Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: health benefits

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to health benefits.

Quick Poll Results: How do independent contractors handle health insurance?

Last month’s contractor quick poll tackled a topic that many independent contractors don’t like to think about — health insurance. There are a number of considerations when making the decision and plenty of research you could do on the topic, first about the type of insurance you’ll use and then on a specific supplier. While we do not have any recommendations on the best path or supplier for you, we do now have a bit more insight into what others are doing.

The results below show what our respondents do for health insurance and provides some insight if you’re currently evaluating your choices. Interestingly enough, the majority of respondents either get coverage through a spouses program or don’t have any medical coverage at all.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and we’ll find you the answer or a resource that can help you.

How do you get medical coverage as an independent contractor?

Health Insurance for the Independent Contractor – What are your options?

When you make the switch from being a full-time IT employee with a great company to being an independent contractor with your own company, one of the stressful changes you’ll encounter is the loss of health coverage. Especially if you don’t have a spouse with sufficient coverage through their job or if your household medical expenses are relatively high, you want to find a new solution quickly. There are several great health insurance providers available to IT contractors across Canada and we are not providing one specific recommendation, but here are a couple options to help you start your research.

Insurance Plans

Standard health insurance plans, similar to those you received through your employer, are available through suppliers such as Blue Cross, Desjardins and PROLINK. As an incorporated contractor, your business pays a premium and selects a package that covers specific items, suitable for the needs of your employees (you and your family). When an employee needs to make a claim after paying for an appointment or purchasing prescription drugs, they (you) submit it to the insurance company and then get reimbursed.

While the process is easy and familiar, it’s recommended to do the math and research whether an insurance plan makes sense for your IT contracting company. Whether it’s an individual or group insurance plan, like any insurance, premiums can add up quickly depending how much is being claimed. In addition, there’s a good chance that the cost of those premiums include benefits that you are not ever going to use, but because they’re part of the package, you’re paying for them.

Private Health Services Plan (PHSP)

An alterative to regular insurance plans are Private Health Services Plans (PHSPs). These are CRA-approved solutions that allow your business to provide a non-taxable reimbursement for health expenses and claim a 100% tax deduction for the business. Compared to monthly premium plans, PHSPs can be a smart choice. In addition to the tax savings for both you as an individual and your business, they offer more flexibility in benefits. There is a wider range of choices in what you can claim and you only pay for what you do use. This gives you more control over costs and ultimately can lead to significant savings.

While PHSPs can be managed on your own, they require significant reporting and have some detailed rules to them, mandated by the CRA. As such, it is recommended to work through a middle-company, or an administrator, for example Brock Health, Trusted Advisor or PacifictFirst. These organizations will help you set-up and manage the right program for your small company and provide you with the proper reports for your accountant at the end of the year. There is an administration fee — sometimes fixed and sometimes a percentage (which is also charged HST) but this fee is usually much smaller than the premiums you’d pay with health insurance.

The options described above are a couple routes to explore when searching for the right health coverage solution for you and your IT contracting business; however, Eagle does not endorse any specific type or organization. We do strongly encourage you to discuss this further with your accountant and financial advisors. If you have anything to add on this topic based on your own experience, we’d love to hear it! Please let us know in the comments below…

5 Reasons Staying in Shape Benefits Your Career (and how to get better at it)

5 Reasons Staying in Shape Benefits Your Career (and how to get better at it)There is no doubt that regular exercise and staying in shape has significant health benefits. People who are fit generally live a more active, longer and happy life. Of course, people who are not in as good of shape also tend to be happy, and may not see a reason to make it a priority. If that sounds like you, would you make it a higher priority if you knew being healthier can make you more money? According to this post from Salary.com as well as this article from Time, those who are in better shape have a higher salary.

We get that money isn’t the end-all-be-all definition of success, but if you want to do better in your career for any reason, exercise plays a crucial role. Here are 5 reasons why:

  1. You’ll Sleep Better. Better sleep is known to have so many benefits, including being more productive and more focused. If anything, it makes you less irritable and more able to deal with that useless team member, jerk client or annoying recruiter. Exercise is a proven way to get better sleep, as backed up in this article from the Huffington Post.
  2. You’re More Productive. Partially due to that better sleep, but also the fact that exercise brings you more energy and alertness, people who are in better shape are more productive. That means completing projects faster and better, taking on more projects, impressing more clients, and building a well-known positive reputation in the industry.
  3. Your Brain Gets Sharper. Not only do muscles get stronger when you exercise, but so does your brain. As this article from the Huffington Post explains, exercise leads to increased blood flow and oxygen which has significant benefits to the brain. It’s known to boost brain cell function and create new brain cells which help improve memory and learning.
  4. You Take Fewer Sick Days. Naturally, when your health is better, you’re not going to be off sick as often. Independent contractors don’t have the benefit of paid sick days — when you’re not working you’re not making money. Exercising has proven time and again to keep people healthier, both physically and mentally.
  5. Your Networking is Better. Some would argue that even networking events are more successful. Staying in shape gives more energy to deal with some of the boring events, and also gives you more confidence to approach people and start a conversation. As well, people can unfortunately be shallow and often make better connections and feel more comfortable with those who are more physically in shape.

