Blue notes blog


Understanding your spending accounts

Alberta Blue Cross Member site tips

You have a spending account—but before you make that purchase, you want to make sure it’ll be covered when you submit your claim. Navigating the rules around spending accounts can be tricky. To help make your life a little easier we’ve provided answers to some of the most common questions we receive about spending accounts below.

What is a Health Spending Account?

This is an account that your employer puts credits (non-taxable funds) into. You can use this account to pay for you and your family’s medical and dental expenses that are not covered under your Alberta Blue Cross group plan or your spouse’s group plan.

Health Spending Accounts (HSA) follow guidelines set out by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)— if you can claim a particular item or service as a medical expense on your income tax, it would be considered as an eligible expense under a health spending account. You can check the Canada Revenue Agency website for a list of eligible expenses.

If you have an HSA, you will able to either

  1. carry your credits forward for a period of time, or
  2. carry your expenses forward.
You can check the specific details of what your account allows by signing in to our member site, clicking Your benefits and then selecting Health Spending Account. The details for your account can be found under the Plan rules tab.

What is a Wellness Spending Account?

The Alberta Blue Cross Wellness Spending Account (WSA) is a special taxable account funded by your employer. WSAs are also referred to as a Taxable Spending Account (or sometimes a unique name set up by your employer). You can use the funds to assist with expenses related to fitness and sports activity and equipment, continuous learning, family care and other categories of items depending on the options selected by your employer.

To find out what your plan covers, visit our member site, select Your benefits and choose the type of wellness account you have. You’ll find details about what you can claim under the Allowable expenses tab. In most cases, WSAs are an annual benefit. This means you cannot carry over any unused balance to the next calendar year. But to confirm the specifics of your plan, click on the Plan rules tab.

How do these accounts work?

Depending on what amount your employer provides each year, you may be asked how you want to direct your spending account credits for the upcoming year. If your employer offers both types of plans, you must indicate where you would like them to be placed—entirely in your WSA, entirely in your HSA or a portion in each.

What’s the difference between my HSA and my WSA?

Your HSA is a non-taxable benefit. Eligible HSA expenses are the same as what would be accepted as an eligible medical expense on your Income Tax return, as per the CRA guidelines.

Your WSA is a taxable benefit. This means that taxes are charged as the account is used and are deducted by payroll throughout the year. This account covers personal interest courses, fitness-related activities and an expanded list of eligible items. The types of items offered are determined by your employer.

What expenses are eligible under the HSA?

The Income Tax Act of Canada lists all eligible medical expenses. Some of the items allowed include

  • medical practitioners
    • acupuncturist
    • audiologist
    • chiropodist
    • Christian science practitioners
    • dental hygienist, dental mechanic, dentist and denturologist
    • dietitian
    • medical doctor
    • naturopath
    • nurse (or full-time practical nurse)
    • occupational therapist
    • oculist
    • ophthalmologist
    • optometrist
    • osteopath
    • pharmacist (dispensing fee and cognitive services)
    • physician
    • physiotherapist
    • podiatrist
    • psychoanalyst
    • psychologist
    • speech-language
  • vision care expenses (including eye exams, glasses, contact lenses and laser eye surgery),
  • dental expenses (preventative, diagnostic, orthodontic and therapeutic care),
  • ambulance expenses,
  • prescription drug expenses , and
  • balances not reimbursed on your dental or extended health care plans, such as deductible amounts and coinsurance.

What expenses are eligible under the WSA?

WSAs can provide reimbursement to support a broad range of opportunities for you to maintain and enhance your wellness including

  • fitness equipment and activities,
  • professional development and education courses,
  • dependant care,
  • financial planning, and
  • health related programs and services.

Because employers are able to select the categories of expenses eligible under the WSA, it’s necessary for you to confirm your coverage by referring to your benefits booklet or checking our member site.

How do I submit an HSA or WSA claim?

You can submit your HSA or WSA claims electronically by signing in to the member site or you can fill out a form (select Forms & ID cards and then Claim forms) and send it to Alberta Blue Cross for reimbursement.

Remember to check your Health Spending Account claim history before submitting for any remaining balances for medical or dental expenses. If Alberta Blue Cross paid any part of a health or dental expense through your regular benefits, the balance may already be in the process of being paid.

When do I get paid?

Each plan sets up a schedule of when payments are made from HSA and WSA accounts. This could include payment minimums that need to be reached, or certain days or months on which payments will occur. To know for sure when you can expect payment, sign in to our member site, click Your benefits, select the type of wellness account you have and details about your payment schedule will be found under the Plan details tab.

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