Employee Benefit Misuse: Are You Guilty?

Jaywalking. Speeding. Snacking on a few grapes before paying for them. Let’s face it. We’re all guilty of bending the rules now and then. When it comes to employee benefits, however, bending the rules can cost you.

Employee benefits exist to, well, benefit the employee. You should always feel free to use the benefits available to you. When you think about it, not using your benefits to your fullest advantage is a waste of money and a lost opportunity.

For example, consider paid time off. A lot of employees let their vacation, sick, and personal days accumulate without ever using them. Maybe they think this makes them look like hard workers, but it can actually cause problems, such as stress, lack of work/life balance, and the spread of germs.

Likewise, you should use your health insurance coverage to minimize your out-of-pocket costs.

10 Ways to Use Your Benefits Effectively

  1. Look at the preventative coverage offered by your plan and use it. Plans often offer preventative services with 100% coverage so it may cost you nothing. For example, get all needed vaccinations including your flu shot each year and schedule an annual wellness visit for yourself and your covered family members.
  2. Strive to see in-network health care providers. This usually reduces your copay.
  3. If your plan comes with a fitness/gym benefit, use it!
  4. Avoid going to the emergency room for conditions that are not life threatening. Look at your provider network and develop an urgent care strategy so you know where to go if you get the flu or sprain your ankle, and there’s no time to schedule with your primary care doctor.
  5. If your plan offers telemedicine, try it. You might be surprised at how much time you save.
  6. Know your deductibles and schedule elective procedures later, after deductibles have been met, to minimize your personal costs.
  7. If you need an expensive procedure, interview two to three medical providers and ask for quotes, just like you would if you were hiring a contractor. Use online resources to see what procedures typically cost in your area. At the same time, confirm that every member of the team (including the hospital) is an in-network provider for your plan to avoid costly surprises.
  8. If you need mental health services, find out if your company has an Employee Assistance Program.
  9. When you pay for a prescription, ask what the cost is with and without insurance. Sometimes insurance drug copays are higher than what it would cost to pay out-of-pocket.
  10. Don’t assume that your plan does not provide coverage for acupuncture, naturopathic, or chiropractic services. Often those services are available with a higher copay or a capped benefit.

When in doubt, ask.

Benefits can be extremely complex, and the language used to describe them isn’t always easy to understand. If you’re uncertain about something, ask your human resources department for clarification.