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Lawson-Garlutzo: Losing interest in health benefits after hired is an unhealthy, costly choice


Many human resource professionals will attest that when it comes to taking a job, health benefits top the list of priorities among many applicants.

In a Harvard Business Review survey, more than 88% of respondents said they would consider taking a job that paid less if the health benefits were better than a job with a higher salary. As a healthcare provider, though, we are witness to a disconnect about health benefits. We see that the gap in making benefits a priority and knowing the intricacies of the benefits is huge. This disconnect oftentimes causes patients undue stress and health providers feel it too.

There is nothing more disheartening than breaking bad health news to patients but explaining that a financial responsibility lies with a patient when it is unexpected is equally trying. Yet, this happens every day in clinics everywhere when it can be avoided. Knowing your health benefits will:

Protect the Family Budget. It is no secret that familiarity with health benefits is one way to feel empowered and to take control of healthcare decisions. It also aids in avoiding unexpected costs. And if the care is critical, knowing what is covered allows for the time to plan for covering the difference of needed treatments. In some cases, there are sponsored programs that can help with costs but this requires research in advance.

Prevent Illness. Knowing the specifics of coverage ensures that people can take advantage of the services and treatments covered by their insurance plan, especially for prevention. Unfortunately, we know that many patients forgo annual wellness visits, screenings and vaccines when these are the types of interventions that can prevent more serious health problems.

Provide Needed "Intelligence." Your healthcare provider can be your best ally if you know your benefits and educate them on these. This is especially helpful for people with chronic conditions—people living with diabetes, high blood pressure or HIV—whereby having access to needed medications, treatment regimens and even medical equipment is critical. Having an understanding of benefits assures that these are "working hard" for patients.

As for how to be a "student" of your health coverage? Here are a few simple steps:

  1. Get familiar with terminology. There are many great resources like https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/.
  2.  Review your insurance materials carefully and call the plan to ask if your preferred healthcare provider and clinic is in-network.
  3.  Connect with your clinic and discuss treatment questions ahead of a visit. Our Spectrum Medical clinic talks to more than 100 patients a day, many with non-urgent health questions.
  4.  Read the RX portion of your plan and become familiar with what medications are covered. If you have a chronic condition, know the difference between generic and brand names.

    There is a lot to be gained in knowing your health benefits. Navigating them won’t always be easy, but know that health providers are allies in this journey.