Retiree Benefits: Options as you leave your employer-provided benefits plan

More Canadians than ever before are preparing to leave the workforce. In this article, we'll provide an overview of some options for health and dental coverage once employer coverage terminates.

You may have spent the majority of your working life covered by a group health and dental coverage provided by your employer. Knowing how to manage and plan for those expenses at retirement can feel overwhelming.


Your needs will be addressed with a combination of government-provided programs, your own resources, and potentially insurance benefits if you top-up the government plans.


Steps to planning for retirement health and dental coverage needs:


Government Seniors Programs: At age 65, provincial governments offer coverage for prescription drugs. In Alberta for instance, the Senior's plan is administered by Alberta Blue Cross. Coverage is for prescription drugs, hospital, ambulance, diabetes supplies and more. This government-provided coverage does not include dental coverage.


Learn more about the Seniors Drug Program here. You can check if your medications are covered by this plan by searching the Government of Alberta Interactive Drug Benefit List. If your medication is listed as a regular benefit, you'll pay a maximum of $25 per prescription.


The Federal Government has committed to providing dental coverage to seniors by 2025, but the first phase of the implementation covers children only, and the maximum benefit is $650 / year.


Evaluate Your Own Resources: Depending on your expected income from government plans and your retirement savings, you may feel prepared to deal with unexpected health and dental expenses. Those with significant resources may feel prepared to "self insure," while others may prefer to spread the cost of health and dental care over the course of the year.


Insurance Programs: It is best to evaluate options for retirement benefits prior to leaving your employer. Some plans allow you to join within 60 days of losing group coverage without answering health questions. That means that any conditions or treatments will be covered.


There are several reasons that you may want to consider insurance programs:

  • You may want to top-up government coverage. Not all medications are covered, including brand-name drugs or medications for which there may be a lower-cost alternative.

  • Dental expenses can be significantly higher than $650 / year. Spreading the cost of those expenses out may offer budgeting assistance when you're on a fixed income.

  • Travel insurance may be a component of a retiree plan. This can be included in some plans or you can purchase coverage on a per-trip or annual multi-trip basis. Watch for pre-existing condition limitations and stability clauses.

  • Paramedical expenses beyond psychology and chiropractic coverage may be important to you.

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