Navigating Travel Benefits: Answers to Your Top 5 Questions

Summer is right around the corner and if you plan to travel, it’s best to understand your travel benefits coverage prior to your trip. Visit our Travel Benefits webpage for full details, but if your bags are packed and you’re ready to go, review our top five frequently asked questions before you leave.

1. Am I covered while travelling outside BC or Canada?

Yes, and coverage depends on the expense. See the table below for a summary of coverage.

Remember, if you experience a medical emergency while travelling, it’s important to contact Allianz Global Assistance, Sun Life’s travel assistance provider, as soon as possible.

Expense Coverage Outside BC or Canada Amount Covered
Physician Services
(emergency only)
Yes 100%, up to your overall lifetime max. of $2 million per person
Hospital Services
(emergency only)
Yes 100%, up to your overall lifetime max. of $2 million per person
Ambulance Services – air or ground
(emergency only)
Yes 100%, up to your overall lifetime max. of $2 million per person
Prescription Drugs
(emergency and non-emergency)
Yes Same level of reimbursement as if the expense had been incurred in BC, up to your overall lifetime max. of $2 million per person
Other Services & Supplies – normally covered by UBC’s Extended Health Plan

(emergency and non-emergency)

Yes Same level of reimbursement as if the expense had been incurred in BC, up to your overall lifetime max. of $2 million per person

In order to have coverage, you must be enrolled in the BC Medical Services Plan (either through UBC, your spouse/partner’s employer’s plan or with Health Insurance BC directly) and the UBC Extended Health Plan while temporarily outside of BC. You are covered for 365 days from the date you leave BC or your home province.

Your dependents are also covered if they meet the definition of eligible dependent and they are enrolled in the BC Medical Services Plan (either through UBC, your spouse/partner’s employer’s plan or with Health Insurance BC directly) and listed as your dependent under your Extended Health plan.

2. Should I purchase additional travel insurance?

How you answer this question will depend on your situation. And while we can’t make this decision for you, we can provide you with information on what your insurance covers (and what it does not cover). We suggest reading our previous Benefits FYI article where we answer this very question.

3. I have a pre-existing condition. Am I covered if I need medical attention related to my condition while travelling?

Yes, if the pre-existing medical condition is stable and controlled at the time of departure from BC/Canada and if your doctor has cleared you for travel. It’s strongly recommended that you obtain a letter from your doctor clearing you for travel or ask that a note be added to your medical file.

4. I am travelling to a country that has a travel advisory warning. Am I covered if I need medical attention while in that country?

Yes, travelling to a country that has a travel advisory warning does not mean you lose your coverage. We recommend calling Allianz Global Assistance, Sun Life’s travel assistance provider, in advance of your travels to confirm whether you will be able to access their medical emergency travel assistance services in your destination area. It is your responsibility to review your benefits coverage, including exclusions and limitations, prior to travel.

If you are experiencing a medical emergency while outside BC or Canada, contact Allianz Global Assistance as soon as possible. Allianz Global Assistance will try to connect you with medical services to the best of its ability; however, services may be delayed or unavailable depending on the situation.

5. Am I covered for trip cancellation, trip delay or lost luggage?

No. However, you can purchase such an insurance policy with the airline or travel company you have purchased your flight(s) or vacation package from.

For more information:

Understanding Your Travel Benefits (Vancouver campus)
Date: Monday, April 30, 2018
Time: 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Location: Michael Smith Labs, 2185 East Mall, Room 102
Cost: Free but RSVP required

FACET Prior Authorization Drug Program

The UBC Extended Health Plan provides you and your eligible dependents with comprehensive coverage for medical services, supplies and prescription drugs.

Effective May 6, 2018, specialty drugs that are used to treat specific health conditions and that cost more than $5,000 per person, per calendar year will require pre-approval (“Prior Authorization”). This means that if your physician prescribes such a specialty drug for you or your covered dependents, you and your physician must submit evidence that supports the need for the drug in order to obtain coverage for it under the extended health benefit plan.

If you or your covered dependents were reimbursed for a specialty drug under UBC’s extended health plan in the 12 months prior to the effective date of the program (May 6, 2018), you will be automatically grand-parented and will not be required to apply for prior authorization for that drug. Visit the Prior Authorization webpage for more details.

Specific Health Conditions that Require Pre-approval/Prior Authorization

Certain drugs that are used to treat the following health conditions, and that cost over $5,000 per calendar year, per person, require prior authorization:

  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s Disease/Ulcerative Colitis
  • Hepatitis C
  • Hypercholesterolemia
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Psoriasis
  • Psoriatic Arthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

About Prior Authorization

Prior authorization is used in many organizations’ extended health and dental benefit plans for high-cost medical services, supplies, procedures and prescription drugs. This approach ensures that specialty drugs are reimbursed when most needed so that extended health benefit plans remain stable and sustainable.

