Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Updates to Group Insurance

Group Insurance Plans

2012 has seen a number of changes to your group insurance plan that you should be aware of.


Disability premiums have been an employee paid benefit (or a taxable benefit if paid by the employer) for many years.  In 2012, the CRA changed the rules for Life and AD & D (Accidental Death and Dismemberment) benefits.  They are also now a taxable benefit if paid by the employer. However, the health and dental premiums still are not a taxable benefit.  That is why if the employee and employer share the cost of the benefit, the employee pays the life, AD & D and disability premiums and the employer pays a larger percentage of the health and dental premiums. 

For more information  check out this publication on the CRA web site on taxable benefits.  

If you are an employer, bookkeeper or accountant pages 40 and 41 includes a table that summarized all the information, including which benefits you need to deduct CPP and EI or include the GHT / HST and what code to use on any T4s that you need to issue.

Travel Insurance

In December 2012, Manulife and Desjardin clarified  the rules for out of province travel insurance and many of the other insurance companies will be making similar clarifications to their plans in the future.  The issue is pre-existing conditions and whether they are stable.

Individual travel plans have a clause that states that pre-existing conditions are covered if they are stable for 90 to 180 days (depending on the age of the client).  Snowbirds are aware of this clause and see their doctors as soon as they arrive back home, so should there be a change in their medications, they qualify for travel insurance the next winter. 

The insurance companies consider a condition to be not stable should there be any change to the medications you use or should you visit the doctor because of an issue related to that condition.  Note – you would be covered for anything not related to that condition.

Until recently, if you were on a group plan that had travel insurance coverage, you were exempt from that stability – but that is changing.  If you plan to travel and have had any changes to your medications, you should check witn your insurance company to see if you are covered.

The Toronto Star ran an article on travel insurance just before Christmas.  In November 2012, they also ran an article on 10 things you need to know about travel insurance that you may want to read as well.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The trials and tribulations of a new phone and a happy ending

My experience going from an iPhone to an Android phone

In November, I was the proud owner of an iPhone 3 and it was time to upgrade.  After a lot of discussions, I decided to purchase a Samsung Galaxy S3. I made the decision based on the flexibility of the phone and the great screen.  I incorrectly assumed that I would have little or no learning curve in making the switch.

Surprise Number 1 – with the iPhone, if I downloaded an email onto the phone before I deleted it from the email server, it stayed on the phone.  With the Galaxy, as soon as the message was off the server – like magic, it disappeared from my phone email.  Solution – I changed my Outlook setting, to leave the message on the server.

Surprise Number 2 – I use Outlook as my database to manage appointments and to keep track of my contacts.  In my case – I keep electronic notes on my clients, so the ability for Outlook to sync with my phone is critical.  With my iPhone, I used iTunes to sync my contacts and calendar information.  Samsung has a program as well – Kies.  However, Kies did not carry over any calendar items tied to a client.  In addition, instead of integrating new notes in a contact, it just duplicated the contact.  It took me hours to clean up my Outlook database!

Someone suggested, that I use my Gmail account and sync Outlook to Gmail and Gmail to my phone.  It worked for my calendar, but not for my contacts.

After a lot of online research, I decided to try CompanionLink (on my computer) and DejaOffice (on my phone – the app is in the App Store).  DejaOffice was a free app.  CompanionLink cost me $50 for a one time licence (less expensive than using Microsoft Exchange, which has a monthly fee).  It syncs with my Outlook, but also works if you use any of the other CRM programs (including Google, Act, etc.) and works for Androids, iPhones and Blackberrys. For those of you who are Mac users – there are also Mac options. So now everything syncs effortlessly.  (The other solution would have been to use Microsoft Exchange and my email would have been synced as well.  However, I did not want my contacts personal information stored in the Cloud.)

I am now the very happy owner of a Samsung Galaxy S3 :)