dollar. 

Self-compassion Wellness Moment

The Surprising Benefits of Self-Compassion

Continuing the conversation on self-care ...

The Surprising Benefits of Self-Compassion

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going." It's what we often tell ourselves to rally strength in a crisis. Your version of "tough" may look different than mine. Long days of business and family demands, the financial fallout of a downturn, coping with isolation and loss, the energy it takes to be there for others, the hard work of social change, or the effort just to stay calm and positive ... in whatever form, this year most of us are carrying  a lot. The ability to be tough is good. And necessary. 

But non-stop tough is not healthy.  We need self-compassion too. When we expect too much of ourselves, insist we can somehow do it all, not for a sprint but indefinitely for as long as it takes, and continually put our own needs last, we put our well-being at risk. We know what we're supposed to do - exercise often, eat healthy, sleep lots, spend quality times with loved ones, and as if that's not enough, devote time to a cause we believe in and actively engage in building a better world. Sound advice. But sadly, in unusual times, self-care goals can turn into yet another set of 'shoulds' and high standards we can't possibly meet with all else going on. Some of us keep going in overdrive on all fronts while some of us give up completely and berate ourselves for what we didn't do well enough or do at all. There is a better way. 

This Wellness Moment is about Compassion, a self-care essential.  Simple when we think of compassion toward others. It's kindness, understanding, not judging harshly and gentle support through a challenging time. Not so simple when it comes to treating ourselves with the same care. Maybe it's time we do. A growing amount of research shows self-compassion benefits overall mental health and well-being. It results in less anxiety and reactive anger and most significantly, boosts emotional resilience. When we treat ourselves with gentle compassion, we're better able to handle stress and responsibilities. 

The good news? Self-Compassion is about what to stop doing instead of yet another chore to start.  Push pause on perfection and pressures, for a day or a whole weekend if you can. Even an hour will do you good. Set aside demands you put on yourself (and inevitably on those around you). Silence your inner critic and taskmaster. So what if there's too much screen time, Oreos instead of organics, stuff piling up, projects neglected or whatever your personal picture of unacceptable might be. Just to be clear, this is not slacking off. It's cutting yourself some slack when the going gets tough - the opposite of what we might be inclined to do, but sometimes all we can do, and that's okay. Actually, it's often the best way to sustain energy and focus for the long haul. Turns out it's good for business too. 

So please, take a moment to take it easy.  Be mindful of the the pressure you're under and what you need.  It's not selfish. in fact, the research also shows that when we're compassionate with ourselves, we're more compassionate toward others. We judge less, understand others more and our capacity for kindness and tolerance grows. Doesn't that sound like something the world needs now?

If you'd like to know more about Self-Compassion:

This Wellness Moment is from Health Plus Insurance.  From our family to yours, take care and stay safe. If you have a comment or a suggestion for a Moment, please send us a note. Always glad to hear from you.

If you're a Health Plus Plan member, remember you have access to free, professional Wellness Resources

wellness moment self-care

A Serious Conversation About Self-Care

Health Plus Wellness Moment

A Serious Conversation About Self-Care

While we often take a light-hearted approach in these Wellness Moments, the ongoing stress of the pandemic calls for a more serious conversation. 

During COVID-19, even those of us who take pride in our ability to 'keep calm and carry on' have had our resilience tested. In differing degrees, most people have experienced sadness, depression, anxiety, possibly anger at the stress and disruption, and many are dealing with serious loss and chaos. Angus Reid Institute recently reported that nearly half of Canadians said their mental health is suffering and worsened during COVID-19, more than 1-in-10 say 'worsened a lot'. 

Mental health IS health. Along with the physical risks of the pandemic, taking care of our mental and emotional well-being is our number one job. That means doing what we need to do for ourselves to manage stress. Every one of us. Now. Clearly more difficult when you're taking care of others too, but putting on 'your own oxygen mask first' is not selfish. It is Self Care. Essential for you and those who depend on you in your household, neighbourhood, or business.

While attitude and gratitude, exercise and extra sleep can all help, sometimes we need more. There's strength, not shame in looking beyond the usual coping tactics when necessary. If this is a time when you could use support, we recommend a few excellent resources available to all.  

Visit the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and find your local or provincial branch to learn what resources and support programs are available in your region, including crisis and peer support helplines and referral services. 

One such program is BounceBack, a free program from CMHA for ages 15+, offering online tools and coaching to build skills to manage mood, mild to moderate depression and anxiety, stress or worry. 

