By Richelle Hanna

My parents are transitioning to retirement. While it’s an exciting time that many look forward to, it can also be confusing and overwhelming – even for me, as their daughter! There’s a lot to consider with so much information, advice and options out there, especially when it comes to health insurance and benefits.

We want the best for our parents as they move into this new phase of their life. To help prepare, our friends at Alberta Blue Cross® created a helpful guide to retirement. This guide goes over some of the things to ponder including drug, health, dental and travel benefits.

Recently, I sat down with my mom and did a little Q & A discussing some of the main concerns she and my father have expressed regarding their health insurance. Read below and be sure to pass on to any friends or family members also reaching this life milestone!

Mom: Don’t I already have health care coverage through the provincial government? Why would I need coverage beyond what the government provides?

Richelle: Mainly, peace of mind! With the right coverage, one can reduce out-of-pocket expenses for drugs, vision and medical devices. Beyond that, about 75 per cent of Albertans 65 years of age or older develop, on average, at least one chronic health condition, which can place financial strain on a fixed income. Plus, coverage through the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) is limited when you’re outside the province. It’s always best to mitigate your risk by having your ‘bases covered’ so to speak!

Mom: When would we need to make the decision about enrolling in a plan with Alberta Blue Cross®?

Richelle: For most retirement health plans, it’s best to explore your options as early as possible, especially prior to leaving your existing plan. For example, the Alberta Blue Cross® Retiree plan requires applicants to apply within 90 days of their health plan ending while applicants must apply within 30 days of coming off a health plan for their Blue Choice® and Blue Assured® plans.

Mom: My husband and I plan to travel … a lot! We will head down south snowbird style, but also want to do a few other trips per year. Do we really need travel insurance?

Richelle: The short answer is yes. You’ll want to purchase travel insurance to avoid being on the hook for unexpected expenses while out of the province or country. Anything can happen when travelling, and unfortunately emergency health issues tend to occur when you least expect it. Since provincial coverage is limited outside of Alberta, it’s always recommended to purchase travel insurance. Some private plans offer up to 90 days of travel coverage including the Alberta Blue Cross® Retiree plan. Length of travel coverage is particularly important for snowbirds and those looking to be abroad for long periods of time. The reduced stress is worth it!

Mom: What kind of coverage does travel insurance provide?

Richelle: There are various types of travel insurance. Emergency medical insurance provides coverage for unforeseen medical expenses that may occur while travelling, such as prescriptions, health care professional expenses, diagnostic services, medical appliances, hospital services and emergency dental services. Beyond that it also covers, meals, accommodations and return flights due to medical delays, the return of dependents, pets, vehicles and personal items and medical evacuation air ambulance service when necessary. And as mentioned in the previous question, emergency medical insurance can be embedded in health and dental plans like the Retiree plan from Alberta Blue Cross®. Alberta Blue Cross® also offers Trip Cancellation or Interruption coverage, Baggage Coverage, Flight delay Service and Accidental Death and Dismemberment. Specific details on travel insurance options can be found here.

Mom: Being and staying active is very important to us. We both, walk, run, golf, sail, paddleboard, play pickleball and scuba dive — a lot of activities! But, as we’ve aged we’ve been utilizing physiotherapy, massage and chiropractors more. Does Alberta Blue Cross® offer extended benefit coverage?

Richelle: Absolutely! A Retiree extended health benefits plan can cover the medical services and devices your provincial plan doesn’t, meaning you won’t have to dip into your retirement savings for health-related expenses.

The following services and products are generally covered under extended health benefits:

  • Preferred hospital accommodations—semi-private or private rooms.
  • Home nursing care— home nursing care must be provided by a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse who isn’t a relative of the patient.
  • Registered paramedical practitioners:
    • Psychologists
    • Chiropractors
    • Massage therapists
    • Homeopath or naturopath specialists
  • Vision care
  • CPAP machines
  • Hearing aids
  • Accidental dental care
  • Medical aids—canes, walkers and crutches

Depending on the extended health benefits plan chosen, you may have coverage for medical equipment and devices and supplies, such as casts, crutches, braces or elastic support stockings, when medically necessary and ordered by a doctor.

Knowing that my parents have such in-depth coverage from Alberta Blue Cross® provides me with so much comfort as they embark on this exciting new chapter of retirement! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family and loved ones also entering this phase of their lives.

Thank you to our friends at Alberta Blue Cross® for sponsoring this post. As always, the thoughts and opinions contained here are our own.

This blog was written in partnership with Richelle Hanna of River City Sisters, a contemporary lifestyle blog by two Edmonton sisters. Check out their work at



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