During the first few months of the year, in addition to organizing funding my TFSA, one of my favourite things to do is log into my health benefits account to see how much I coverage I have left. It is a fun activity for me to do as I calculate the number of massages I can get for the year and then space them out or schedule them as needed. I also like to check out what I am eligible for, as sometimes the insurer changes their criteria every few months or every few years.
I don’t think it can get more personal finance nerdy than this.
This fun activity for me puts me in the minority though. According to a Moneysense article and a poll done by Sanofi, only 11% of employees said they used free services available to them. To me, this is a surprisingly low number. Why would anyone be putting free money on the table? I know it’s probably hard to schedule things when you work 9-5 and these paramedical services are mainly 9-5, but when you have a maternity leave for a year, things are a bit more flexible I suppose.
How Much You are Leaving on the Table
Of course, it is nice to work for yourself, be financially independent, and get paid more in lieu of benefits if you are a contractor or consultant. How much are benefits packages worth? According to The Conference Board of Canada, on average they are worth $8330 per employee. Although you aren’t paid $8000+ on top of your salary, this hidden amount is what your employer pays to well, keep you as an employee. So it makes sense to take advantage of this and not leave $8000+ lying around on the table.
Related: End of Life Planning Checklist in Canada
Use Work Health Benefits for Credit Card Minimum Spends
I have planned for this and even called my podiatrist’s office to ask if they take American Express credit cards because I was trying to meet the $1000 minimum spend in 3 months on my new Scotiabank American Express Gold card. Unfortunately, they didn’t because very few merchants in Canada takes American Express. However, if it were a different card like a Mastercard or a Visa, it would be easy to accumulate enough ‘spend’ to meet the minimum spend.
This I suppose, is in a way, a very mild form of manufactured spending. Where you don’t have to spend money in order to collect points to meet the minimum spends. To read about an intense form of manufactured spending, check out this CBC article about a travel hacking savvy law student who used the Royal Canadian Mint (buy $20 worth of coins with his credit card and deposit it into the bank) to collect travel rewards points.
Use Work Health Benefits to Collect Credit Card Points
In addition to meeting minimum spends, it goes without saying that getting your credit card points just by using your employee benefits is a #winning situation for you. For example, my CPAP device for my snoring/sleep apnea problem during pregnancy cost about $2500, but it was covered by my employee benefits and because I had the MBNA World Elite Mastercard I got $50 cash back. Yes, that’s cash back for spending $0!
Therefore, I make sure to maximize my paramedical health employee benefits every year (I get $500 in each category) and I regularly track “how much I have left” on my health benefits plan for the year.
Some paramedical health providers are:
- Registered Massage Therapy
- Counselor (I used it for pre-marital counselling and also to talk about my dysfunctional family of course)
I don’t go crazy obviously- if I don’t need physio I don’t go to physio. I do like to maximize the number of registered massage therapy massages I get (I schedule them about every other month as I got $500 of massage therapy), acupuncture treatments (same as for massages), and vision care.
Last year in 2017, just in paramedical services alone, we saved almost $6000 (yes, my travel hacking heart is swooning at the points I collected from this spend). This included $2500 for my CPAP monitor, and almost $900 for orthotics for the both of us, $500 in massage for me, $500 in acupuncture for me, almost $500 in counseling, $300 in physio for myself (I had a bad wrist shortly after giving birth to my baby from lifting and carrying him), and $500 in massage for my husband.
Would I have used these services if they were not covered by my health benefits plan?
To be honest, probably not.
The CPAP I would have bought anyway because my snoring was really bad during my pregnancy and I had moderate sleep apnea, which can increase complications in your baby and pregnancy.
Use Health Benefits for Travel Medical Insurance
Many people sign up for credit cards with travel perks such as travel medical insurance. Usually these last a few days at most and if you are older you might not be covered. With my work health benefits, I get 90 days of travel insurance for the year. This saves a lot of money because we don’t have to buy extra travel insurance and was a great relief when we traveled to Hawaii for 5 weeks.
Add Your Self-Employed Spouse
Since my husband is self-employed and I am employed, I would like to think that my husband’s quality of life has improved now that he gets to go to the dentist twice a year and gets new glasses every two years, thanks to my employee benefits! I regularly make sure I maximize his benefits usage as well (we go and get orthotics together how romantic!) since that’s stretching the benefits package even more.
Combine Your Spouse’s Benefits and Maximize them
If your spouse also works, you can combine your partner’s work health benefits and maximize them. Sometimes there is only 80% coverage from your plan and if you add your spouse’s plan you may be able to get 100% coverage.
So although it sometimes sucks to ‘work for the man’, I like to ‘stick it to the man’ and try and maximize the benefits that my employer is paying for. I mean, although it would be nice to have an increase in my salary, my health benefits are worth something too! I’m not leaving that free money ($8330+) on the table. Leafing through your human resources package or website is definitely worth an hour of your time because it can improve your self-care and also get you some cash back and reward points!
Readers, do you use your work health benefits?
What is your favourite benefit provided by your company?
GYM is a 30 something millennial interested in achieving financial freedom through disciplined saving, dividend and ETF investing, and living a minimalist lifestyle. Before you go, check out my recommendations page of financial tools I use to save and invest money. Don’t forget to subscribe for blog updates, a free dividend yield spreadsheet, and the free Young Money Bootcamp eCourse.
