For many of us, group benefits provide protection against health and dental costs. These plans help us keep a little more money in our pockets.

But how do you get started? Quite simply, through registration and – in some cases – benefit selection. When we start a new plan, a welcome kit arrives with instructions on the steps to take; but here’s a general outline of what you’ll need to do:

As a new member, you register and sign up for an online account on your assigned plan member secure website. Benefits begin for you and your family on your effective date, the day your plan administrator started coverage for you.

Registering online gives you access to many features that let you make the most of your plan and save time, including:

  • Viewing your plan coverage and balances online
  • Submitting claims online
  • Direct deposit (so you get your money back faster)
  • Access to the Manulife Mobile app

Online registration gives you these features, even where your plan contains fixed standard benefits that have been defined by your plan administrator.

For some plans you have the option to choose benefits that address your unique needs.* In those cases, the Manulife online benefits selection experience may be an option. After you register, you select the ‘enrol’ button on the plan member secure site to start that process.

Some persons may already have benefits coverage through their spouse, or another group. Through ‘Coordination of benefits’ or COB, they can coordinate coverage from both plans. That way, they may be reimbursed for up to 100 per cent of the cost incurred.

With COB, you’ll need to get your paperwork in order with both benefits plans. Let both plan administers or employers know that you’re covered by more than one plan.

Also, depending on what your and your spouse’s plans include, you may want to increase coverage in some areas on one plan (e.g., drug coverage) but reduce it on another (e.g., extended medical). You’ll need to understand what each plan covers to make the best decision for you.

Some plans allow you to change your benefits, annually, bi-annually or less often. That’s called ‘re-enrolment’ and takes place during ‘enrolment season’.*

If re-enrolling’s an option, you’ll need to know when it happens. That’s because, except for when a life event occurs, it’s the only time when you can change, modify or add to your benefits package, or update personal information.

After a year has passed, with some history and lived experience with your benefits package, you may know better how to optimize your plan(s). Consider the following:

  • Review the past year’s claims, especially health and dental ones. You may want to change coverage levels based on studying this information.
  • If your spouse has coverage, review it as well. Through COB, you may be able to optimize how much money you’re reimbursed.
  • If you have children, consider their ages, student status (i.e., post-secondary school) and confirm if any age limits (or terminations) will impact the next year’s coverages.

As mentioned earlier, changes to your plan or personal information outside of the re-enrolment season isn’t possible – unless you experience a ‘life event’. These include:

  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Change in marital status (e.g., marriage, divorce, separation)
  • Change in a spouse’s coverage under another benefits plan
  • Change in dependents’ eligibility (e.g., your child is no longer eligible for benefits under your plan due to their age).
  • Change in family size (e.g., loss of life, including a dependent)

When a life event occurs, you have the opportunity – within 31 days – to makes changes and/or updates. Depending on your plan, that’s done online or through your employer’s human resources department.

* If you’re not sure if you have this option, or when your benefits start, your initial welcome kit should clarify things. Or, speak with your employer’s human resources department to find out more.