Admininstrators: Understand Your Benefits

From the Freakonomics Blog, by Steven J. Levitt:

"Even once you factor in the cost of buying a membership at Costco and Sam’s Club, the price differences were astounding. Here are the prices he found at Houston stores for 90 tablets of generic Prozac:

Walgreens: $117

Eckerd: $115

CVS: $115

Sam’s Club: $15

Costco: $12

Those aren’t typos. Walgreens charges $117 for a bottle of the same pills for which Costco charges $12."

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I am the type of person that understands my insurance benefits...Because I use them regularly. But if you are an extremely healthy executive, how much explaining can you do if an employee asks about the organization's benefits? Can you talk through the prescription? Muddle through the medical? Dance around the dental? Enough cliche aside...

Here are some tips for managing your organization's insurance benefits:

1. Use 'em or lose 'em: Promote your organizational benefits to encourage regular usage. If your company is already paying a flat percentage of premiums, then be sure to take advantage of this employee benefit as an employer. Insurance benefits should be used not only as a retention tool, but also as a hiring incentive. I've seen both sides and I understand managing total cost, but encouraging employee utilization can have a positive financial impact on your bottom line if it means retaining good employees.

2. Be able to explain benefits to your staff: I can describe our insurance benefits to staff because I have firsthand experience. This is easier because we share an identical benefits package. When talking employees through the mail-order prescription program or laboratory co-pays, it is much easier if you have experienced the situation first-hand. Help employees save money through better benefit utilization, and educate them on medical care as a consumer product.

3. Promote lesser-used benefits. Orthodontia. Bariatric surgery. Catastrophic coverage. Childcare. Your employer may or may not offer these line items (and did you know that the employer chooses exactly what is covered as well as what percent). If they or you do, be ready to explain and promote these items as an employee benefit. Research how you compare to other local employers on certain benefits. They have been added to the plan for a reason.

4. The Simple Things Matter to EVERYONE. Physician co-pays. Deductibles. Pharmacy formularies. Remember, part of your JOB is to understand what your company provides, whether that means doing in-house research or using the benefits yourself. Unless you are running a massive (400+ bed organization) you need to be able to talk any employee through the basics. Besides, it's good economics for yourself.

5. Make all employees EQUAL. So far, every organization I have worked for has made my insurance benefits equal to front-line staff. If this is not the case, fight for equality in benefits. As Administrative personnel, you have plenty of bonus opportunities. Don't take advantage of insurance benefits to supplement your income. Use your benefits. Pay for them the same as your CNAs and Environmental Staff. Understand how the benefits work so you are prepared to help other staff utilize them to their benefit.

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