Mental Health Support: A Simple Guide to Providing Mental Health Coverage within your Employee Benefits Program

How employers can support employee well-being within an employee benefits program

As defined by the Canadian government: mental health refers to one’s general state of psychological and emotional well-being. We acknowledge this is a complex and nuanced topic, and that an employer’s role in supporting positive well-being extends far beyond the insurance coverage they offer to employees. However, our focus here is on employee benefit products and services that fall under the ‘mental health’ umbrella.

We are often asked “what more can we do” when it comes to mental health coverage. We have outlined the key areas of coverage for mental health and addressed how they should be reviewed, potentially amended or enhanced, and additional layers or adjacent programs you may wish to consider.


Supporting Mental Health: Crisis Response vs Ongoing Care and Support

One thing to consider is an emergency or crisis situation versus an ongoing situation an employee may be struggling with. One may lead to another. While there are many quality resources available for those reaching out during a crisis (there are a plethora of hotlines available to members of various communities, for a wide range of issues or just general support), when an issue requires ongoing professional support, a financial barrier to care may present itself. In this article, we have outlined the various layers of support.


Employee & Family Assistance Program; the First Level of Support

Employee & Family Assistance Programs or EFAPs (also called Employee Assistance Programs or EAPs) are well-known for their ability to provide 24-7 phone-based, online or direct support to members experiencing any sort of life event for which they need assistance. As we’ve written about, they offer benefits to both employers and employees. Most EFAP providers have extensive online resources available on a large variety of topics, and these often do not require membership or a login.

Most plans offer some level of face-to-face or virtual counseling. While this varies depending on the EFAP, they are typically best suited to issues that can be resolved in the shorter-term, or where the member would benefit from referral to relevant online or community resources. 

Our experience is that most members who require ongoing support desire to continue with face-to-face or virtual sessions directly with a counsellor of their choosing, who specializes in their area of concern. A downfall of EFAPs can be the inability to continue sessions with the same practitioner, once the limited free sessions expire. In this situation, a member may look to claim under their extended health care program.  


Paramedical Practitioners; Reimbursement for Therapist Visits

Paramedical practitioners are a key component of an extended healthcare offering, and depending on the group, may make up a large percentage of overall extended healthcare claims.

While we still see Massage, Physiotherapy and Chiropractor as the top claimed practitioners, those that fall under the ‘mental health’ umbrella have risen in ranking over the past several years. These practitioners include:

  • Certified Clinical Counsellor
  • Registered Clinical Counsellor
  • Registered Professional Counsellor
  • Mental Health Therapist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Psychoanalyst
  • Psychotherapist
  • Psychoeducator
  • Social Worker
  • Marriage and Family Therapist


This list is not inclusive of many other related practitioners that some carriers are willing to include. If you’re unfamiliar with your offering, we recommend reviewing the booklet or contract to determine which practitioners are included; you may want to expand this offering to allow members a greater breadth of choice.


How much paramedical coverage should we provide?

As you may be aware, counselling sessions are extremely expensive, usually well over $100 per visit, depending on the practitioner, type of therapy and region.

A typical plan has $500 of coverage, per practitioner, per person, per year. But keep in mind the providers listed above are usually combined under the dollar limit for “mental health practitioners.”

We often see $750 of coverage these days, and some plans still have lower amounts such as $300. If you do the math, a standard paramedical schedule does not offer many visits to a private therapist.

In an effort to expand the coverage for these categories of practitioners, in recent years we have implemented a higher combined limit (i.e. $1,000 of coverage for these practitioners, while the remainder of practitioners are kept at a lower dollar limit per person per year).

Alternatively, we have provided a specific number of visits, rather than a dollar limit (i.e. 12 visits for mental health practitioners). This is considered a more costly option due to the average per-visit cost.


Health Spending Account dedicated to Mental Health support  

For those facing ongoing expenses, for example, routine visits to a therapist, EFAP and paramedical coverage can run out very quickly. To provide an additional layer of support, a Health Spending Account can be used to provide much-needed dollars to employees.

