Group benefits are various insurances an employee can get from their employer, such as extended health or life insurance. In Canada, the healthcare system is provincial, not federal.
Each province has its own rules, rates and financing. In British Columbia, a lot of items are not covered by the Medical Service Plan (MSP), including medication, vision and dental care.
Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of group benefits:
- Eligible for coverage, even with health conditions: the idea behind group coverage is to spread the costs between many companies and people. “pooling” is a common insurance practice, particularly for small businesses. Rates remain stable for the employer, and employees are not penalized for using their benefits. Coverage may be more limited, if you have preexisting conditions, but you would still qualify. It may not be the case on an individual basis.
- Better, cheaper coverage: group benefits usually offer better and higher coverage at an affordable cost for the employee. All employers pitch in to pay for the premiums; some, like mine, pay 100% of them.
- Non-transferable benefits: if you leave your employer, you also leave the benefits behind.
- One-size-fits-all plans: employers decide what type of benefits they can afford and want to provide. Depending on your situation, it may not be enough.
In Canada, employers are under no obligation of providing benefits.
I am lucky that my employer not only provides a very good benefit plan, but also pays for it. A portion of the costs remain a taxable benefit to me, but it still is cheaper than if I had to pay for a similar, individual plan.