Benefits Legislative Updates for April-June 2018

Benefits

British Columbia

PharmaCare covers the following drugs as treatment for opioid addition:  Methadose for maintenance; Buprenorphine/naloxone (suboxone and generics); and Kadian 24 hour slow release oral morphine (under certain conditions).  PharmaCare covers these medications under the income-based Fair PharmaCare plan.  It also covers 100% coverage under PharmaCare Plan C (income assistance), Plan G (Psychiatric medications) and Plan W (First Nations Health benefits).   Source: The Government of British Columbia website.

BC WCB 2018 premium rates:  WorkSafeBC announces that the average base rate for 2018 is dropping from 1.65% to 1.55% of employers’ assessable payroll.  Source:  Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia

First Nations Health Benefits (Plan W).  Plan W covers 100% of eligible prescription costs and certain medical supplies, certain over-the-counter drugs, some natural health products and pharmacy services.  Plan W is funded by the First Nations Health Authority. For more information on Plan W and if you are eligible for coverage visit: The Government of British Columbia website.

BC government’s primary healthcare strategy focuses on faster, team-based care.The BC government is launching a new primary healthcare strategy to deliver faster and improved access to healthcare for British Columbians in all parts of the province. For more information visit: The Government of British Columbia website.

The provincial government is expanding insulin pump coverage so that any BC resident requiring one to manage diabetes will have access under PharmaCare.  With this change in coverage, taking effect on July 3, 2018, British Columbia becomes one of only three provinces to cover insulin pumps for people living with diabetes requiring one, regardless of age. Patients must meet with their diabetes physician specialist to determine whether they meet the eligibility criteria for an insulin pump. Source: The Government of British Columbia website.

 

Alberta

Bill 30, detailing changes to the Workers Compensation Act, received Royal Assent on Dec.15, 2017.  It included changes to Policy 03-01, Part II, Applications 4 and 6, that came into force on April 1, 2018.  Section 24.1 of the WCA has been amended to expand the presumption for myocardial infarction to paramedics. For more information, visit: The Workers’ Compensation Board – Alberta website.

Presumptive coverage is now available for injured workers diagnosed with psychological injuries following a traumatic event at work.  April 1, 2018 legislation also includes additional occupations for presumptive post-traumatic stress disorder and cardiac coverage. Source:  Workers Compensation Board –Alberta (opens as PDF).

Injured workers’ health benefits, effective September 1, 2018.  Under new legislation, employers are required to continue to pay the health benefits of their injured workers who are absent from work due to a work injury for up to one year following the date of the accident. Source: Workers’ Compensation Board – Alberta (opens as PDF).

Know your obligations after a workplace injury, effective Sept.1, 2018.  Every successful return to work starts with a great plan.  New legislation makes it even more important for all Alberta employers and their workers to work together to have a solid return to work plan in place when injuries happen. Source: Workers’ Compensation Board – Alberta (opens as PDF).

As part of Bill 30, legislative changes were made to the Workers’ Compensation Act regarding the Medical Panels Office (MPO).  Effective June 1, 2018, independent medical examiners are now selected by the worker from a roster administered by the MPO. This change enables injured workers to have a choice in their care by selecting the doctor who will conduct their examination. Source: The Workers Compensation Act (opens as PDF).

 

Saskatchewan

The 2018-19 budget invests a record $5.77 billion to improve health care for all Saskatchewan people, up nearly 2.5% from last year.  Includes $3.5 billion for Saskatchewan Health Authority.  For more information on how these funds are being distributed visit: The Government of Saskatchewan Website.

Free take home naloxone kits available to those who may witness an overdose.  Saskatchewan’s publically-funded Take Home Naloxone (THN) program will be expanding to provide free THN kits to people who may witness an overdose, including friends and family members of those at risk.  Source: The Government of Saskatchewan website.

Saskatchewan becomes third province to unscheduled Naloxone. Saskatchewan residents wanting a take home naloxone (THN) kit will have more options for accessing those kits in the coming weeks. Source: The Government of Saskatchewan website.

The Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy Professionals has made an administrative bylaw change to allow the drug naloxone to be more widely available.  Source: The Government of Saskatchewan website.

The minimum wage in Saskatchewan will increase to $11.06 an hour from $10.96 an hour on October 1, 2018.  Source: The Government of Saskatchewan website.