In fact, while barriers to ongoing care due to stigma or lack of resources may have been removed, financial constraints could be the last remaining reason an employee may discontinue therapy, or not seek professional assistance at all.

As you may be aware, Health Spending Accounts can be fully customized these days to include and exclude items, depending on the Employer’s choice. A Health Spending Account can be used to cover mental health-related expenses; however, the employer may choose to define this.

Coinsurance can also be applied (i.e. 60% coverage) with a Health Spending Account, which is an effective tool in directing employees first to their EFAP (potentially), then paramedical coverage under their insured program, and then to their HSA.


Long Term Disability Coverage for mental health claims

Unfortunately, many people find themselves unable to complete the duties of their occupation due to mental health issues. Rest assured, so long as the ‘definition of disability’ within the contract is met, a claim related to mental health can be approved and benefits paid. In fact, a large percentage of claims today are mental health-related, with a larger percentage defined as mental health adjacent. 

Members can receive an ongoing monthly income (a disability benefit payment) so long as they continue to meet the definition of disabled. It is important that employers understand this and communicate this to members who may need to explore a long-term disability claim.  


Financial well-being and mental well-being are connected

While we consider this adjacent to the more direct mental health support and benefits detailed above, a groups savings program can play a role in supporting wellbeing. As we have written about, personal finances are their number one source of stress, according to employee surveys.

Implementing an employer-sponsored group savings program provides twofold support: employer funds via an employer contribution to the savings plan, and additionally, education and tools to assist employees in creating a plan and getting control over their finances.


Steps for Employers:

  • Ensure an Employee & Family Assistance Program is in place; these are often included within your extended health care plan.
  • Review the paramedical offering and ensure appropriate practitioners are included and that coverage levels are as high as affordable to your company.
  • Consider a Health Spending Account to provide additional dollars, as well as flexibility and choice
  • Ensure employees understand the coverage and how to access support and map out how each layer of coverage works.
  • Curate a list (with the help of your advisor!) of good online resources with brief summaries of the support they provide. A simple handout dedicated to this topic, with websites and phone numbers clearly listed, can go a long way.
  • Lastly, include details on all of the above as part of onboarding, but also routinely communicate and update your mental health support program.


By offering resources like Employee & Family Assistance Programs, coverage for various mental health practitioners, Health Spending Accounts, and long-term disability coverage, employers can provide additional support for their employees’ mental health and overall well-being.

At the Immix Group, we emphasize the importance of regularly reviewing and communicating the specific benefits offered to employees through their employee benefits program. This ensures they know how to access and utilize these benefits both efficiently and effectively. For any questions about your employee benefits program and whether you can do more to support your employee’s mental well-being, visit us at or call us at (604) 688-5559. We love to hear from you!

There are a plethora of free resources and guides available online. Here are a few:

Top 8 FAQ’s

Mental health refers to one’s general state of psychological and emotional well-being. When employers actively support mental health, they show they care about their employees’ overall well-being, which can lead to a happier, more productive workplace with less absenteeism and stronger company morale.

An EFAP, also known as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), provides 24/7 phone-based, online, or direct support to employees experiencing life challenges. It offers short-term counseling, referrals to specialized resources, and extensive online materials on various topics, helping employees manage their mental health effectively.

Paramedical practitioners, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers, provide specialized mental health care. Coverage for these practitioners is a key component of extended healthcare plans. Ensuring a broad range of covered practitioners allows employees to choose the best support for their needs. 

Typical plans offer around $500 per practitioner per person per year, but this can vary. Increasing coverage to $750 or more, or offering a specific number of visits (e.g., 12 visits), can provide better support for employees needing ongoing mental health care. 

An HSA allows employers to allocate additional funds for employees’ health-related expenses, including mental health services. It can cover costs not fully covered by standard benefits, helping employees to better afford ongoing therapy and other mental health support. 

Long-term disability coverage provides financial support to employees unable to work due to mental health issues. If the ‘definition of disability’ in the contract is met and the claim is approved, employees can receive ongoing monthly income, ensuring financial stability during recovery. 

