One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is not "how do I eat more vegetables", but "how can I get dietitian services covered". Many people put off seeing a dietitian because of financial costs, but often individuals don't know that they can get part or all of this investment into their health reimbursed. Here are a few ways how:
1. Employer Insurance Coverage
Many full-time employees receive an extended health care insurance package that is often partially paid for by their employer and partially deducted from their paycheque. These plans come with various forms of coverage and terms for reimbursement, but many do cover registered dietitian services. However, this coverage may be described differently. Here's how to decode some of the most common insurance booklet encryptions:
• $$$ Combined Health Practitioners Listed •
The maximum amount you will be reimbursed for a combination of all health practitioners that you use from the list is the $$$ amount
• $$$ Per Health Practitioner Listed •
For EACH of the health practitioners on the list you will be reimbursed up to $$$
• XX% Coverage •
Only XX% of the amount paid for this service will be reimbursed, so there will still be a small out of pocket expense. At times, there is also a limit as to how much the company would pay out for a particular service over time ex: 80% coverage up to $500 --> they will not reimburse more than $500 in total
• By Prescription •
Your must get a referral or prescription from your doctor for this service to receive reimbursement of expenses• Pre-approval •
This means that you need to send your insurance company an estimate of the services you are looking to receive in order for them to reimburse them afterwards.
Regardless of what is listed in your booklet of coverage, I always recommend clients call the insurance company to double check if registered dietitian services are covered and for how much. There have been several instances where clients have not had registered dietitian services listed in their booklets, but DID HAVE THEM COVERED. It is always a good idea to give your insurance plan a call to make sure nothing has been missed if your list.
Don't forget that spouses, common-law partners, and children are also often covered under employers health benefits. Just remember to SAVE YOUR INVOICES and submit them in a timely manner.
2. Part of a Family Health Team
Family health teams are a fairy new model of interdisciplinary care in Ontario. They are comprised of doctors working with Allied Health Professionals such as dietitians, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, and others to provide patients with well rounded health care. Not all family health teams have their members under one roof, so it is important to ask your doctor if they are part of such a team. If they are, their patients have access to a wide variety of practitioners at no extra cost. The Family Health Team website allows you to search for a family doctor in such a team, but spaces are often limited as they have a capped patient roster to ensure everyone in their care is able to receive timely attention.
3. Community Health Centre
If you do not have extended health coverage from work or have a doctor that is part of a family health team, I would encourage you to check if your local Community Health Centre has a dietitian on staff. In this setting, dietitians often run informative group sessions such as cooking classes in addition to individual counselling. Focusing on disease management and prevention, they strive to build healthier communities by providing nutrition education throughout the lifespan in a variety of formats. Some Community Health Centres with dietitians in the Toronto area include Unison Health & Community Services, Stonegate Community Health Centre, South Riverdale Community Health Centre, The Four Villages Community Health Centre, and Flemington Health Centre. You can find one in your area with a simple internet search or through the Ontario's Community Health Centres Website, as you must be part of the centre's catchment area to access their services.
The great part about seeing a dietitian is that you are sure to reap the benefits of their expertise long after your appointment is over. This is more than can be said for most things in life, especially the latest food or diet fad. Since food decisions are made several times every day, figuring out how to eat to meet your needs is a valuable investment in your health for year to come.
Remember to eat health & live happy,
Anna Gofeld, RD