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Make The Most Of Your Employee Health Benefits


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Employment is a huge factor for most people. After all, we spend a big chunk of our waking hours at work; it's only natural that what goes on there bleeds over into other areas of our lives. There is a lot to consider when evaluating whether or not to accept a new position. Of course, the paycheck is the whole point, so it's very important to understand when, how often and how much you get paid. Other things to keep in mind are location, commute, longevity and atmosphere. One of the most important aspects of job seeking is often the most overlooked: the benefits package.

A good health benefits package can make up for a lot of perks your job may be missing. Sometimes job hunters get starry-eyed over a job offer with a substantial salary and no benefit package. That's usually a mistake. The high cost of health insurance means that a lot of folks can't, or won't, pay for it out of pocket. Sure, the employer will take a little out of your check to offset the costs, so it's not like you're off the hook completely, but can you really trust yourself to put money back for unforeseen medical expenses? A major accident or lengthy illness can quickly overwhelm even the most appealing wage.

Insurance is full of red tape, loopholes and stipulations, and not all health coverage options are equal. It's imperative that you educate yourself about the kind of policy you have and how to use it. You don't want to wait until something happens and you're in the hospital, in pain and surrounded by doctors to realize you have no clue what's covered.

Be aware that you benefit schedule will likely change if your position changes. Situations like promotions, switching from full time to part time, working offsite or going to a flex schedule can alter your health plan dramatically. For example, if an illness or injury forces you to cut back your hours, then puts you in the hospital, don't assume you have the same long-term disability benefits you had when working your normal hours.

One of the most dangerous mistakes people make regarding their health coverage is they simply stop reading before they have all the information. Pay attention to the fine print. For example, you read in your policy declaration that your employer will continue to pay you if you have to take an extended leave of absence for health reasons. Imagine the shock when you're in that situation and find that you will only be getting a percentage of your pay for a limited amount of time. Find out all the details so you can plan accordingly. You can visit to learn more about employee health benefits.

The bottom line is you have to be proactive. It is your responsibility to get answers about your health coverage. You should be able to readily answer questions about what physicians are in your network, what your co-pay and deductible is and what expenses might not be covered. If you can't answer these questions, schedule some time with your company's human resources manager. A little studying will save you some unpleasant surprises down the road.

Kelly Hunter operates and writes about Employee Health Benefits .


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