Financial stress is a major contributor to poor mental health. Employer-sponsored group savings programs, which include education and tools for financial planning, can alleviate financial stress and support overall well-being.

Employers should ensure EFAPs are in place, review and enhance paramedical coverage, consider implementing HSAs, communicate coverage details clearly, provide accessible resources, and regularly update and promote the mental health support available.

Read more:

Lindsay Byrka

Lindsay Byrka BA, BEd, CFP

Vice President, Immix Group: An Employee Benefits Company
A Suite 450 – 888 Dunsmuir St. Vancouver V6C 3K4
O 604-688-5262 E

Virtual Health Care is Everywhere

Virtual Health Care is Everywhere: Employer vs. Free Options, and the latest in Offerings.  

Back in 2020, we wrote about virtual care offerings, at the time prompted by the pandemic and the lockdown we were experiencing, which made routine doctor visits close to impossible.

While virtual care was available pre-pandemic (in fact, it dates back to around 2006), it was inconsistent and sometimes difficult to navigate. One silver lining of the pandemic is that the virtual healthcare space has exploded with new and expanded platforms, offering individuals and businesses a variety of options to meet a range of needs.

The shortage of family medicine providers, compounded by a severe cold and flu season has made virtual care offerings even more valuable in recent months. A huge number of Canadians do not have a family doctor, and for those that do, booking a same-day appointment is often extremely difficult, if not impossible. While an in-person visit is certainly warranted in many instances, sometimes a virtual visit will suffice, and it can definitely be more convenient: no commuting, parking, waiting rooms.

Studies show that over 50% of doctor’s visits could be handled without direct contact, meaning a virtual visit will suffice to resolve the concern. Through most virtual providers, you can access:

  • Diagnoses
  • Prescriptions
  • Sick Notes
  • Lab work orders, such as blood tests
  • Referrals to specialists
  • Imaging referrals (Xray, Ultrasound)
  • Mental health inquires and referrals

While all providers prescribe medications, they do not prescribe or refill narcotics and addictive controlled substances.

Table of Contents

Free vs Paid Options

You may have noticed the existence of free virtual health care offerings versus paid programs that can be purchased either by businesses for their employees, or even by individuals.

Why pay for a Virtual Health Program, with so many free options?

Employers can add Virtual Care programs to their benefits line-up. A typical paid employer-sponsored program means an enhanced experience, such as:

  • Wait times: free options are becoming heavily used, and wait times are becoming longer. Paid options guarantee quicker access.
  • Longer hours of availability; many paid options offer 24-7 care, in contrast to free versions.
  • Coverage for those in provinces/territories where virtual visits are not insured: currently only BC, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec cover virtual doctors visits under provincial care
  • Direct access to many specialists: often common specialists like dermatologists or pediatricians can be accessed through enhanced programs
  • Beyond regular medical doctor’s visits: practitioners are often available through enhanced paid programs such as counsellors and dieticians, naturopaths and most notably, mental health services.
  • Reporting: usage / ROI data is available through some providers

While the cost ranges, many of these programs are available as add-ons to your existing benefits program for a few dollars per employee, per month.

For example, Manulife’s program is provided through Telus Virtual Health Care and is available as an add-on to an insured plan for $3.95 per employee per month. Like other similar programs, it offers an app with 24-7 on-demand access to health providers via secure text, video, and live chat. Maple Virtual Health is another well-known and highly regarded offering that is also available through many insurance providers (RBC Insurance, for example). Maple Virtual Health can also be purchased stand-alone by employers, and it does provide some ability for free visits to non-members in qualifying provinces, but they are tapering this back to focus on employer-sponsored programs. Telus Health is the best known and largest of the virtual health platforms and offers employer-sponsored programs. It is worth noting that Telus Business mobility customers have access to the paid version of the Virtual Care program for free!
Virtual Health Care is Everywhere: Employer vs. Free Options, and the latest in Offerings

Free Virtual Healthcare Options

Depending on your province of residence, you may be able to access free doctor’s visits through some virtual providers. Some provinces cover virtual doctor visits, meaning you will pay no fee to access a doctor online (the doctor will bill the province, as they usually would with an in-person visit).