 

Manitoba

Province announces ambulance fees further reduced across Manitoba. Effective April 1, 2018, billings will be reduced to either $425 or the pre-existing base fee established by the service provider, whichever is lower.  This follows a previous reduction that was effective Jan.1, bringing the total decrease of $50 this year.  Source: Manitoba Government News.

The Manitoba government is working with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Manitoba and Winnipeg, to deliver a new employment-focused program for employment and income assistance (EIA) recipients with mental health concerns. The province is providing $200,000 annually to the Employment with Supports program, which promotes employment as part of overall mental health for those who have experienced isolation from the workforce.  Source: The Government of Manitoba website.

 

Ontario

New legislation would enable minimum pay rates for private-sector contractors.  Ontario introduced legislation that would ensure that people working in construction, building cleaning or security jobs under contracts with the government will be paid the fair, prevailing wage in those sectors.  Source: The Government of Ontario website.

Ontario marks equal pay day with commitment to child care and pay transparency by highlighting the government’s plan to create free preschool child care as part of a strategy to promote women’s economic empowerment and close the gender wage gap.  Ontario’s plan will provide free licensed preschool child care for children between the ages of two-and-a-half until they are eligible to start kindergarten.  This will give mothers more options when it comes to returning to the workforce and advancing their careers.  It will also relieve financial pressures on families with young children and give more kids the best possible start in their education.  Source: The Ontario Government website.

Ontario marks family caregiver day and introduces seniors’ healthy home program.  Ontario is supporting seniors who choose to stay in the comfort of their homes.  This program will provide up to $750 per year for eligible households led by seniors 75 and over to help offset the costs of living independently. Source: The Government of Ontario website.

Ontario first province to pass pay transparency legislation (effective January 1st).  Changes will advance women’s economic empowerment and build fairer, better workplaces.  Ontario passed legislation to increase transparency in hiring processes and give women more information when negotiating compensation that is equal to their male peers, making Ontario the first province in Canada to do so. The proposed new rules will apply to employers with more than 250 employees in 2020 and will extend to those with more than 100 employees in 2021.   Source: The Government of Ontario website.

Ontario Expanding Interprovincial OHIP coverage. Ontario is proposing to expand interprovincial health coverage to address gaps, by including home and community care, to ensure people who live in Ontario can access the home and community care services they need when they are in another province or territory or moving to Ontario. This expanding coverage would also apply to people needing palliative care. Source: The Government of Ontario website.

Ontario is investing in six new youth wellness hubs to help more youth access the mental health and addictions services they need, close to home. Through these new integrated hubs, up to 12,000 young people who are experiencing mental health or addiction challenges will get the support they need. Ontario will also hire additional mental health workers in secondary schools. Every secondary school in Ontario will have access to an additional mental health worker, with about 400 positions being added within two years. For more information visit: The Government of Ontario website.

Ontario passes Budget focused on Care and Opportunity. The provincial government passed the Plan for Care and Opportunity Act (Budget Measures), 2018, which supports the government’s plan to invest in health care, child care and mental health, and focuses on initiatives that make life more affordable and provide more financial security during a time of rapid economic change. Source: The Ontario Government website.

Ontario passes Fair Wage legislation to protect workers. New policy to level the playing field for workers on government contracts. The Government Contract Wages Act, 2018, ensures people working in fair construction, building cleaning or security jobs under contracts with the government will be paid the faire, prevailing wage in those sectors. The Act also provides a number of ways for employees to recover their wages and include and anti-reprisal mechanism. Source: The Ontario Government website.

Ford government making OHIP+ more cost-effective.  Children and youth who are not covered by private benefits would continue to receive their eligible prescriptions free. Those who are covered by private plans would bill those plans first, with the government covering all remaining eligible costs of prescriptions. Since insurance plans can cover thousands more drugs than the 4,400 currently available through OHIP+, children and youth would have access to more medications than under the current program. Private insurers have previously given the government a grace period for some medications, which is set to expire on July 1. Source: The Government of Ontario website.

 

Quebec

Enhancement of the External Breast Prostheses Program.  From now on, persons insured by the QHIP who have undergone a partial mastectomy are eligible as well as those who underwent a total or radical mastectomy.  The program is also aimed at those 14 and over who have received a medical diagnosis of aplasia (total absence of breast formation).  For more information, visit: The Province of Quebec website.

Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission proposes enhancing Bill 176 for greater protection for workers.  To counter a problem as important as workplace harassment, including sexual harassment, suggestions were put forth to improve Bill 176. The Commission proposed the establishment of effective and sustainable collaboration mechanisms between it and the Commission for Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work (CNESST) and to prevent victims from ending up in jurisdictional gaps. The proposed amendments to the Labor Standards Act would, for the first time, make it possible to examine causes of termination of employment before the end of the contract and would prohibit any such clause that which affect the right to equality of young workers. Source: The Quebec Committee of Human Rights and Youth Rights

The Quebec government announced its intention to reduce the QPIP premium rates by 4%, effective January 1, 2019.  New contribution rates would correspond to the following percentages of insurable earnings: 0.526% for employees; 0.736% for employers; 0.934% for self-employed workers and intermediate and family-type resources.  For more information visit: Quebec Portal – Services Quebec

Public prescription drug insurance plan – lower annual premium.  As of 1st July, 2018, the maximum annual premium for the drug insurance plan will decrease for the 2nd time since the establishment of the public plan in 1997. Source: The Government of Quebec website.

Maximum Annual Premium for the drug insurance plan will decrease, July 1st, 2018. The plan will decrease by 7.7%: it will go well from $ 667 to $ 616.  Source:  The Government of Quebec website.

Guaranteed Income Supplement and Rates. The Guaranteed Income Supplement is a monthly benefit that sometimes adds to the Old Age Security pension. The Government of Canada pays it to some people 65 and over who have low incomes and varies according to family income. The Act respecting prescription drug insurance establishes a rate based on the supplement amount received. This rate determines whether or not you are entitled to free public prescription drug insurance. For more information visit: The Government of Quebec website.

If you become disabled before age 65 and you are receiving a retirement pension under the Québec Pension Plan. that you can no longer cancel, you could be entitled to an additional amount for disability. You will stop receiving the additional benefit, which is added to your retirement pension, when you turn 65.  Source:  The Government of Quebec website.

 

New Brunswick

Insulin pump program will be expanded to include young adults – up to 25 years old – as of April 1. For details visit: The Government of New Brunswick’s website.

Framework for a palliative care strategy unveiled.  An advisory committee, led by the New Brunswick Cancer Network, will be set up to develop an action plan.  The committee will be composed of representatives from palliative care, health care and community stakeholders.  For more information on the framework and the five themes it is developed under visit: The Government of New Brunswick’s website.

The provincial government is introducing a new non-taxable monthly benefit for people who provide informal care to help seniors and people living with a disability remain independent. A primary informal caregiver is defined as a person who provides regular ongoing care and assistance, without pay, to someone in need of support due to a physical, cognitive or mental health condition. For more information, visit: The Government of New Brunswick website.

Revised update on provincial preparations for cannabis legalization.  The provincial government provided an update on its preparations in advance of the federal government legalizing adult-use cannabis on Oct. 17.  Starting Oct. 17, New Brunswickers 19 and older will be able to legally buy up to 30 grams of cannabis from a Cannabis NB retail store, have up to 30 grams of dried cannabis or equivalent in their possession when outside their home, and grow up to four plants at their primary residence. When grown indoors, these plants must be in a separate, locked space. When grown outdoors, they must be located behind a locked enclosure that is 1.52 metres high. Source: The Government of New Brunswick website.

 

Newfoundland & Labrador

Enhanced benefits for injured workers.  Effective April 1, 2018, the income replacement rate for injured workers or their dependents has been increased from 80 to 85 per cent.  The individual’s gross income is capped at maximum compensable assessable earnings of $64,375.   Source: Workplace Newfoundland and Labrador.  

The Provincial Government made amendments to the regulations enacted under the Medical Care and Hospital Insurance Act. The regulations have been amended to add a section which further clarifies that the medically necessary removal and replacement of a cataractous lens is an insured service covered by MCP and the surgery must be performed in a hospital or a designated facility. The regulatory amendments do not apply to non-medically necessary, elective procedures. For more information visit: The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador website.

 

Nova Scotia

High-dose flu vaccine available in long-term care facilities. Thousands of Nova Scotians living in long-term care facilities will have access to a new flu vaccine this fall, which will provide greater protection for seniors and is expected to reduce hospital stays. The high-dose vaccine is formulated specifically for elderly adults with chronic, complex health conditions. It is four times the strength of the standard vaccine and helps boost immune response. Source: The Government of Nova Scotia website.

 

Price Edward Island

PEI operating budget released.  For full details visit: The Government of Prince Edward Island website.

