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Financial relief options for Albertans during COVID-19

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

Alberta Blue Cross® is your partner in wellness, and we know this has been a difficult time for many people and businesses. We have provided several relief options for those whose financial wellness may have been affected by the pandemic.

For our individual plan customers

If you and your family are facing financial uncertainty during this 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.

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.

As many businesses have now reopened, including dental offices and health service providers, you are now able to access your benefits again. Based on this information and our ongoing assessment of the health environment, plan premiums returned to regular rates effective August 1, 2020.

Please note this was 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 transitioned to virtual appointments and benefits such as prescription drugs could be accessed without disruption, use of dental benefits and some other extended health care benefits declined during the first phases of the pandemic. As many businesses have now reopened, including dental offices and health service providers, you are now able to access your benefits again.

No. These premium savings are there to help with cash-flow during these times and we will not be recovering premiums in the future.

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

We recognize that many employers were forced to lay off employees during the onset of COVID-19, so we temporarily provided extended coverage options. These coverage extensions will now fall to what is noted in your clients’ group contracts as follows:

  • Life, health and dental

    Coverage can be extended for employees for up to six months due to a temporary lay-off.

  • Disability benefits

    Short Term Disability and Long Term Disability coverage can be extended up to one month.

To help our clients, we implemented a temporary process for handling Short Term Disability claims received for COVID-19 claims. The temporary process ended effective September 27, 2020, in conjunction with the implementation of the new changes made by the federal government to the Employment Insurance (EI) program. This change implies that COVID-19 claims will be treated following the same process as other disability claims. As a result, as of September 27, 2020,

  • an elimination period will be applied to all COVID-19 claims in line with policy provisions,
  • an attending physician’s statement and positive test result will be required for COVID-19 claims, and
  • the member and employer will be required to provide completed claim forms for COVID-19 claims.

Quarantine and preventive claims will continue to be referred to Employment Insurance.

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 more information on changes to the EI program, please visit the Government of Canada’s website.

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.

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.

Additional resources