How a Busy IT Contractor Can Stay in Shape

That all sounds great but how can you possibly exercise when you’re juggling contracts, updating resumes, managing accounting and spending time with your family and friends? The simple answer is to make time (watch less TV, wake up earlier, etc.) but that also may not be realistic. Consider other simple options that don’t require a time change such as changing your diet, taking the stairs or biking to work.  If you’re having trouble getting motivated, talk to others to create a group of people who work out together and encourage each other.

Are you in as good of shape as you’d like to be? If so, how do you make sure you do you make it a priority? Do you think it has helped your career? Please share your advice in the comments below!

Tricks to Sit at Your Desk Without Hurting Your Back

Independent contractors spend a lot of time sitting in front of a desk and staring at a computer which can cause a lot of strain on the back.  While Tuesday’s guest post was all about health insurance and the options you have, we hope you really have to use them.  This video from Business Insider has some great tips for protecting your back while sitting down all day.

Affordable Health Benefits 101

Guest Written by Joelle Parenteau of EpicPerks

An innovative collective approach delivers affordable solutions for individuals, small businesses and the self-employed.

Finding health insurance in today’s marketplace can seem impossible.  If you’re one of the millions of Canadians who buys their own health coverage, health insurance can offer you a confusing array of options — not all of them good, and few that are inexpensive.  Sure, you may find an agent who will offer you a cheap policy, but here’s the thing: health coverage isn’t cheap if it doesn’t adequately cover your expenses when you need it most.

Truth is there is no magic when it comes to the pricing of a traditional benefit plan.  All insurance companies base their rates on a combination of a group’s claims experience and the insurance company’s administration cost, (commonly expressed as a Target Loss Ratio – or TLR).

So what is an independent contractor, self-employed professional or small business to do?

We all know the saying, ‘there is strength in numbers,’ and this is no less true when it Affordable Health Benefitscomes to insurance — though harnessing this power is no small feat.  Although they have existed in many other industries for decades, Collective Purchasing Plans are a relatively new (and rare) concept in the benefits marketplace.

The notion itself is fairly straightforward: leverage the collective purchasing power of a group of policyholders while maintaining complete independence between members.  Although simple in theory, very few of these arrangements exist in the Canadian marketplace.

Given the obvious benefits of such arrangements, you might ask – why?  The answer, once again, is quite simple.

  • Revenue & Profits: underwriters and brokers generate greater revenues by maintaining independent relationships with policyholders.
  • Supply & Demand:  consolidation is used to generate growth, reducing the need to generate revenue by underwriting new policies.
  • Critical Mass: underwriters require a good business case to put aside their drive for profits per account to turn their sights on lower margins but higher revenue growth and retention rates.
  • Comfort Zone: many brokers are comfortable and successful without innovating and we often trust existing broker relationships to provide new and innovative approaches.

How do these Collective Purchasing Plans generate cost reductions?

All benefits’ plans have a set expense margin, the percentage of each premium dollar used to cover the insurance company’s administration expenses.  Typically smaller businesses pay higher margins because their numbers don’t allow for cost efficiencies from an administrative standpoint, and they present a higher risk.

Through a Collective Purchasing Plan, businesses of any size benefit from lower expense margins than they would on a stand-alone basis.  The lower expense margin translates into lower overall premium rates and important cost savings for member companies participating in the program.

Here’s what combining purchasing power can mean for you:

  • Insurer’s expenses are lower per individual thanks to shared administration costs, resulting in lower premiums.
  • Improved plan design options and features such as preferred underwriting criteria, (less small print and higher levels of no evidence benefits).
  • Greater premium stability, (fewer budget surprises).
  • Undeniable influence and reduced time spent negotiating with insurers.


Do you benefit from a Collective Purchasing Plan?  If so, who are you working with?  Share your experiences and recommendations with other contractors in the comments section below!

About EpicPerks.com

Two years ago a Canadian startup set out to solve the collective buying gap.  EpicPerks, a small business buying group , created a first-of-its-kind Small Business Collective Benefits Purchasing Plan, a new solution for Canadian businesses that benefits the little guy.

“Epic Perks provides an invaluable service for small business owners looking for health care coverage that is both appropriate and affordable.  It is especially useful for those new to the entrepreneurial mindset that are accustomed to having things taken care of for them!  Thanks for making the enrollment process such an easy and pleasurable experience.  The service was superb: rapid, courteous, and, above all, professional.”  -Scott Fromson (CEO, F2 Investor Intelligence Inc.)