Promoting Wellness, Preserving Health: A Provincial Action Plan for Seniors, Near Seniors, and Caregivers. The action plan will be enacted over the next three years. The government worked with over 250 seniors to learn about their experiences and created an action plan clearly lays out four priority pillars -- each with accompanying recommendations -- for a total of 38 recommended action items. Source: The Government of Prince Edward Island website.

Improving access to gender-confirming surgery for Islanders.  Transgender Islanders will now be able to access medically necessary gender-confirming surgeries through the province’s Medicare program. For more information visit: The Government of Prince Edward Island website.

Islanders get more help with drug costs.  Islanders will now have coverage for drugs known as anti-VEGF drugs for three additional eye conditions including diabetic macular edema, macular edema due to retinal vein occlusion, and choroidal neovascularisation. The province previously provided coverage of these drugs for age-related macular degeneration. CNIB Prince Edward Island delivers programs and services to more than 800 clients but CNIB estimates that nearly 2,000 Islanders are living with some form of sight loss. Source: The Government of Prince Edward Island website.

A new Grant Program is now available through the Workers Compensation Board. The Program will provide financial supports to help fund innovative workplace solutions and training and educational opportunities for Island employers and workers. Organizations can apply for funding under two streams: Workplace Innovation, and Training and Education. For more information visit: The Workers Compensation Board of Prince Edward Island website.  

Funding available for projects to benefit seniors.  Organizations and communities that work to improve the lives of Island seniors can now apply for provincial government funding. Groups eligible for funding include non-profit organizations, community-based coalitions, networks, municipal governments, band/tribal councils, and other Aboriginal organizations in Prince Edward Island. Source: The Government of Prince Edward Island website.

 

Pension

Canada

Canada Pension Plan / Old Age Security Quarterly Report – monthly amounts and related figures from April to June 2018.  Source: The Government of Canada website.

 

Alberta

Eligibility for Pension Credit Splitting on Relationship Breakdown extended to Common-Law Spouses.  A court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta decision issued April 13, 2018 gives common-law pension partners the same rights to split pension benefits as apply to legally married pension partners on marriage breakdown.  It should be noted that the common-law pension partner must meet the criteria for being a pension partner as defined in section 1(3)(b) of the Employment Pension Plans Act (EPPA).  The written agreement under the Matrimonial Property Act, Section 78(a) of the EPPA, was challenged in relation to section 15(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  The court declared that s78(a) of the EPPA shall be read as follows: “agreement” means a written agreement between pension partners that provides for the division and distribution of a benefit and that meets the requirements of sections 37 and 38 of the Matrimonial Property Act, mutatis mutandis, whether or not that Act is applicable as between the pension partners. Source:  Alberta Treasury Board and Finance (Opens as PDF)

 

Ontario

Ontario annuity discharge changes coming July 1.  New provisions under Ontario’s Pension Benefits Act will allow the sponsors of defined benefit pension plans to obtain a discharge from their obligations to former and retired plan members for whom they’ve purchased an annuity.  Under the changes, plan sponsors will need to fulfil certain requirements before they obtain a discharge.  In addition, the plan must file a certificate, prepared and signed by an actuary, with the superintendent of financial services that confirms it has acted in compliance with the requirements for discharge under the act.  Plans purchased by an annuity prior to July 1, 2018, can also discharge its obligation as long as it abides by the above rules.  Once discharged, retired or former members will no longer be considered as such, except under the circumstances of a surplus in the plan if it were to wind up. Source:  Benefits Canada.

The Ontario government has published proposed regulations relating to the funding framework for certain multi-employer pension plans seeking to convert defined benefits to target benefits. Under the proposed regulations, which were first announced in June 2017, eligible multi-employer pension plans wouldn’t be required to fund on a solvency basis. However, they would still be required to provide solvency valuations determined on a defined benefit basis, at least triennially. As well, plans would need to disclose their transfer ratio to plan beneficiaries. Further, Ontario is proposing raising the amortization period for funding a plan’s going-concern deficiency from 12 to 15 years. The proposals also include allowing plan administrators a one-time opportunity to consolidate existing going-concern special payments established in previous valuation reports into a new 15-year payment schedule, essentially providing a fresh start. For more information on the proposed regulations visit: Benefits Canada.

Regulation 192/18 made under the Pension Benefits Act was filed on April 3, 2018 and will come into force on July 1, 2018. The regulation relates to specified Ontario multi-employer pension plans.  Source:  The Ontario Government website.

