What’s Up with Extended Health Coverage?

It’s time for better EHC for retirees.

Group benefit plans harness the strength of thousands to provide security and benefits to individuals in the plan. As a teacher you enjoyed better benefits than most, with up to 80% of the costs paid by your employer.

EHC coverage changes in retirement. Everyone in the group is older, sometimes with higher claims, and there is no employer to share the cost. So EHC plans for retirees tend to offer lower benefit levels. But it is still better to be in an EHC group plan than to sign up for an individual plan directly with the insurance company – costs in such plans are often much higher.
EHC coverage should be clear, easy to use, reliable, fair, and treat subscribers with respect and compassion. A bad EHC experience might include confusing or conflicting guidelines, needless disputes, excessive paperwork and indifference toward you as a person.

POSSIBILITIES OF CHOICE

The right choice in EHC plans is very important for peace of mind and security. The points at which you rely on coverage are often the most stressful times of your life. A caring, responsive insurer will make for much happier outcomes. You may realize just how bad your coverage is at your moment of greatest need.

Many retirees do not realize they have a choice of plans. For BC’s retired teachers, a “default” plan is the Green Shield coverage publicized by the TPP. The TPP does not own or run the plan, but contracts with Green Shield the right to be the default choice for new retirees. All residual funds of the Green Shield EHC plan stay with GSC. Many teachers are not aware of other options when they sign up. A common misunderstanding is that BCRTA is connected to the Green Shield plan. That is not the case.

For over 20 years, BCRTA has grown an alternative benefits plan, crafted in response to member needs. Our partner is Johnson Insurance, who bring a focus on personal service and “Best Friend Advice.” A portion of the Johnson Prestige EHC premiums paid by BCRTA members goes back into supporting the work of our association. We think of it as a “virtuous circle”: our members benefit from the bargaining power of our group, in a plan that builds the strength of our association to serve retirees.

ADVOCACY AND COMPLAINTS

BCRTA’s mission is the well-being of our members. That means we spend a lot of time listening to and advocating for retirees. What we have been hearing for some time is great frustration with EHC coverage. When the TPP switched providers from Blue Cross to Green Shield there was a marked increase in dissatisfaction. Members told us of difficulty in making claims, changing interpretations of coverage, and unresponsive or unsympathetic service agents. We heard it in person at branch meetings, in conversation, and by mail.

To gauge the size of the problem, over fifteen months we tracked every interaction our service desk had with members, making a note of the character of each of those conversations. We recorded dozens of complaints about EHC plans. Just 10.7% of those were about the BCRTA-Johnson EHC plan. A whopping 89.3% of complaints were about the Green Shield plan. Also note: this time period was well after the initial deluge of complaints about Green Shield coverage.

We expect to hear about any issues with the Johnson plan – after all, they are our partner, and we can follow up to resolve issues because we have direct access to the plan partners, and thousands of BCRTA members use it.

It is no small irony that the vast majority of complaints BCRTA receives are for the plan we do not sponsor. We provide information and any support we can regarding complaints about Green Shield EHC. People contact us because they have exhausted all other routes, or sometimes do not understand who offered the plan.

A BETTER FUTURE FOR EHC

It is time to get this situation fixed. Our EHC survey will give us a statistically significant profile of how YOU feel about your EHC coverage. This confidential information will help BCRTA ensure that our EHC plan is the best it can be. The survey will also display for all retirees just what their peers think about each of the EHC plans.
We think the best approach to caring for people is to have open, informed conversation about facts. So here is your chance to share your stories, good or bad, and register your voice. We are listening to YOU.

Complete the survey now, in five minutes:

bcrta.ca/EHCsurvey

Excellence in Public Education Update June 2021

For a second year, public health restrictions due to COVID- 19 prevented the in person presentation of BCRTA’s Golden Star Awards. We received several applications from teachers who found safe, creative ways to offer intergenerational programs despite the pandemic. Like the recipients of the awards, we had to pivot and find another way to celebrate outstanding intergenerational programs in BC’s public schools.

Thanks to Zoom technology, Excellence in Public Education Committee members were able to attend all Golden Star Award presentations this year! This year, committee members located in Coquitlam, Nelson, the Okanagan and Vancouver joined virtual presentations to recipients in Coquitlam, Surrey, Thetis Island and West Vancouver. We had the enormous pleasure of speaking with teachers, students, seniors, a superintendent, principals, parents, a school board Trustee, and a care home representative, all through the magic of technology.The only things missing were the cake and ice cream.