In addition to its regular programs, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has developed a resource site specifically to provide information, stress relief and coping tools during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Your local pharmacist is always a good source for health knowledge. In addition, Shoppers Drug Mart is currently providing online resources on meditation, healthy eating and stress relief. 

We encourage you to take a moment to check in with yourself to assess how you're coping and what you need for your health (not what you think you 'should' be able to handle). Stick to the habits you know work for you, use tools you'll find online and please, don't hesitate to call someone if that's what you need. 

When health is at risk it's frightening and sad, certainly no laughing matter, and it's okay to cry. But as we work to regain equilibrium, there is a place for laughter. In fact, experts say it helps heal and protect us. We hope you find something in your day to make you smile, chuckle, or laugh right out loud, even better if you can share the moment with someone who needs the lift too. 

This Wellness Moment is from Health Plus Insurance. From our family to yours, take care and stay safe. If you have a comment on these ideas or more to suggest, send us a note. Always glad to hear from you. 

If you're a Health Plus plan member, remember you have access to free, professional Wellness Resources

health insurance after termination

Health insurance after job loss

health insurance after layoff

What you need to know about health insurance if you are laid off or terminated

Along with all the other stress of job loss or change, uncertainty about your insurance is a concern you don't need at this time. If you were covered under an employee plan, your benefits will change and eventually stop. Here are a few points to help you understand what happens to your health insurance after termination and what to consider in order to protect yourself and your family.  

If you are temporarily laid off  

While not required, coverage is often continued through the duration of the temporary layoff, typically up to 3 months. However, this timeframe is at the discretion of your employer. It’s important to ask how long each benefit will remain in place (life, disability and health insurance). Maintaining benefits coverage is one factor that may allow a temporary layoff to extend beyond three months. However, extension is not the usual practice and requires specific agreement between the insurance company and your employer.  

If you've been terminated now or temporary lay off turns into permanent termination

Benefits can continue for a short period after your job ends but the length of time varies. It is based on a formula of factors including the rules in your province, your length of service and the terms of your job / employment contractIt’s important to receive specifics from your former employer about the end date of your benefits and check your provincial legislation to ensure your rights are met. You can see guidelines for Ontario requirements for the period following notice of termination here. 

Options to replace your benefits exist but some are only open for a short time after your current plan ends.  

If you’ve been terminated or are otherwise losing your coverage, there are other good plans to consider. Some are tied directly to the date your current plan ends and only available for a short time.  It’s important to know that you don’t necessarily have to go with the option your employer or current benefit provider suggests. If you’re healthy, you’ll find better value at lower cost elsewhereWhat’s important is that you gather the information now.  You don’t want to miss a deadline for transfer to a new plan, pay too much, or take the risk of having no insurance at all. 

We strongly advise you to talk to your employer and an insurance advisor now.     

These typical practices are guidelines only and not cast in stone. Unusual circumstances could result in something entirely different.  If an employer shuts down the business, declares bankruptcy or is going through financial hardship such as the pandemic-caused downturn, there are no hard and fast rules about continuing employee benefits and no guarantees for you. We advise you to get the facts now about the status of your benefits and understand your options for disabilitylife and especially health insurance

We're always glad to answer your questions and especially in these uncertain times. 

Note: If you’re a business owner who has let people go or need coverage yourself, Health Plus plans are a very good option to suggest to your people or consider for yourself in place of a typical employee plan. They are more affordable and flexible than traditional group insurance. Visit Health Plus for Teams for more information on benefits for owners and teams or contact us.  

Support small business

How Everyone Can Support Small Business Today

How Everyone Can Support Small Business Today

The COVID-19 pandemic is a scary time for all of us. We’re concerned about our health and the health of our loved ones. The economy is taking a hit. And the uncertainty of how long this will last or how much worse it will get is making everyone anxious. While the mass shuttering of businesses for the foreseeable future may be the best thing for the health of Canadians it is no doubt an especially harsh reality for small business owners and employees. Small businesses are a huge part of Canada’s economy so we want them not merely to survive but to thrive. Here are some ways we can continue to support small business and independent workers through these tough times 

Shop Local Online

With physical locations closed, many of us are turning to online shopping both for necessities and luxuries to help get us through this time. Many small businesses have already done a great job of transitioning or expanding to serve their communities online. You can find almost everything you need online, groceries, self-care items, virtual business services, art, your favourite band tee, the list goes on.  Before you click the purchase button consider how much money stays in your local community. When possible try to shop local and arrange contactless delivery or pick up.  