22 thoughts on “The Benefits of Using Your Work Health Benefits”
Nice that your health benefits cover massage GYM. You need to stay relaxed. I haven’t looked, but doubt ours do.
We are on Mrs. DD’s health plan at our university. We pay about $5,000 annually for the plan and that’s about 25% of the cost I think. Making it about a $15,000 a year paid benefit. It is a big deal.
@Dividends Diversify- That’s interesting that in the US they make you pay for your plans. We have it included as part of our benefits package. That is a good deal though to have health care coverage!
Hi GYM, the health benefits provided by many employers in US are not that super great. They have co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket amount that employees have to pay. Canada is probably better than US in terms of health care.
@Helen- I don’t think Canada is better than US in terms of health care- I guess they both have pros and cons. In Canada there are long wait lists for certain tests (like an MRI if you have knee pain for example, it is not a priority so sometimes wait is 1 year to get the imaging test done) and also people abuse the system. People go to Emergency Rooms for a refill for their blood pressure pill or for their sleeping pill because it is free but they don’t know that it costs tax payers $700-1000 per visit to emergency room. It is like a buffet (and I know you like buffets so I will give you that analogy lol)- so it is human nature to misuse the system.
Love the idea of using your health benefits to hit your credit card bonus spending requirements!
At my previous employer we had a certain number of massages we could use each year. We never used them all. I don’t know why. Maybe it was the time or maybe it was the hassle of setting up an appointment and submitting a claim?
What we did do a few times is book a massage appointment at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Toronto. The massage was covered by benefits and after the massage you had access to their roof top pool. We’d just hang out there for the afternoon. So much fun!
@Owen- Nice! I went to a fancy spa place for the massage therapy too one time. It was good but I don’t find the therapists as good. I love using my credit card to pay for health benefits. It is one of my favourite things to do.
The work health benefits in Canada sound way better than what they offer here in the U.S. Outside of the well known companies with great health benefits, most companies have to deal with co-pays and deductibles in order to have acupunctures, massages and even gym memberships.
I take advantage as much as I can with the health benefits. Going to my yearly check-up with the doctor, check-in to the dentist twice a year for cleaning and just this year started going to the eye doctor since I am heading to into my 40s and your vision start to deteriorate a bit at that time. I don’t need to wear glasses yet but I’m guessing when I’m well into my 40s I may need them.
@Kris- There are copays for acupuncture and massages too but it’s not that much. I have a $100 deductible for the year on my plan. Sometimes the copay is about 20% which is not bad. The eye doctor (optomotrist) is free here when you are a child and I think it is free again over the age of 65. Lucky you that you don’t need glasses, everything is blurry when I don’t have mine on!
I have never had a massage. I think paying other people to touch you is a little creepy.
@Nelson- Nelson you are missing out 😉
I wouldn’t get massage therapy if it wasn’t covered and I think our teeth cleaning would be less often too. With kids it’s crazy how much the benefits add up to. That part is getting me a little worried once I no longer work but I guess my kids are getting older so not as much of a big deal! Last month for two of the kids, I spent over $1,100…ALL reimbursed!:)
@Caroline- It is human nature! I totally would not get massage therapy if it wasn’t covered too. My husband never went to the dentist (maybe once a year or every two years) before he got added onto my plan. And his best friend is a dentist too! Lol.
As long as all your kids are done their braces then you should be okay! That’s one reason why I won’t “RE” of the “FIRE” until my kid finishes his braces lol.
Braces weren’t covered on my plan, make sure you check your plan:)
@Caroline- Girl you know I do, I check it with a fine tooth comb. It is one of my favourite Friday night activities, check what I have available. It is covered with a copay up to an extent I think $5000?
I love the idea of using healthcare expenses to earn reward points, although I don’t have enough healthcare needs to actually make use of this. But if I did, I’d be opening credit cards left and right!
I’m totally going to check the travel insurance thing! We do get a few hundred dollars per year for answering health questions. We also get discounts on the gym, but I don’t go there…
@The Luxe Strategist- lol. I don’t really have that many extended health care needs too! Just a massage regularly (or at least 5 a year) and some contacts/ glasses every few years. All other healthcare needs (doctor visits, hospitalization for labour and delivery) is covered by the provincial health plan (universal coverage). A few hundred dollars per year to answer health questions- wow what an incentive. Don’t have that up here in Canada.
Travel insurance and massages are awesome perks! I haven’t read through the small print of my medical insurance in a while, and the company has shifted providers a few times. I do take advantage of the new glasses every 2 years (my glasses would cost an arm and leg without insurance), and the dental.
I need to make the time to take advantage of the physical therapy and chiropractor perks. For me, costs aren’t covered in full, but the co-pay is very low compared to the real cost, and the benefits to my health outweight the co-pay if I make the time to do it.
@Jay @ 5 to 9 Living- Yeah, I went to physio just to check my posture (I can work on my posture) and it helped a great deal! Yes- glasses stuff are expensive! We just got our glasses eligibility renewed (it is every 2 years) so I get to refill my contact lens! 🙂
The thing I miss most about having a job is the benefits! I made sure to maximize everything and use up all the limits before the year rolled over. Oh, the good old days 😛
@Janet- Do you get benefits from your school in Switzerland? I remember when I went to school in Canada you could opt in on some benefits.
Oh man I so wish that we had massage benefits, use those up!
@Kolten- Yes sir/ma’am! 🙂