For residents of BC, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, visits are free under some platforms. For those in other provinces, accessing a virtual provider typically costs around $30-40 per visit.

Most of these virtual providers connect via phone, live chat, video or secure text in order to connect with patients. The following are two notable virtual health care providers:

  • Telus Health – Telus has acquired numerous other providers and continues to dominate the virtual healthcare landscape. As mentioned previously, Telus Business mobility customers have access to the paid version of the Virtual Care program for free. The Telus Health MyCare app can be downloaded for free, and in covered provinces, doctor’s visits are billed to the province.
  • Tia Health One of the most well known and highly regarded platforms, with an easy to navigate system, Tia offers access to doctors, nurses and pharmacists by phone, video or secure messaging. Tia has also acquired a number of other virtual health providers, so has greatly expanded its network of clinicians.
  • Well Health Virtual Clinic Branded as a virtual walk-in clinic, this provider focuses on doctors visits, simple access to prescriptions and requisitions, and is free in covered provinces. A unique feature is you are able to choose your doctor from their listing.
  • Cover Health– Another virtual “walk in clinic” this platform is free in Ontario under OHIP and offers same day appointments, 7 days per week.

Virtual Mental Health Platforms

Accessing quality mental health services is difficult, and a significant barrier for many people is simply leaving the house. Accessing support through easy to navigate virtual platforms can be life changing. While the cost of the programs can be notable (the per-visit cost can be similar to an in-person session with a credentialed therapist), this can typically qualify under Extended Health paramedical coverage or through a Health Spending Account.

Two notable mental health platforms are:

  • MindBeacon With a focus on mental health support, specifically, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, MindBeacon is highly regarded in the virtual mental health support space. As the online practitioners are credentialed psychologists or social workers, fees can typically be submitted through benefit plans.
  • Inkblot Launched in 2018, Inkblot Therapy strives to alleviate the extremely long wait times that many people face in accessing mental health support. As a platform focused exclusively on mental health, Inkblot offers confidential virtual therapy, CBT, continuity of care, webinars and training, trauma and treatment services, chronic disease management, psychiatric consultations and collaborative care, work and life support

Virtual Health is here to Stay!

The pandemic provided the opportunity for expansion and innovation in the virtual health landscape. While there will always be the necessity for in-person medical treatment and virtual offerings should not be exclusively relied upon, they do solve numerous problems people face in accessing healthcare, and provide a comfortable and convenient alternative, where appropriate.

Whether you choose to implement an employer-sponsored paid program or not, employers should take the time to ensure employees are aware of the virtual health landscape, and the options available to them. There are many educational materials available that can be distributed to employees to assist in spreading the word.

Please feel free to reach out if you’d like to learn more. We love to hear from you!

FAQ’s on Virtual Care

Can a virtual health care provider prescribe medication?

Yes, this is one of the core services, however they will not prescribe controlled or addictive substances.

Can I see a specialist through a virtual care provider?

Sometimes, yes but more commonly you must still be referred to a specialist by a regular GP. Under some paid programs, specialists can be accessed.

Can I access virtual care if I’m not in one of the provinces where it’s insured under provincial coverage?

Yes, the same service is available, but a per-visit cost is charged that starts around $30. Subscriptions to virtual care platforms are available as well.

Can I see my own doctor through virtual care?

It depends! If your doctor works for one of the providers, you may be able to see them through a virtual care platform. Or they may provide this through their clinic.

How do I connect with a virtual provider?

