I hope that you, your family and loved ones are safe and well during this challenging time and wish you continued health as we all face the COVID-19 pandemic and adjust to the impact it has had on our lives in such a short time.
In this month’s issue of Your Health / Your Wealth, we look at the COVID-19 Business Continuity Strategy, developed by OEBAC. This strategy provides guidelines for our continued operations so we can serve members throughout this unusual time.
We also discuss new benefits plan enhancements, the virtual delivery of some covered services, and the importance of getting members enrolled in direct deposit banking.
Finally, we talk about ways for keeping you healthy physically, mentally and emotionally in this time of social distancing. We also share some tools that could be helpful to you.
I hope that this newsletter finds you and your family in good spirits.
OEBAC COVID-19 BUSINESS CONTINUITY STRATEGY
In early April, OEBAC developed a COVID-19 Business Continuity Plan. This Plan was designed to allow OEBAC to continue operating and avoid any interruptions due to COVID-19.
The Plan details measures that are necessary to ensure uninterrupted service to members by focusing on the core functions of OEBAC. This is in order to ensure we optimize our limited resources working remotely.
A key risk identified was the risk associated with benefits being paid by cheque. Payments could be delayed if we had limited staff able to work on premise and limited ability to print cheques. There is also the associated risk that these cheques would be delayed getting to members if there were disruptions with Canada Post. The Plan identified the risk of members’ claims being misplaced if mail is diverted from head office.
With no ability to deal with members on a walk-in basis, all member inquiries, phone calls and emails need to be processed by our staff working remotely. Over the last few weeks, OEBAC enabled a reduced staff contingent to service members from home. To accomplish this, computers were purchased and new software technology was integrated. We are now operating remotely. However, operating more slowly than if we were in the office! Please be patient.
We are asking that all members who are paying for their benefit coverage by cheque, to give us your banking information. Providing OEBAC with your banking information will allow us to automatically withdraw your pay-direct payments directly from your bank account rather than mail. Processing payments by cheque may be delayed as a result of OEBAC operating with reduced staff, not having the ability to process cheques while working from home, and the possibility of delays with Canada Post. We will not accept banking information over the phone.
Read “Direct Deposit Banking” below for more on the quickest and easiest way of having your claims paid.
BENEFITS PLAN ENHANCEMENTS
In light of these difficult times, the IUOE Local 793 Life and Health Benefits Trustees are committed to supporting members who lose income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, above and beyond the benefits offered by the federal government.
The Trustees recently announced benefit plan improvements for mental health coverage to ensure the wellbeing of our members by helping with anxiety and stress during this challenging time.
Mental health coverage increased from $1,000 to $2,000 per year for active members and from $500 to $1,000 for retirees, retroactive to January 1, 2020. Services of a psychological assessment increased from $1,500 to $2,500 per year for active members, and from $500 to $1,000 for retirees, also retroactive to January 1, 2020.
Members on short-term disability now receive a top-up increase from $573 (the maximum EI Benefit amount) to $800.00 per week, retroactive to March 15, 2020. If members are presently receiving short term disability benefits, the new weekly benefit will be $800.00 per week, less the amount received from El Sick-ness Benefits.
Other improvements include:
Continued benefits eligibility for members who would have become ineligible for benefits due to losing their job and/or dollarbank contributions on, or after, March 15, 2020. Those members will remain eligible from April to September 30, 2020. The IUOE Local 793 Health Benefits Plan will cover the benefits costs during this period if members meet the eligibility requirements.
The COVID-19 Local 793 Emergency Relief Grant, a temporary income supplement related to COVID-19 for those who qualify for the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or Employment Insurance (El) Program.
Due to concerns with potential government claw back of payments from the COVID-19 Local 793 Emergency Relief Grant, Business Manager Mike Gallagher recently announced the need to put a pause on the relief grant benefit while we await clarification from the government. The Union wants to ensure that the relief grant payments are not going to be clawed back by the federal government.
ADAPTING THE BENEFITS PLAN TO THE NEW REALITIES
To better support physical distancing, virtual paramedical and medical services are now an eligible expense under the IUOE Local 793 Health Benefits Plan.
Eligible expenses are for a select group of services, provided the health care practitioner is licensed and registered in the province in which they are practicing, has an eligible qualification as determined by OEBAC, and is practicing within the guidelines of their governing body.
OEBAC continues to monitor provincial guidelines about virtual care, which are quickly evolving. Based on information known today, we will consider claims for virtual appointments to be an eligible expense for the following practitioners, subject to the coverage terms of our plan:
DIRECT DEPOSIT BANKING
We are working hard at OEBAC to ensure that members are not going to experience any interruption in benefit coverage and pension payments.
There could be delays in getting reimbursement payments to members if claims are submitted via paper form. Paper claims take more time to process and payment by cheque could be delayed. For those members on pay-direct, coverage could be suspended if your cheque does not make it into the Plan’s bank account in time. This is why we need your banking information.
The quickest and easiest way of having your claims paid is for OEBAC to deposit your claim payment directly into your bank account. In that way, OEBAC does not need to incur the time and expense to print and mail you a cheque, and you are not reliant on mail delivery to receive your payment. In this way, we all observe social distancing and are not at risk of contagion!
You can setup your banking information on the OEBAC mobile app, or by filling in a form and emailing it or faxing it to us. No paper please. We are working hard to observe social distancing and your support is greatly appreciated.
CLICK HERE for more information on how to download the OEBAC mobile app.
Please see these resources for more time-saving tips:
KEEPING HEALTHY: PHYSICALLY | MENTALLY | EMOTIONALLY
One of OEBAC’s goals is to help members stay healthy in every way. This includes the health of the body – physical health, the health of the mind – mental health, and the health of our emotions – emotional health.
It all comes down to exercise, eating well and sleeping well. Although the LCBO is deemed an essential service, drinking responsively is also part of keeping healthy.
We have several suggestions to keep you healthy in every way: