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Don’t miss the boat on health and dental coverage

You can sign up for retirement health coverage for you and your loved ones after you retire, but restrictions apply. Make sure you know the rules!

When you apply for your pension, you have the option to enrol in extended health care and dental coverage through the pension plan. This coverage gives you access to competitive group rates and covers some costs of medical treatment beyond what’s provided by provincial health plans. This can include the cost of prescription drugs, glasses or contact lenses, the services of physiotherapists and other paramedical practitioners, out-of-province emergency medical expenses and dental care.

If you don't enrol in optional extended health care and/or dental coverage (for you, your spouse or eligible dependants) when you retire, you may be able to do so later. But it’s important to read the fine print about deadlines and eligibility criteria.

The most important eligibility requirement can be summed up in the phrase “60 days or continuous coverage.” To enrol in extended health care and dental coverage, you need to meet one of those two criteria. Here’s how.

60 days

You, your spouse and eligible dependants are eligible to enrol in retirement health coverage without restriction so long as you’re within 60 days from when the pension was granted (your “pension–effective date”). If that 60-day deadline has passed, you need to meet the continuous coverage requirement.

The 60-day rule also applies if you cancel your coverage because you are living outside Canada. If you move back and wish to re-enrol in retirement health coverage through the pension plan, you must do so within 60 days of returning to Canada.

Continuous coverage

If you didn’t meet the 60-day window for health coverage, you can still enrol in the extended health care and/or dental plans if you had continuous coverage in a different plan. In other words, you must have had health (and/or dental) coverage through another source—such as an employer's health plan or another pension plan—continuously since you retired.

The same rule applies to your spouse and eligible dependants. If they have not had continuous coverage, they are not eligible for coverage under your plan.

Here’s one example of how “60 days or continuous coverage” works:

When Margie retired, her husband David was still working and had extended health coverage through his employer. Since Margie and David were already covered through David’s employer, they didn’t enrol in coverage through the pension plan right away. However, now it’s five years later and David’s retiring. The couple weigh their options and determine that Margie's retirement health coverage meets their needs best. Even though it’s been five years since Margie retired (so they’re outside the 60-day window), they are still eligible to enrol in extended health care and dental coverage because they’ve had continuous coverage through David’s employer the whole time.

But Margie and David need to act quickly! Once they are no longer covered by David’s workplace health coverage, they only have 60 days to enrol in coverage through Margie's pension plan. After that, they will no longer be eligible.

Don’t miss the boat

There’s one other requirement to keep in mind when considering extended health care coverage: to be eligible, you and your loved ones must have medical coverage through a provincial health plan (such as the Medical Services Plan of BC).

Although it’s not guaranteed, retirement health coverage is an important post retirement group benefit that your pension plan provides. Keep these important deadlines in mind so you don’t miss out on group rates and coverage in retirement.

Wondering what it means to be an “eligible dependant”? The plan’s health care carrier, Pacific Blue Cross, determines who can enrol under your coverage. For more information and to confirm eligibility, review your benefit plan’s booklet.

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