This year, we celebrated presentations on June 1st, Intergenerational Day. Zoom took us to a classroom in White Rock where the grade 3-4 students had made golden star wands to wave at us as they said “thank you” in unison. From there we went to a beautiful forest in Surrey where the grade K-1 class called “thank you” from their outdoor classroom amidst towering evergreens. June 2nd found us across the water on Thetis Island where we enjoyed original presentations by K-7 students in their 100 year old one room school house. Next we joined recipients at an elementary school in Coquitlam where students expressed their gratitude through prose and poetry. Our final celebration was with recipients at Sentinel Secondary School in West Vancouver where senior students expressed their heartfelt thanks to BCRTA for the support received.

At every Golden Star Award event, each person who spoke emphasized that the benefits of intergenerational interactions are life changing for all participants. During the pandemic, the selected programs were key in combating the loneliness and isolation experienced by many seniors. Students benefited in important ways and, amongst many other attributes, developed empathy and an appreciation for the wisdom of seniors. Kudos to teachers Harriette Chang, Cecily Evans, Laura Fitzpatrick, Ellen Petersson, Genny Redman and Lisa Tomé for their dedication to excellence in intergenerational programming in BC’s public schools.

Many thanks to Kristi and Laurie at the BCRTA office for facilitating essential aspects of the Golden Star Awards program and to committee members Cheryl Halsted, Caroline Malm, Barb Mikulec and Grace Wilson for their work on behalf of BCRTA members.

Caroline Malm, Chair, Excellence in Public Education Committee

Protecting Public Health Care – Make the Pledge

The BCRTA board has moved to contribute a grant of $5000 in support of the BC Health Coalition Legal Defense Fund in support of their on-going intervener status in the Charter Challenge against Brian Day and the privatization of medial services as the case is being appealed to the BC supreme court. The case opens on June 14, 2021.

Below is a link to the “Take Action Pledge”. Please consider signing this pledge. It will build momentum in support for the BC Health Coalition and Canadian Doctors for Medicare.

https://www.savemedicare.ca/pledge

 

Grace Wilson is President of BCRTA

 

Homeowner Grant Changes 2021 and other Well-being News

The Well-being committee is presently working on a number of issues:

  • Senior Care Issues arising from the pandemic – the committee would like to work closely with COSCO and the BC Seniors’ Advocate to clarify the issues, develop policy, and lobby for needed changes.
  • Housing for Seniors
  • The committee has agreed to work in conjunction with BCRTA staff to produce two webinars for the 2021-2022 year; ideas and content to be established by the committee at future meetings.

The committee would like to remind membership that this year there has been a change in how the Homeowner Grant works. Be sure to read your 2021 Property Tax Notice carefully and go online to apply at www.gov.bc.ca/homeownergrant.ca

Terry Green, Well-being Chair

TAX TIPS for the 2020 Tax Year

Once again we present BCRTA members a guide to help you make the most of your annual tax return. Of course BCRTA does not offer income tax advice, but here are some common issues and deductions to keep in mind. Working through this list will help you complete your return to your maximum advantage. Our annual check list is put together by our Pensions and Benefits Committee.

So let’s get started!

Eligible Medical Deductions

Any eligible medical costs that you pay that exceed 3% of your net income can be deducted when you complete your income tax return this year. A couple usually should combine all medical expenses on one tax return – usually the one with the lowest income – to gain the highest value deduction.

  • Eligible medical expenses are those payments made by you or your spouse that were not fully reimbursed by an insurance plan. Some examples that you should explore:
  • Prescribed medications
  • Payments to a medical doctor, dentist, and most paramedical service providers such as physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapy, etc.See CRA’s complete list of medical expenses that may be eligible for tax deductions at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/forms-publications/publications/rc4065/medical-expenses-2016.html.
  • Premiums that you paid for any health service plan other than MSP.
    • If you participate in our Johnson Insurance with Prestige Travel Plan you should receive a letter that itemizes your claimable premiums as well as your claims history that shows your eligible deduction. If you don’t see this by March 16, follow up with them.
    • If you participate in MEDOC and have requested a letter that shows the eligible amount of premiums in a previous year you should receive it soon. This year’s tax notices are scheduled to be sent out by February 19th. If you are a MEDOC participant but have never requested this notice, call Johnson at 1.800.563.0677 and you will automatically receive one every year.
    • If you are signed up for Extended Health Coverage with Green Shield and premiums are deducted from your Teacher’s Pension Plan payments, GSC premiums are always shown in Box 135 of the T4 you received from TPP. See more about tracking GSC claims at https://www.bcrta.ca/gscclaims

BC Recovery Benefit and the one-time payment for people receiving Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement.

