Coordination of benefits (COB) can save you out-of-pocket expenses
Sometimes you might have benefit coverage under more than one extended health plan
or even more than one health benefits provider. For example, your plan might be
through Pacific Blue Cross and your spouse's plan through another insurer.
In these cases, the patient can submit the expense under both plans to get up to
100 percent of their expense covered. This is called coordination of benefits.
With coordination of benefits, you claim first with the plan you are a member of,
then you claim any amount that was not reimbursed with the second plan.
If you and your spouse both pay premiums to participate in a benefit plan, you may
be tempted to save on payroll deductions by opting out of the plan that pays the
smaller percentage. However coordinating the benefits provided by each plan can
save you money, in most cases providing coverage up to 100 percent of the expense.
Saving you from out-of-pocket expenses related to health care cost is what your
benefit plan is supposed to do.
Understanding coordination of benefits
Let's say John's benefit plan covers his acupuncture treatment ($100) at 50 percent
co-insurance. John's wife Kathy has a plan that
covers the acupuncture treatment at 80 percent. If John only had his own coverage,
he would only receive reimbursement for half of the service fee he claimed under
his benefit plan. But because he is also a dependent on his wife's plan, he can
claim the unpaid portion with the other benefit plan.
John's quite happy because as a result he was able to receive back 100% of his health
care expense by coordinating the benefits. And his back is feeling better too.
Which plan should you claim under first?
In the example above, let's assume both plans are provided by Pacific Blue Cross.
John should submit a claim for his acupuncture treatment under his plan first (he
would get $50 back assuming it's a covered benefit, he had satisfied his deductible
and the Acupuncturist was registered).
John should then resubmit the remainder to Kathy's plan (he would receive the remaining
$50 – again if this was covered under her plan).
If John's plan was with another benefit provider, and Kathy's was with Pacific Blue
Cross, after he submits the claim to his plan, he would resubmit the photocopied
receipt and the Explanation of Benefits statement from his benefit provider with
his claim for reimbursement from his Blue Cross coverage.
Simple rules—always submit the claim first to the benefit plan that
belongs to whoever received treatment and to the other benefit provider once you
have received your claim payment and statement from the first.
If both plans are with Pacific Blue Cross and if we have the most up-to-date information
on file, you can submit one claim only and it will automatically be considered under
Coordinating benefits for your dependent children:
Admittedly, things can get a little confusing when you are submitting claims for
For dependent children, the plan that pays first is determined by the birth date
of the parents:
- If your birth date is prior to your spouse's in the calendar year, your plan is
the first payer and your children's expenses must be claimed through your own plan
- If your spouse's birth date is prior to yours in the calendar year, then your spouse's
plan is the first payer for your dependent children. In that case, you must pay
for their expenses, take photocopies, and submit the original receipts to your spouse's
- If your spouse has a pay direct drug card, and your spouse is the first payer, your
children's prescription drugs can be submitted electronically using your spouse's
pay direct card. The pharmacist will issue a paper receipt showing the amount that
the plan pays. Any remaining balance can be submitted to Pacific Blue Cross using
a paper claim form* along with the photocopied receipts and the explanation of benefits
from the other plan, for reimbursement.
Keep us up to date and we'll help you coordinate benefits
Ensure that you indicate both of the plan numbers when completing the claim form.
The primary plan should be indicated on the top left hand corner of the claim form
and the secondary policy and identification number should be indicated at the bottom
of the claim form, where it asks "Do you or any other dependant have any other insurance
to cover these benefits?"
Remember to also update your service providers if they prepare or submit claims
to us on your behalf.