Health Benefits and the costs thereof. I won't even pretend to be anal enough to have managed to have wrapped my head around the unnecessarily over-complicated subject of health benefits, but I did just go through an experience regarding that topic that I feel is worthy of sharing.
I am the non-custodial parent of several children for which I provide support and medical benefits. Since my ex spouse had the children covered under her plan at work, I opted not to purchase benefits through my present employer in order to save several hundred dollars a month. Well, the Texas Attorney General's child support branch recently mandated me to procure health benefits for my children, despite the fact that I provided them proof that my ex spouse already had them covered. Since I had no choice in the matter and since a legal mandate qualifies as a life status change event (enabling a health care provider to allow someone to enroll in benefits outside of their normal bogus "open enrollment" period), I decided to just go ahead and cover the whole family. I submitted my application and waited for a response. Finally after several days, I was told "no, we will only allow the mandated children to be covered". Hmmm. Okay, so I'm going to have to pay the already high premium to cover children, but Blue Cross and Blue Shield is only going to allow me to put the non-custodial children on? Not my other children for whom I am the primary custodian? In a word, that's BS, and a senseless, arbitrary, judgment-less decision made by some heartless BCBS bonehead in a padded leather chair somewhere.
Refusing to give Blue Cross and Blue Shield one dime, I then decided to explore the alternative of purchasing my OWN health insurance as an individual. Now, I had always been brainwashed to believe that purchasing insurance on your own was so outrageously expensive that it couldn't possibly be affordable, so prior to this I had always just opted to tell my employer to "give me the works" and pay whatever I had to. But after inquiring among my peers and family, I found that there were LOTS of affordable options out there, none of which cost me any more than my employer was charging me, and all of which were comparable in coverage benefits! I finally settled on using United Health Care (www.uhc.com), and in so doing was able to speak directly to a rep who helped me design a custom benefits package that fit my budget and my needs to a tee, and at an EQUAL cost to what my employer was charging me! I lost nothing and I gained freedom from the "group" by which healthcare providers judge employees when deciding their rates.
Employers: Consider This
Here's food for thought, too, for any of you out there who have employees and who provide company sponsored benefits: Stop doing it. Instead, what if you simply told your employees to go out and get their OWN benefits, and then you reimburse them half of their monthly premiums? Let's look at some numbers.
My employer currently graciously covers a full 50% of what they are charged to provide me health benefits. If they're charging me $450 a month, then they are paying $450 themselves. Times the twelve employees we have, they're dropping $5,400 a month on us AFTER factoring in what they deduct from our paychecks. If instead they allowed each of us to go out and get our own, and let's say between us all (some single, some healthy, some ill, some old, some with families) we all managed to acquire a premium that averaged $600, they would spend only $3,600 a month, and each employee would only spend $300 a month. The employer saves $1,800 a month, the employee saves $150-200 a month...win win, right????
So then why isn't this happening? Why haven't more employers caught on to such an approach? Am I missing something? I know my nature is to simplify things, boil them down to their true core...but is it really this simple, or am I just incapable of "appreciating" an overly complex scenario? Is the emperor naked, or does he really sport a gorgeous new wardrobe? lol. Actually, I think it's the whole "herd" mentality prevailing in this industry, where every employer does it the way they do because every other employer does it that way too. Bah.
Bottom line, I don't think I'll ever elect employee sponsored benefits again, unless of course they are picking up enough of the tab to make it the best deal for me. I encourage all of you to at least explore the option yourselves, too, and approach your employer about adopting a similar reimbursement policy for their company.