Typically, you will engage online through your computer, table or smartphone. Once booking an appointment, you can usually choose a phone call, text, live chat or video conferencing for the appointment.
telehealth plan insights by Immix Group

Key Takeaways

• Virtual health platforms today offer a convenient and effective solutions for many medical concerns.
• There are numerous free virtual health platforms available today.
• Paid options typically provide enhanced services, namely guaranteed quicker access.
• All Employers should promote virtual health care offerings to their employees, whether or not you provide an Employer-paid version.
Lindsay Byrka

Lindsay Byrka BA, BEd, CFP

Vice President, Immix Group: An Employee Benefits Company
A Suite 450 – 888 Dunsmuir St. Vancouver V6C 3K4
O 604-688-5262 E

Top Benefits Conversations of 2022

It’s a wrap! As we begin the New Year with refreshed energy and excitement for what 2023 may bring, we wanted to share a recap of the key stories in benefits over 2022.


Extreme Difficulty in Hiring

The theme of our client meetings this year can be summed up in one simple sentence “Where did all the people go?” Businesses struggled to hire (and retain) qualified people. Employers told us they had candidates ‘ghosting’ interviews or simply not showing up to their first day, a trend that most had never previously experienced.

Time and again we were told by employers that they were desperately in need of staff, and that their existing team members were stretched too thin or in roles they were not hired or properly qualified to fill. The labour shortage is evident with a record-tight labour market, according Stats Canada: Labour shortage trends in Canada (

“Salary and benefits” continue to top the list of most important job factors for employees. Providing and more importantly communicating and highlighting a competitive benefits offering will make you stand out.

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The Shift to Hybrid Work

There has been a massive shift in how we work over the past few years. Hybrid work, or working partly remote and partly in-office became the norm post-pandemic, with most employees reporting they prefer working from home.

This has had a big impact in terms of managing and hiring, measuring performance, and ensuring engagement. We wrote about hybrid work and posed the question: Is working from home an employee benefit in two parts. The basic takeaways are that remote work is here to stay, employees prefer a hybrid model, and a formalized WFH policy is a must. 


The Great Resignation, or rather, the Great Retirement

The much-discussed Great Resignation did not occur in Canada like it did in the US, but what Canada experienced is actually more concerning:  a record number of retirements.

A record 300K people retired in Canada in the 12 months up to July 2022 (up 30% from the same period the previous year). Early retirement, so those between age 55-65, made up almost half of the overall number of retirees. With our demographics here in Canada, it will only grow larger. With the most experienced people exiting the workforce, there is a real risk to businesses due to the lack of mentorship and transfer of knowledge for younger generations.

How does this tie into benefits? Offering those in the final stages of their career enhanced coverage and work flexibility are potential solutions to entice your most experienced people to stay a few additional years.


Continued Focus on Mental Health and Well-being

As we transitioned out of the pandemic, the focus on mental health remained at the forefront. Employers continued to ask for resources and coverage options to ensure their staff had access to the mental health support they required.  

Far beyond the EAP or the dollars available for counselling visits, employers sought various ideas to support mental health including: return to work plans, 4-day work weeks, assisting employees with financial concerns through financial literacy and group savings plans and other programs designed to provide the flexibility needed to better support individuals and families and remove barriers to care.

More than one third of all 2022 Long Term Disability claims are mental health related. Claims for mental health are up 75% from 2019, and experts anticipate this will rise in 2023.


High Inflation

A key conversation in 2022 was the inflation we saw across the board; this was especially noticed with the cost of groceries. After years of low interest rates, Canada experienced eight interest rate adjustments in 2022. For many people, this directly impacted their borrowing costs, affecting both personal and business expenses and decisions.

2022 saw increases to the Dental fee guides far higher than historical averages. Unfortunately, it appears that the Dental Fee Guide increases for 2023 will once again be much higher than usual, with 8.5% for Ontario and 9.8% for Quebec already reported. With costs for practitioners and other insured expenses also rising, we anticipate larger than typical increases to claims across plans.


Federal Dental Plan

The Federal Dental Plan was rolled out the end of 2022. Employers had many questions on this program, wondering the impact to their Employer-sponsored insured dental plans. Generally speaking, there is little or no impact on existing plans, due to the qualification parameters for the new Federal plan.