Both the BC Recovery Benefit ($500/person or $1,000/family) and the Federal one-time payment for seniors ($300/person receiving OAS plus $200/person receiving GIS) are tax-free payments. You do not need to report them on your income tax form.

The New Canada Caregiver Credit

The Canada Caregiver Credit (CCC) is a non-refundable tax credit that may be available to you if you support a spouse, common-law partner or a dependant with a physical or mental impairment. For detailed information visit https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/about-your-tax-return/tax-return/completing-a-tax-return/deductions-credits-expenses/canada-caregiver-amount.html.

Disability Tax Credit

The disability tax credit (DTC) is a non-refundable tax credit that helps persons with disabilities or their supporting persons reduce the amount of income tax they pay. For detailed information visit https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/segments/tax-credits-deductions-persons-disabilities/information-medical-practitioners/eligibility-criteria-disability-tax-credit.html.

Age tax Credit

If you were 65 or older on Dec. 31, 2020 you may claim an age tax credit. The credit is geared to income with the maximum discount for those whose income is less than $$38,508, and the credit is gradually eliminated as your income increases. There is a corresponding provincial tax credit as well. This deduction can also be transferred to a spouse. For detailed information visit https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/about-your-tax-return/tax-return/completing-a-tax-return/deductions-credits-expenses/line-301-amount.html.

Charitable Donations

Tax credits are available for donations made to registered charities. In a spousal relationship, the claim can be split or attributed to either person to provide the greatest tax advantage. For detailed information see https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/charities-giving/giving-charity-information-donors/claiming-charitable-tax-credits.html.

Political contributions

Tax credits are available for any contributions you and your spouse made to registered federal political parties or British Columbia political parties. For more information about the federal credit visit https://www.canada.ca/en/services/taxes/income-tax.html.
For British Columbia credits go to https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/businesses/topics/corporations/provincial-territorial-corporation-tax/british-columbia-provincial-corporation-tax/british-columbia-political-contribution-tax-credit.html.

Payment Options

If you are among the 16% of Canadians that owe tax after filing, you now can pay using a credit card, PayPal, or Interac e-Transfer (See Payments to the Canada Revenue Agency on the CRA website).

Sign up for Direct Deposit with your Revenue Canada account to receive your refund deposited into your bank account. Log-in or register at www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca

Other Options

You can now also file a return electronically on CRA’s website. You will have to register on the CRA website MY Account service to do this. Once you have registered, you can take advantage of CRA’s “Auto-fill My Return” Feature.

Need Help Filing Your Return?

There are several low-cost or free tax filing programs available on-line. Search for “on-line tax filing.” A listing provided by CRA can be found by visiting https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/community-volunteer-income-tax-program.html.

There are also many volunteer run tax preparation clinics at Seniors’ and Community Centers around the province.

CRA Scams

We always remind members that there are unfortunately a lot of fraudsters who try to take advantage of seniors by pretending to be a collection agency or government official.
But by being alert to fraud, you won’t fall for any phone calls, e-mails or letters pretending to be from the Canadian Revenue Agency. If you receive one of these contacts, it is important to provide NO information. Instead, always contact CRA directly by calling 1-800-959-8281 or check your CRA My Account on-line.

 

Gerry Tiede is BCRTA Past-President and Chair of the Pension and Benefits Committee.

Immunization Registration

Source: Government of BC Vaccine Information

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/vaccines

We are all eagerly awaiting news on the roll-out of a COVID vaccination program in BC. Seniors have been prioritized in the planning.

The latest information is available on the Government of BC website, address noted above.

Immunization clinics

Immunization clinics are being organized in 172 communities in B.C and will be overseen by your local health authority. The clinics will be held at large centres including:

  • School gymnasiums
  • Arenas
  • Convention halls
  • Community halls
  • Mobile clinics in self-contained vehicles will be available for some rural communities and for people who are homebound due to mobility issues.
  • Immunization clinics details will be available before Phase 3 of B.C.’s Immunization Plan.