Order for Delivery or Pickup

As places where people gather, restaurants and bars have been especially hard hit. If you’ve overestimated your cooking skills the past few weeks or simply want to try something new, consider ordering from one of the local spots that have remained open for take-out or delivery Some restaurants are even offering meal kits if you want to try recreating a favourite recipe at home. For your virtual cocktail hour, consider ordering from a local brewery, winery or distillery. Many are offering free or discounted delivery rates.  

Purchase a Gift Card

It will support small business owners now with immediate cash flow as they’re dealing with closures or reduced sales and feel great to use later. Many businesses even offer virtual gift cards you can purchase and use online. Buy from a favourite restaurant, café, independent shop or practitioner whose services you love or from somewhere you’ve been meaning to try. It will be something to look forward to or make a great gift.

Like, Comment, Share or Subscribe   

We’ve probably all been spending more time than we care to admit on social media in recent weeks. Why not engage in a positive way? Liking, commenting and sharing helps businesses connect with their customers virtually, build credibility, and reach new audiences.  

Write a Review 

Small businesses often rely on word of mouth and positive reviews to get people in the store, making purchases, or signing up for services. If you’ve had a good experience, let people knowIt will help business owners feel appreciated and help new customers to choose local when searching for a similar experience. 

Share Your Digital Skills or Start a Virtual Project

If you have digital or social media skills, consider offering to help a local business owner improve their online presence. Or, reach out to a freelancer or small business to hire and move forward with a digital project yourself. There are a lot of incredibly talented professionals well-versed in working virtually who can help with everything from traditional digital work such as web design or online content, to health coaching or interior design. 

Stay Home

Above all else, follow the advice of Public Health authorities and stay home. Respect physical distancing guidelines and do everything you can to limit the spread of COVID-19. The better job we do right now, the sooner small businesses can resume operations, get back to business, and continue to strengthen our communities.  

Virtual Resources Wellness Moment COVID-19

Virtual Resources to Calm, Care for and Entertain during COVID-19

If ever we need a moment for wellness, it's now ...

Along with all we can do to help flatten the curve, it’s the time to do all we can for our personal health – mind, body and soul. We offer these virtual resources to help.    

Calm your nerves

It’s time to be especially mindful. Essential to pause purposefully and often, to tune out the chaos and tune in to ourselves to restore a measure of calm and the best outlook we can muster. Although deep meditation may seem impossible in the turmoileven a few moments of quiet will help lower stress levels and restore balance.   

For calming tools for everyone and special ones for kids, visit the free Calm Resources page.     
For anxiety and worryyou can find COVID-specific advice from CAMH on how to cope, including how to talk to children about what’s going on.   

Beware the rampant infodemic. While the facts from reliable sources are frightening enough, we’re being bombarded with dire predictions and frankly false news from outright racist views to wildly inaccurate speculation on causes and cures. Better for everyone’s health to avoid media overload especially from sources no one should trust. Use this Guide on what to avoid 

Stay physically active

Exercise soothes mind and body, boosts your immune system and helps ward off the ill effects of overwork or extra sitting around, let alone full-on anxiety. Here are just a few lists of where you can find free virtual workouts, yoga and more.   CBC   BlogTO   NYTimes on Self-Care 

Walk or run outside.  Experts recommend it where you can practice social distancing and avoid park and playground equipment, railings and benches for the time being.  As well as burning calories, fresh air goes a long way to combat cabin fever and restore energy.  

Find moments (or hours) for what you enjoy

Nothing wrong with binge-watching. Or burning the candle at both ends if that’s what you need to do…for a while. Too much, wellbeing suffers.  With empty hours to fillor with added pressures that call for overdrive, we all need something for healthy respite from the stress.     
This is a great time for those interests, projects and subjects we’ve been meaning to tackle, learn more about or enjoy but never managed to find the time. As a short breakor a focus for the duration, these are ideal diversions to take our minds off worry, maybe even accomplish something, or at minimum have a plan ready for better times ahead. They’re also a great way to connect with others – at home or virtual.  
From the amazing number of quality blogs, music and sports sites, podcasts, and YouTube lessons to choose from, here are some to get you started.  You may be surprised at what’s included (and free).  Arts & Entertainment   Online Learning  

Think Community First

When you’re looking for virtual resources, remember to start with your local businesses to see what they offer.  You’ll be helping them too.   

If you are already a Health Plus plan member, remember you have access to free Wellness Resources with your plan. 

From our family to yours, take care and stay safe.  If you have a comment on these ideas or more to suggest, send us a note. Always glad to hear from you.   

health insurance financial goals

How health insurance helps you meet your financial goals

How health insurance helps you meet your financial goals

New year, new $ plan ... but are you missing a key piece?