The program provides coverage for children under 12 only. In order to qualify for any level of coverage, family income must be under $90K, and the children must not have access to private dental coverage (i.e. Employer plans). The government states that this is the first stage in developing a more comprehensive federal dental plan; only time will tell!


Change to EI Sickness Benefits

Effective for December 18th, 2022, the Federal Government announced a change to EI Sickness benefits, extending the duration of pay from 15 weeks to 26 weeks. Employers had many questions about this and the impact on their insured Long Term Disability programs which typically begin at week 17, at the expiration of EI Sickness payments.

In short, Employers are not required to adjust their LTD plans. Generally speaking, it is not in the best interest of those who are insured under LTD plans to remain on EI Sickness rather than transitioning to LTD. 

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Flexibility in Benefits

Finishing up the list, an underlying theme to benefits conversations in 2022 was the desire for flexibility and customization. As we know, one size does not fit all when it comes to benefit plans, which these days must include elements of flexibility to ensure everyone’s needs are met. We saw employers embracing customized work arrangements including hybrid work models and four-day work weeks.

From a product standpoint, the Immix Group set up more Health & Wellness Spending Accounts than ever before as Employers sought a simple way to provide spending flexibility to their team.

As always, we are happy to discuss your program with you!

Please reach out to us to discuss how we can help with your program; we love to hear from you.


Read more:


Labour Shortage Stats Can:




Hybrid Work:



8 Reasons for Increases to your Employee Benefit Plan Premiums    – Latest News from Immix Group


Mental Health:

More than a third of disability claims in 2022 due to mental-health reasons: survey | Benefits

Mental health claims soar by 75 per cent | Canadian HR Reporter


Flexibility in Benefits:

One size fits all? Not when it comes to employee benefits. – Latest News from Immix Group

Lindsay Byrka

Lindsay Byrka BA, BEd, CFP

Vice President, Immix Group: An Employee Benefits Company
A Suite 450 – 888 Dunsmuir St. Vancouver V6C 3K4
O 604-688-5262 E

Trends & Free Resources in Digital, Virtual & Telehealth Care for British Columbia

By Howard Cheung, Account Executive, Immix Group: An Employee Benefits Company


As society navigates COVID19 and embraces the new norms of social distancing and virtual meetings, the way we access healthcare has possibly changed forever.

While many virtual options have long been available, people are adopting these at an increased rate out of necessity, and providers are responding to the demand with upgrades and new systems. Healthcare providers have rapidly adapted to providing services to patients, from inside the safety of their homes, many tailored to the health situations the pandemic has triggered or exacerbated. As well, during this time, many providers are stepping up to provide free resources.

We compiled a list of services, as well as other related information sources. As coverage varies from province to province, this article focuses on services available to those in British Columbia.  


Free Mental Health Support

The need for mental health support has never been greater. The impacts of the coronavirus are not only for those who have been infected. We are all dealing with uncertainty, fear, social isolation, as well as financial stress burnout, anxiety, depression- the list goes one. Accessing support can be done virtually:




Virtual Specialist Care through your benefits plan:

Many insurance carriers are now covering claims for virtual therapist and specialist care which may include:

  •  Registered counselling
  •  Psychological services
  •  Naturopathic services
  •  Physiotherapy
  •  Chiropractic services

Check with your specific carrier to confirm which ones they may cover, as well as if your chosen therapist provides online care.


On-Demand Medical / Virtual Doctor

  •  Pocket pills: Free to use online prescription fulfilment (no extra charges on top of usual cost of prescription), Can transfer your existing prescription. Easy. 
  •  Babylon by TELUS:  The Babylon app is free to download and use. In BC, our provincial medical plan (MSP) covers doctor consultations on this platform, from your phone, right in your own home.
  •  tiaHealth: Another online doctor service that can provide advice, referrals, requisitions, mental health support and more. Doctor consultations are covered under MSP.
  •  Medimap: Medimap provides access to a doctor virtually, nearly instantly. It also includes a handy tool that advises on the wait time for walk-in clinics, should you need to see a doctor in person.