Starting in mid-to-late February, Health Authorities will be reaching out to seniors aged 80 years and older, Indigenous seniors aged 65 years and older, and Indigenous Elders to provide information on how to pre-register for immunization appointments.

You can pre-register two to four weeks before you are eligible to reserve a vaccine appointment. Eligibility is based on your phase and age, working backwards in five year increments.
Pre-registration opens March 2021.

Census 2021 Opportunities

As retirees many of us are looking for opportunities to become involved in community activities that extend beyond the teaching workplace. Some of us do it out of a feeling of giving back for what we have received in our working careers, some for wanting to show our commitment to the values of our Canadian culture and civic responsibilities, and some of us may out of need be looking for some part-time employment to pay unexpected bills.

The next census will take place in May 2021. Statistics Canada will be hiring approximately 32,000 people across the country to assist in census data collection activities. Statistics Canada wants BCRTA members who are interested to be aware of these job opportunities.

Census information is vital for all communities for planning schools, daycare, housing, hospitals, emergency services, roads, public transportation, and employment skills training. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Statistics Canada has adapted to ensure that the 2021 Census is conducted throughout the country in the best possible way, using a safe and secure approach.

Should you have any questions, please contact Statistics Canada at statcan.censusoutreach.west-rayonnementdurec.ouest.statcan@canada.ca.

Thank you in advance for supporting the 2021 Census.

Terry Green/Chair
Well- Being Committee

Coffee Contest a Hit – Big Turnout for Online Christmas Event

BCRTA offered members a chance to have “coffee with a friend” in December with a special giveaway contest. BCRTA members could enter their name and the name of a friend. Winners received a coffee-themed gift basket delivered to their home, and their friend received one too. Over 3,000 contest entries were received!

Gift basket winners were announced at the 2020 Christmas Online Social by BCRTA Executive Director Tim Anderson and President Grace Wilson.

Our winners were:

  • Kathleen H and friend Carla,
  • Ivan S. and friend Megan, and
  • Judy Y. and friend Randi.

The online Christmas presentation included a greeting from President Grace Wilson, music from Diana Wort and some scenes from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol by actor Ron Reed. Over 1,000 BCRTA members tuned in via Zoom and YouTube live.

With the success of the giveaway contest and online presentation, similar events are sure to follow!

Excellence in Public Education February 2021

GOLDEN STAR AWARDS 2021

The committee asks Branch presidents to please remind current active teachers in their districts that the deadline for applications for Golden Star Awards is April 15th. We know that this year is full of challenges. For example, the in-person connections usually fostered in intergenerational programs are not possible due to COVID-19 restrictions. We also know that some teachers are continuing to implement their intergenerational programs for seniors and students by virtual means and letter writing. We applaud those efforts and encourage them to apply.

Golden Star Awards application forms are available on the BCRTA website.

Golden Star Awards celebrate programs that promote the interaction of seniors and students.

INTERGENERATIONAL DAY 2021

The Excellence in Public Education Committee successfully brought a motion to the Board on February 3, 2021. As a result, the President of the BCRTA will send a letter to the Government of British Columbia asking that the province declare June 1st as Intergenerational Day 2021.

Caroline Malm
Chair, Excellence in Public Education Committee

BCRTA Continues Efforts in Support of Pharmacare

The establishment of Universal Pharmacare is an advocacy goal of BCRTA and our national partners in ACER-CART.

The Well-Being Committee and the BC Retired Teachers’ Association (BCRTA) has been actively engaged in lobbying governments in Canada to initiate a single-payer, public and universal Pharmacare program.

It has been some time since the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare provided its interim report (see the BCRTA news story here). The BCRTA Well-being committee also highlighted a report on Pharmacare from the Broadbent Institute.

At our last AGM one of our keynote speakers, Dr. Steve Morgan, presented a comprehensive address on both the need and affordability of a national Pharmacare program.

Advocates for Pharmacare have created a series of petitions over the past few years. We note that currently BC MP Peter Julian has such a petition. You can learn more about this petition and participate by visiting https://www.peterjulian.ca/take-action.

Other steps you can take to support the cause of Pharmacare would be to:

  • Write a letter to your MP to support a universal Pharmacare program.
  • Urge your MLA to ask the provincial government to act on this issue.
  • Talk to your neighbours about their support for a Pharmacare program.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper in support of a national universal Pharmacare program.

Terry Green
Chair of BCRTA Well-being Committee