How Much Do You Pay for Health Insurance?
By Amanda Frank
Monster Contributing Writer
How much are you paying into your company’s health care plan? The answer is not always obvious. Thanks to the wonders of automated payroll processing, we don’t concern ourselves with the details. All we know is monies are transferred directly into accounts, deductions occur at source and income slips are indecipherable tables heavily coded with strange acronyms.
The notion that health care in Canada is free or paid by taxes might also be responsible for lulling us into a deeper state of complacency. But this too is a false comfort. The average Canadian household spends $2000 on health care costs and $4000 on private insurance premiums. 65% of Canadians have some form of private health insurance most often provided through their employers.
Insurance plans vary in quality and price just like any product in a free market. Health plan and provider are selected at the discretion of employer. As the employee you’re stuck paying for it out of your salary. The difference to your bottom line could be hundreds of dollars every month. Inquire on these points when you’re going over the contract and before you sign. As with anything predetermined for you, it is in your best interest to avoid the rude awakening I just experienced doing recon for this article. Apparently my last job’s health benefits cost $409 per month and my former employer contributed only 10%.
I consulted with Farrah Press, VP of Sales and Marketing at Executive Link to take a look at my pay slip and help me understand the cost breakdown. She wasn’t nearly as incredulous as I. According to Press, “the company’s health plan included extras. Life insurance and dental. If life insurance and dental are on the plan the cost can double.”
Another good reason to be picky about your job, companies can be widely different in the scope of the plans they can offer. “A large public company can offer a more competitive plan than a small private company because it can afford to and because it has a larger base of employees.”
“All companies must pay into their employee’s health plans, but the minimum can be extremely low,” said Press. “In my experience, if they’re paying more of a contribution, such as fifty percent of the cost of the health plan, they usually balance that cost with a fifty percent deductible for prescriptions and health care services. More generous plans will cover eighty percent of direct costs.”
In an effort to curb costs, many companies are replacing high health benefit top up payments with perk programs that are less expensive to implement such as matching RRSP contributions.
“One of the company’s employees used to pay $300 out of her monthly paycheck for health benefits at her last job, excluding life insurance,” said Press. “Her employer at the time paid the bare minimum required to qualify for the plan, which was $20. She took a private plan when she went on maternity leave. She saved $200 a month and got better benefits.”
Private Health Insurance
Unless your employer’s insurance plan is priced right, private health insurance is more competitive in both cost and services, whether you’re buying as an individual or family. Coverage in this example includes prescription drug plan, eyeglasses and eye examination, and health professional services such as visits to a massage therapist and psychologist.
Here are some average prices I found by calling different private health insurance providers:
|Type of Coverage||Monthly Cost|
|Single Parent -Father||$78|
|Single Parent -Mother||$110|
You like the price? But wait…
Let’s say you wanted to pay for your health insurance privately. Or simply use the government provided plan. You’re out of luck if your employer offers health benefits. According to health law in Canada you’re legally obligated to get with the program. You can purchase supplemental health coverage privately, but the only way to opt-out of your company plan is to physically not be there by leave of absence such as disability or maternity.
The only other exception is spousal/ common-law coverage. If your spouse pays less out of pocket with access to more services and lower deductibles, you can opt-out of your company’s plan in favor of your spouse’s employer’s plan.
I leave you with this to ponder. Ask about your contribution and your employer’s contribution when you are ironing out the details of your hire. If you’re passed that stage, read your pay slip and ask questions. And if the calculation still smarts, why not consider getting hitched?