Employee Assistance Programs:

Most employer sponsored extended health programs include some basic form of EAP. EAP providers have easy online access for their services. Check with your Employer on how to access your EAP.

In addition, most of the major EAP providers have free resources online. In particular, Morneau Shepell’s Toolkit for Individuals has a wealth or resources available for free.

For more details on how an EAP can help you, check out our article on

There are countless virtual options available to you. We encourage you to research the provider and ensure you are accessing qualified professionals, and that where possible, the services are free or covered under provincial or extended medical plans.

If you have any questions on digital healthcare, maximizing your digital benefits, or how to best restructure your benefits for optimal value, feel free to contact me:

Howard 2

Keep Fit From Home

By Lindsay Byrka, Vice President, Immix Group: An Employee Benefits Company

We hope you’re staying home if possible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay active! As benefits consultants, it’s one of our goals to assist our clients in promoting physical and mental well-being; staying active is a key component of this.

As you are aware, with the COIVD-19 situation, gyms and fitness studios have closed for in-person visits. However, there are a wealth of resources online offering both paid and free workouts, some from your favourite local spots. Many offer a community environment, so you can not only break a sweat, you can feel connected!


If you’re not sure where to begin, here are some resources. We encourage you to support Canadian companies if you can!


Once you’ve decided which workouts you want to do, you’ll need to optimize your sweat-from-home plan. Here are some tips:

Figure out the best space to use.
You want to ensure you have room to move, and that you’re not going to be knocking over a lamp, or accidentally lunging into your coffee table. Clear a space, and gather any equipment you may need.

Figure out the best time.
If you live in an apartment, you may need to consider your neighbours (you don’t want your downstairs neighbour to be bothered by your jumping!). Plan a schedule that works around your work-from-home schedule, and try to stick to it! Scheduling reminders into your phone will help you stay on track.

Use the right gear.
You may or may not need shoes (and are they clean?!) depending on your workout. Based on your workout, a yoga mat, light weights or a stretch band may be all that is required. If you don’t have these items, don’t worry. There are many options for equipment-free workouts. Or, get creative and check out some ideas for DIY options:

Whatever your workout, water is essential!

Warm up & Stretch.
Even if you’re working out in front of the TV or laptop, take the time to warm up for a few minutes, in case your virtual workout doesn’t include this aspect. Stretching either before, after or both is also very important. The last thing you want to have happen during this situation of self-isolation is an injury! If you’re not sure where to begin, there are a wealth of YouTube videos with simple warm-up and stretch routines. 

Lastly, involve your friends and family!
Why not make it a date? Your kids, spouse or friends (joining you virtually, of course) will all benefit from working out, just as you will. In this time when we’re all ‘alone together,’ finding things we can share is very important in maintaining our social connections.

Part of staying not just physically healthy but mentally healthy is keeping active. Although it’s harder now than ever, it’s also more important than ever.

From all of us at the Immix Group, stay safe, stay home, and stay active!

Lindsay Byrka

Lindsay Byrka BA, BEd, CFP

Vice President, Immix Group: An Employee Benefits Company
A Suite 450 – 888 Dunsmuir St. Vancouver V6C 3K4
O 604-688-5262 E

BC’s Medical Services Plan: What is MSP – and what does it have to do with your benefits plan?

This blog is from 2017, and due to legislative changes in BC, MSP employer payments were cancelled.  Please read more here:


The three certainties that come along with living in British Columbia: death, taxes – and Medical Services Plan (MSP) premium increases.

Prior to joining Immix and entering the world of employee benefits, I shared the common misconception that the employer always pays MSP. I had worked for large companies and with the BC government in a union environment; in both job settings, my employer paid my MSP premiums as a part of the benefits package.

When I received my first MSP invoice with months of back charges, I had a rude awakening!

Now that I’m an Employee Benefits Account Executive with Immix, I get asked almost weekly what MSP covers and who should pay for it. With this article, my aim is to give you a brief overview of provincial health care – and how it relates to employer-sponsored benefit plans.