By now, most of us have started work on our 2020 resolutions (unless we’valready tossed them). Often, those intentions involve money especially if you’re self-employed or freelance. That’s great. But sometimes, the financial picture is missing a critical piece ... one that can support your other goals or when it's not in place, put your entire plan at risk. Not so great.  Let us explain.   
You already know it’s smart to keep an emergency fund, avoid debt, set regular savings goals, invest wisely.  What could possibly go wrong?   
The strategy that’s missing is health insurance. Yes we knownot an exciting topicMuch  less fun than visions of income breakthroughs and new projects. But insurance is key to good planning and risky to neglect. And if you do have insurance but don’t pick the right plan, you’re spending more than you need to for less protection than you want.  So how does that happen?  
When you’re thinking about health insurance, watch out for these traps:  
#1  Settling for the first plan you come across from any big company you recognize. Instead, it’s smart to look further to compare options, and easier than you think. Check out the plans from people who specialize in benefits designed solely for small business; they’re almost always much better value.  See how Health Plus plans compare.  

#2  Counting on an emergency fund (or worse, a line of credit or lottery win).  Assuming you’ve stuck to your plan to keep a rainy-day account, do you seriously want to spend it on health bills?  What if you just paid for a big-ticket business need or unexpected personal expense when, as luck would have it, an even bigger medical bill comes along.  Or you need the money to manage routine bills when a health issue takes you out of action.    
The fact is that even if you’re the best of savers, an emergency fund may simply not be enough to cover rehab physiohigh-priced prescription drugsor major dental work. Even if it is, we’re guessing you have more appealing plans for your funds. Why pay bills you don’t have to? What’s more, if you don’t have the cash for a surprise health expense, there goes your ‘avoid debt’ strategy.  The ripple effect can do a lot of damage to your entire financial plan.    

#3  The problem with good health ...  Of course, there’s never a problem with good health.  It’s what we wish for everyone. But there is a problem when we take good health for granted.  While you may be lucky, with good genes and healthy habits, the fact is accidents happen and serious illness can strike out of the blue.  An invest wisely plan includes investing in insurance. You cover healthcare costs now and in future without derailing the rest of your goals.    

#4  Planning’ to save.  Setting goals for regular saving is smart But too often the follow-through takes a back seat to more ‘urgent’ spendingFrom retail therapy to essential system upgrades, a lot can come between you and your best intentions. With insurance, you can budget a predictable, affordable monthly amount, tax-deductible if you’re self-employed. Less than a latté a day buys serenity and confidence knowing your healthcare funds are solidly in place, and your insurance can save you big money in the long term.    

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago”.  To paraphrase the proverbthe best time to buy insurance is when you’re healthy.  If you wait until you ‘need it’ you may not qualify at all or you’ll pay much more.  Please consider a second look at your financial picture.  And best of luck with all of your resolutions this year.       
Health Plus Insurance plans are designed for business owners, freelancers, contract workers and self-employed people.  For more options and better, more affordable coverage plus complimentary professional Wellness Resources that come with our plans
contact Health Plus Insurance.    

winter wellness - healthy holiday

Prescription for a Healthy Holiday Season

Prescription for a Healthy Holiday Season ... expect side effects

Favourite time of year? Or just want the fuss to finish? No matter how you experience the holidays, there’s extra wear and tear on body and soul. For some, it’s an overload of social commitments and non-stop to-do’s while others feel more alone, anxious or sad. Every one of us could use a boost to our health. Fortunately, there are remedies for seasonal stress…no pharmacy required. Here’s the prescription for a healthy holiday season. Best taken daily.

Say No.

Take yourself off autopilot that leads to overwhelm. Send regrets for occasions that don’t appeal and let go of tasks that involve more stress than joy. Set boundaries. That may mean a change in traditions or routines that no longer work, or a commitment to yourself to avoid issues, arguments or drama that can ruin your mood if you let it. Say no to overspending. The ‘perfect’ gift is rarely the overpriced splurge. In fact, let go of ‘perfect’ anything. Simple is almost always much more fun.

Say Yes.

Speaking of fun, make time for more of it. Make a date with people you love, or with yourself for a good book or hobby you enjoy. Sing your heart out, carols or classics. Say yes to work….yes really! Sometimes. A sense of accomplishment is healthy and it can feel great to focus and get a project off your mind.  Just be sure work doesn’t keep you from saying yes to the essence of what matters … the people you care for who count on you. Oh, and make time for the mistletoe. 