Regulation 193/18 made under the Pension Benefits Act (PBA).  O.Reg.193/18 was filed on April 3, 2018 and will come into force on the day section 20 of Schedule 33 to the Stronger, Fairer Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2017 comes into force.  It contains the regulations pertaining to the provision of a discharge for the purchase of pension benefits from an insurance company under section 43.1 of the PBA.  Source:  The Ontario Government website.

Bill 31 Plan for Care and Opportunities Act (Budget Measures), 2018 received first reading on March 28, 2018.  Schedule 23 relates to amendments to the Pension Benefits Act. For more information, visit: The Ministry of Finance website.

Regulation 249/18 made under the Pension Benefit Act was filed on April 20, 2018 and will come into force on July 1, 2018. It amends Regulation 311/15, conversions and transfers of assets under section 80.4 and conversions under section 81.0.1 of the Pension Benefits Act.  For more information, visit: The Government of Ontario website.

Regulation 250/18 made under the Pension Benefit Act was filed on April 20, 2018 and most provisions will come into force on May 1, 2018. It amends Regulation 909 and sets out the new funding framework for defined benefit single employer pension plans. For more information, visit: The Government of Ontario website. 

 Regulation 251/18 made under the Pension Benefit Act was filed on April 20, 2018 and will come into force on May 1, 2018. It amends Regulation 196/11, Resolute FP Canada Inc. pension plans. For more information, visit: The Government of Ontario website.

Regulation 252/18 made under the Pension Benefit Act was filed on April 20, 2018 and will come into force on May 1, 2018. It amends Regulation 909 by adding a new section 47.9. For more information, visit: The Government of Ontario website.   

Regulation 253/18 made under the Pension Benefit Act was filed on April 20, 2018 and will come into force on May 1, 2018. It amends Regulation 310/13, asset transfers under sections 80 and 81 of the Pension Benefits Act. For more information, visit: The Government of Ontario website.  

Regulation 254/18 made under the Pension Benefit was filed on April 20, 2018 and will come into force on May 1, 2018. It amends Regulation 202/02, Essar Steel Algoma Inc. pension plans. For more information, visit: The Government of Ontario website.

Regulation 255/18 made under the Pension Benefit Act was filed on April 20, 2018 and will come into force on May 1, 2018. It amends Regulation 311/15, conversions and transfers of assets under section 80.4 and conversions under section 81.0.1 of the Pension Benefits Act. For more information, visit: The Government of Ontario website.

Regulation 256/18 made under the Pension Benefit Act was filed on April 20, 2018 and will come into force on May 1, 2018. It amends Regulation 255/17 and relates to U.S. Steel Canada Inc. pension plans. For more information, visit: The Government of Ontario website.

 Regulation 257/18 made under the Pension Benefit Act as filed on April 20, 2018 and will come into force on May 1, 2018. It amends Regulation 178/11, solvency funding relief for certain public sector pension plans. For more information, visit: The Government of Ontario website.  

bIt amends Regulation 156/13 and relates to the General Synod Pension Plan of the Anglican Church of Canada. For more information, visit: The Government of Ontario website.

 

Quebec

Changes to the Québec Pension Plan, (effective as of 2019) will help improve the standard of living of future generations of retirees. The enhancements to the Plan are notably due to the amendments in the Act to enhance the Québec Pension Plan and to amend various retirement-related legislative provisions, which was passed in 2018. The additional plan, which enhances the Plan and meets the expectations of both workers and employers, will achieve maturity in 2065. Source: The Government of Quebec website.

Quebec has passed its bill eliminating disparities in pension and supplementary group benefits plans. The bill was passed with a number of additions to the province’s labour standards, including the following paragraph: “Any distinction made solely on the basis of a hiring date, in relation to pension plans or other employee benefits, that affects employees performing the same tasks in the same establishment is also prohibited.” Source: Benefits Canada.

There have been several revisions to the CPP retirement pension. The changes do not affect the benefits of anyone who was collecting the CPP retirement benefits prior to 2012, unless they did not reach the age of 65 before 2012, and were still earning pensionable earnings after 2011.  Those collecting their pension prior to 2012 had to start contributing again in 2012 if they were earning pensionable earnings, and had not yet reached 65 years of age. For detailed information on the proposed changes to the Canadian Pension Plan visit: The Canadian Department of Finance.

The CPP Retirement Pension Plan calculation allows for increased pension for those who delay starting it until after age 65.  If you wait till age 70 but don't work past age 65, this won't reduce your pension amount because those years of earnings can be dropped out. Source: The Government of Canada website.