At UBC, our new prior authorization drug program is referred to as FACET and is administered by an independent, third-party organization called Cubic Health. FACET offers the following:

  • Prescription drug experts (licensed pharmacists) who make evidence-based decisions
  • Provides expert support in navigating related issues and collaborates with you and your physician to ensure appropriate drug and dose regiments for effective treatment
  • Coordination of coverage with the BC Fair PharmaCare Plan and other provincial drug plans, while continuing to provide choices in prescription drug treatment

Additional information about the new prior authorization drug program, including a list of frequently asked questions are available on our FACET Prior Authorization webpage.

Process for Obtaining Pre-approval for Coverage of a Specific Drug

1. Starting May 6, 2018, you can find out which prescription drugs require prior authorization by logging in to Sun Life’s website at (currently not available on Sun Life’s mobile app).

Once logged in, go to coverage information; medical – drug coverage; drug look up and search by drug name or DIN (drug identification number).

If your prescription drug requires prior authorization, you will receive a message indicating “to be considered for coverage for this drug, have your doctor complete the appropriate form”. You will be directed to the FACET Prior Authorization Drug Program webpage to complete the form (go to Step 2).

If you do not receive this message, prior authorization is not required at this time and no further action is required by you.

2. Go to the FACET webpage to find the Prior Authorization Request Form that matches your health condition.

3. Ensure that you and your physician complete the form – this can be completed through the “fillable” form.

4. Submit the form and supporting clinical information to Cubic Health via one of the following ways:

Note: Medical information is submitted directly to Cubic Health, and is not shared with UBC.

5. Allow three business days for review once all necessary information has been received by Cubic Health.

6. If your drug is approved, Cubic Health will notify Sun Life to cover the drug for a one-year period.

7. If the drug you were prescribed cannot be approved, your physician will be contacted by Cubic Health directly to discuss alternatives.

8. Cubic Health will send both you and your physician the decision in writing.

For more information, please visit:

What to Expect When Calling EFAP

Looking for confidential, solution-focused counselling support for personal, work, health or life issues? UBC’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) can help. Through our EFAP provider, Morneau Shepell, you can access a wide range of services 24/7 and choose the counselling format that works best for you. Whether you’ve used Morneau Shepell before or are using them for the first time, here’s an overview of what to expect when you access EFAP services.

About EFAP services:

  • Available to all eligible UBC staff and faculty and their dependent family members
  • Free (no cost other than your monthly premiums)
  • Voluntary and confidential (UBC is not informed of the identity of those who use EFAP services)
  • Available 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year
  • Multiple languages available
  • Short-term counselling with community referrals available for longer-term or ongoing support
  • Professional counsellors have master’s level training and five to 10 years of EFAP-specific training

Seven ways to access services:

  • Telephone counselling (Care Access Centre at 1-800-387-4765)
  • In person counselling (various locations)
  • Instant chat (First Chat)
  • Mobile in-app counselling
  • Web and e-counselling
  • Video counselling
  • Online group counselling

What to expect when you contact Morneau Shepell’s Care Access Centre (CAC):

1. When you call 1-800-387-4765, after the language prompt, choose from three selections:

  • Press 1 for immediate telephone counselling. You will be transferred to a counsellor immediately. If you would like to arrange for in-person counselling during this call, an appointment will be set up within 24 hours.
  • Press 2 to schedule an EFAP service or if you need to cancel or reschedule an appointment. (If you press 2 and you are experiencing trauma or at risk of harming yourself or others, you will be transferred to a counsellor immediately.)
  • Press 3 for critical incident debriefing (for onsite crises). This service is available to Human Resources professionals who are requesting services for their department/faculty.

2. CAC intake specialist will:

  • Gather your contact information
  • Confirm your eligibility in the program
  • Ask you some preliminary questions about your issue so that they can let you know about the available services to help you resolve it

3. If you are scheduling an EFAP service:

  • You will be asked some preliminary questions about your issue.
  • You will be asked to complete an online pre-assessment form* prior to scheduling your appointment. This form will be emailed to you within 24 hours of your call. Once you submit the form, you can call the CAC back to schedule your appointment.
  • If you are scheduling an in-person counselling** appointment, the general wait time to see a counsellor in person is within five business days (non-emergency counselling). If you have specific preferences, you may have to wait longer. For example, if you request an in-person appointment with a female counsellor in Burnaby on a weekend, you may need to wait longer than five business days.

* Your pre-assessment form gives your counsellor background details in advance, allowing you to maximize the time spent with your counsellor during your appointment. If you’ve used Morneau Shepell’s services in the past, this form was previously completed at the beginning of your counselling appointment. For each new case or series of counselling sessions, a new form must be completed.

** In-person counselling through EFAP is available at many different locations. Morneau Shepell’s main offices are located in downtown Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Surrey, Kelowna and Kamloops. Other private offices in the Metro Vancouver and the Okanagan are also available.

For more information:

MSP Premiums Eliminated Effective Jan. 1, 2020

In February’s 2018 BC Budget announcement, the Finance Minister announced the following changes to Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums:

  • Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, all BC residents (and employers who pay MSP premiums on behalf of their employees) will no longer be required to pay monthly MSP premiums. For 2018 and 2019, MSP premiums will still apply.
  • Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, employers such as UBC will pay an Employer’s Health Tax (EHT) to allow for the full elimination of MSP premiums.

More information about these changes will be provided prior to their implementation date.