What is MSP?

MSP provides basic coverage and access to medically necessary health services in BC: doctor/hospital visits, emergency dental/oral surgery performed in the hospital, and some diagnostic services such as X-rays and eye exams.

Each province across Canada has its own version of provincial health care. The way each province bills health care varies.

Who pays for MSP?

MSP premiums are the responsibility of each individual/family, unless they’re lucky enough to have an employer who covers some or all of the cost. From my many years of experience in the benefits industry, many large corporations and unions will generally cover MSP costs, or have some sort of cost-sharing arrangement in place.

Smaller companies usually do not cover the cost of MSP premiums. However, that is not to say they can’t. Coverage is at the company’s discretion and is a generous perk. If an employer does pay provincial health care insurance premiums on its employees’ behalf, those premiums are considered to be a taxable benefit to the employee.

MSP premiums are based on an individual’s Adjusted Net Income. Effective January 1, 2017, minors and dependents enrolled in full-time postsecondary studies are no longer subject to MSP premiums.

As of January 1, 2017, the government further segmented income brackets to reduce the premiums for lower-income levels. For example, someone earning $30,000+ in 2016 (the highest-income bracket prior to 2017) was paying $75 per month in MSP premiums. In 2017, that same person earning $30,000 now pays $46 per month. The highest-income bracket has been increased to $42,000. Low-income individuals and seniors over age 65 may be eligible for premium assistance.

Premium Assistance- You might be eligible for a discount!

From personal experience, I highly recommend that anyone with senior parents or grandparents double-check to ensure they are receiving premium assistance, that is, lower monthly MSP premiums. MSP does not prompt them to do so – as my 88-year-old grandmother and I learned the hard way.

My grandma was paying way too much in MSP contributions. From my career in benefits, I recognized this – but MSP didn’t cooperate easily. We had to show them seven years of tax returns to prove her earnings! Only then, finally, did they backdate her significantly lower premium amount and refund those seven years of overpayment.

If we hadn’t taken the initiative, my grandma would still be overpaying to this day. So remember: MSP is quick to increase your monthly premiums when your income increases. But they don’t bother to reach out if you qualify for premium assistance. It’s up to each individual to apply for MSP premium assistance.

Here’s information on current premiums.

Do I need to have MSP?

The short answer is yes. British Columbia requires its residents to have MSP. In certain circumstances, adults can opt out of MSP, but this is very unusual. MSP covers access to physicians, hospitals and other services, regardless if care is needed for an emergency or non-emergency situation.

Employer-sponsored health coverage is additional coverage above and beyond MSP. The two types of coverage work in a complementary way, meaning an extended health insurance contract will not cover items paid for through MSP. Extended health care covers some or all of the cost of prescription drugs, medical equipment, health practitioner visits, etc. Without a group benefits plan, individuals are responsible for 100% of the cost of most health-care-related expenses not covered under MSP.

You need MSP to enrol in an employer-sponsored group health care plan. If you opt out of MSP, or become ineligible for other reasons, you won’t be able to enrol in the extended health care portion of the employer’s group benefits plan. (Note: dental will still be covered through group plans.) As well, you may not be able to purchase emergency travel insurance for trips outside the province.

The future of MSP…?

As noted earlier, provincial health care coverage varies by province; how the premiums are paid varies, as well. BC is the only province that charges a premium directly to individuals. Many other provinces have implemented a payroll tax or income tax charge to account for provincial health care premiums.

There has been a lot of talk in the media about the restructuring of MSP in BC. Minority political parties keep voicing their desire to change the way provincial health care premiums are collected. Generally speaking, the current administrative pricing arrangement is very unpopular with both individuals and the employers who administer the premiums for their employees.

The current BC government recently announced that as a part of BC’s plan to eliminate MSP premiums, they plan to cut premiums in half for individuals with an annual household net income under $120,000 effective January 1st, 2018. 

We’ll be sure to keep you posted on that and any other MSP developments.

Further reading

Affordable and innovatively structured employee benefit programs