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Employee Benefits Questions to Ask

Health Plans and Benefits: Overview

Federal and state laws require most employers to provide employee health plans and benefits -- which often comprises a significant portion of an employee's total compensation package. As such, many new and existing employees have important employee benefits questions to ask during periods of enrollment. Common types of employer-provided benefits include basic healthcare benefits (such as medical, vision, and dental), retirement and pensions plans (such as 401k's), life & disability insurance, domestic partnership benefits, and family and medical leave, but may also include other fringe benefits, such as transportation benefits, child or dependent care assistance, athletic facilities discounts, educational assistance, and other employee discounts.

The type of benefit plan you choose will depend on a number of factors, such as whether you are single or married, whether you have any pre-existing medical conditions, whether your have small children, and whether you require frequent sick days or time off to name a few.

Before deciding which benefit plan to enroll (or re-enroll) in, it's important to get details about your benefits by reading through the summary of benefit plans provided by your employer. Most plans offer resources to help you choose which benefits are right for you, including information on when to make your elections, the costs for benefits you choose, and how to enroll. Keep in mind that there is a short window of time (usually 30 days or less) to enroll before receiving a company's default coverage, or no coverage at all so it's important to act fairly quickly in choosing a plan.

Employee Benefits: Questions to Ask

Below is a list of employee benefits questions to ask:

  • Who in your family needs coverage?
  • When does coverage begin? Is there a waiting period? Some plans have a 30-day or 90-day waiting period.
  • What is the cost of any medications you currently take? Some plans only cover generic or formulary brand-name prescriptions drugs. Think about how often you or your family members take prescription drugs and how often you use generic vs. brand-name drugs.
  • How much vacation time, sick time, company-designated and floating holidays are provided? When do these benefits start accruing?
  • Are my spouse and kids eligible under the plan?
  • How much is my monthly premium, office co-pays, or prescription drug costs?
  • Does the plan cover preexisting conditions? Some plans do not cover pre-existing conditions, or require longer waiting periods for coverage to begin.
  • Is my domestic partner covered under the plan? Some domestic partner plans only cover same-sex partners, and not opposite-sex partners.
  • How much is the annual deductable (the amount you must pay before insurance kicks in)? Also, what are my out-of-pocket expenses, if any?
  • When does medical, dental, and hospitalization coverage end? Some plans end on the day you leave the company. Other plans offer a grace period (for example, through the end of the month).
  • What type of pension or retirement plan is there? How much does the company contribute?
  • Are there any family-friendly benefits, such as childcare reimbursement or back-up childcare?
  • Are there any educational-related plans?
  • Are there any travel reimbursement plans or travel credits?
  • What is the process for filing claims, or processing an appeal? Some plans require you to subject proof of payment before reimbursement, whereas other plans allow a physician to submit claims directly on your behalf.

For more information on what employee benefits questions to ask, be sure to check with your employer for a list of "frequently asked questions" or speak with your hiring manager before accepting a job. Oftentimes the answers to the benefits questions you need may be located within the employee benefits documentation itself.

Have Concerns About Your Benefits? Talk to an Employment Lawyer

If something just doesn't seem right, or you suspect wrongdoing on the part of your employer, you may want to investigate further. An employment law attorney can help you interpret a company's employee benefits plan and give you peace of mind. Start the process today by finding an experienced employment law attorney near you.

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