Employee health benefits are an important part of your total compensation package. They matter, and let’s face it: they weren’t all created equal. To make a good decision, you need some information. If you’re not provided with details about the employee health benefits plan offered by your potential employer, ask some questions.
1. Will I have to pay part of the premiums?
In some cases, the premiums for a group benefits plan are covered by the employer. In other instances, the premiums are shared between you and your employer. The way the premiums are shared is dependent on the employer and how the plan is designed. For example, you may be required to pay 20% of the premiums while your employer picks up the other 80%. There can be a wide range of cost-sharing arrangements, so it makes sense to ask.
Sometimes, premiums for certain benefits are fully funded by the employer, while premiums for other benefits are your responsibility. This can be a strategic decision that might actually be to your benefit at tax time. For example, if you’re required to pay for 100% of the premiums for your long-term disability coverage, then if you ever claim long-term disability, the benefit you receive will be non-taxable. If the employer pays for any portion of the premium for long-term disability, then any benefit you receive will be taxable income while you are receiving it.
Cost-sharing is common practice and helps keep employee benefit plans sustainable over the long term. It also encourages employees to be more fiscally responsible for plan costs since they are helping foot the bill.
2. Why type of coverage is available for life’s most serious health events?
Traditionally, employee benefit plans often included Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) coverage. Basically, if you suffered an accident that caused death or dismemberment, the benefit would be paid. These types of events are uncommon, but when they do occur the benefit can be crucial.
There is another type of coverage that is used more often: it’s called Accident and Serious Illness (ASI) coverage. It’s what you want in an employee benefits plan.
Accident and Serious Illness (ASI) coverage is a more sophisticated coverage because it not only covers accidents, but also serious illness. Unfortunately, serious illness does occur and it’s not all that uncommon. Health challenges like cancer, heart disease and stroke actually do affect many people each year and having coverage for them is very valuable.
3. What support is available for mental health?
With the stigma surrounding mental health decreasing, most of us have come to realize that mental health challenges are quite common. Many plans now include support for mental health; finding out if your potential employer provides support can tell you a lot about the company.
The foundation of mental health support via employee benefits is access to an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP). An EFAP provides 24/7 access to help. It includes free short-term counselling to address a mental health challenge, as well as online resources and toolkits to help manage issues before they become unmanageable. When you’re looking at the employee health benefits offered by a potential employer, access to an Employee and Family Assistance Program is a must.
4. Does the plan include virtual healthcare?
Virtual healthcare is a relatively new benefit that is increasingly offered by employers who have a progressive employee benefits plan. Virtual healthcare provides you with access to health practitioners (like physicians and nurses) using technology. This means you can have a doctor’s appointment using your tablet, computer or phone. Virtual healthcare can solve many of the health complaints that you would typically visit the doctor’s office for. It’s easy, quick and convenient because it is available 24/7, from anywhere in the world.
Whether or not your potential employer’s benefit plan includes virtual healthcare can give you an idea of the company culture. Organizations that embrace technology and are forward-thinking are more likely to include a non-traditional benefit like virtual healthcare.
5. Is there a Health Spending Account (HSA)?
A health spending account as part of an employee benefits plan can really complete the coverage you’re given. A health spending account is a set amount (for example, $500) that you can use towards health-related expenses. You have the flexibility to choose how it is used, based on what matters to you.
It can be used to cover your portion of a co-pay. For example, if you have a prescription filled and your benefit plan covers 80% of the cost, you can claim the remaining balance through your health spending account and be reimbursed. Of if your plan does not provide coverage for eyeglasses, you can use the money in your health spending account to purchase eyeglasses. In conjunction with coverage through an employee health benefits plan, it allows you to customize how your benefit dollars are spent.
Information is Key
Employee health benefits are a valuable piece of your total compensation. It’s a competitive labour market, so when you’re considering a potential employer, the benefits they offer make a difference. Learning more about the employee benefits package offered by a potential employer can help you make an informed decision.