You don’t have to give like Gates or channel Mother Teresa. Small acts of kindness for a neighbour, supporting the food drive or donating whatever your budget allows to a cause you believe in all contribute to your own good health. Studies from Harvard to happiness professionals confirm ‘giving’ activates regions in the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust. Scientists have actually labelled the related release of endorphins. It’s called the “helpers high”. Get your dose.


It will give you a serious lift. Reminisce about hilarious moments with friends, enjoy a favourite movie or stand-up act, or simply listen and treasure the cute comments from a child in your life. Studies abound on how laughter heals. It nourishes you by helping to relieve stress and elevate immune response. 


Take these remedies as often as you can. Expect immediate relief and lasting benefits.

The Health Plus team wishes you and your family a happy, healthy holiday season. If you're looking for more support this holiday season make sure to check out our Wellness Resources

best value health insurance

How to get the best value health insurance

How to get the best value when you shop for health insurance

Shopping for health insurance isn't anyone's idea of a good time but it is part of a smart financial plan. It allows for one monthly budgetable bill that covers both routine health expenses and protection in case of unforeseen expenses from illness or injury. Because as much as we like to think we're invincible, we're probably not. But, how do you choose a plan that offers the best bang for your buck? When it comes to insurance, it's not just the sticker price (or overall monthly premium) that you should look at. You also want to know what you're getting for your money. Here are 4 factors to help evaluate a plan when shopping around to get the best value health insurance. 

Overall Maximums

This is the most straightforward. It refers to the maximum coverage amount for each type of service. Pay attention to whether a plan offers a separate maximum for each service or a combined maximum for a group of services. Maximums are often on an annual basis, but can be longer or shorter depending on the service. Some plans also include overall lifetime maximums or the total amount you can claim the entire time you are on the plan.  

I'm sure you've already figured out that in general, higher maximums are better. But, remember to consider not only maximums for services you may already be using (e.g. your dental visits) but all maximums weighed against real world costs. Most of us hope to never need expensive medication but a high prescription drug maximum is still a good idea. With the development of new groundbreaking medication, drug prices are on the rise. More than 1 in 100 Canadians will require prescription medication costing more than $10 000 per year, not something you want to pay out-of-pocket. 

Per-visit Maximums

A lot of insurance companies also choose to limit the amount covered for one visit to a practitioner, even before you reach you reach your overall maximum. They do this so they can control claims expenditures. Low per-visit maximums can mean you end up paying a lot of out pocket for a covered service. For example, if your plan has an overall maximum of $500 for paramedical services such as massage therapy or chiropractors but a $25 per-visit limit you'll pay the difference every time you go. Obviously most professional services don't cost just $25, so this isn't too great of a deal. 

You may see the words "reasonable and customary" in a policy instead. This is just the insurance company's way of saying they'll cover your treatment up to a set amount, meant to reflect the typical cost of a service. Some plans, like Health Plus plans, require an approval step for services beyond a dollar limit instead of placing a low per-visit limit. While the initial step of getting approval may seem annoying, ultimately it means if you need it you're covered. Our advice is to avoid plans with low per-visit maximums. When you're already paying high premiums they aren't good value. 

best value health insurance
best value health insurance
best value health insurance

Reimbursement Levels

Just because something is included in the plan doesn't mean the insurance company is covering 100%. The reimbursement level, also known as co-pay is the percentage of a claim, up to the maximum, the insurance company will pay. Plans vary widely. While some pay 50%, others pay 90%. This consideration goes hand in hand with maximums. A plan that pays 100% isn't worth much if low per-visit limits mean you'll be paying out-of-pocket regardless. 

Rate Increases

This is an important one and not usually highlighted in the brochures. Plan rates may increase over time due to factors such as increasing healthcare costs or an increase may be written into your terms. For example, most plans have an automatic increase with age (Health Plus plans don't). This means every 5 years, after age 40 or 45, your monthly premium will automatically go up, something you'll definitely want to budget for. While no plan can guarantee its rates will never rise, you can try to choose a plan with relatively stable rates. And as you work health insurance into your budget it's a good idea to gauge how much of an increase you might be facing. Don't be afraid to ask whether premiums were recently increased and whether another increase is expected.

Health insurance is not an insignificant purchase. Making sure you get a plan where your money goes the farthest and you have the security you need is important. A little extra research beyond the basics and marketing slogans can go a long way. Whether you're working with a broker to help navigate the options available to you or going to companies directly, asking questions and knowing exactly what you're getting for your money will help you feel more confident in your decision.