Career Advice: Know Your Health Plan When Evaluating Your Benefits Package

If your part-time or contractor position comes with a health insurance plan, follow this important career advice to make sure that it's just that-- health insurance. Even though benefits agencies and employers may call the package healthcarehealth insurance, the reality is that this type of plan is actually something very different, and it won't save you a whole lot of money.

Like health insurance plans, health incentive packages offer financial coverage for illnesses, ER visits, and regular check-ups. While health insurance plans cover substantial costs, health incentive packages will reimburse very little.

Believe it or not, some health incentive plans are outright scams that are under investigation by the Federal Government. According to The Consumerist, health incentive companies are masking their plans as insurance through deceptive practices. One company, Health Care One LLC, even went so far to suggest that it was affiliated with the federal government. Another company called the Consumer Health Benefits Association promised savings of up to 85 percent when in reality, prescription drug prices were more expensive on the plan.

While all of these programs may not be outright scams, they certainly can be misleading, especially for employees who think that they are receiving true health insurance.

This dilemma leads us to the big question: whose problem is it? Is it the government's responsibility to enforce legal consequences? In fact, the answer to this question is yes, and the FTC is pursuing action. Is it the employer's problem? Absolutely. Even if a health incentive package isn't a scam, it should not be marketed as a health insurance benefits package. It should be marketed for exactly what it is-- a medical discount plan with minimal value. Employers who are aware of this difference should make the distinction clear, and employers who are not sure about what's offered with their plans should make an effort to understand.

Above all, it's your responsibility as an employee and consumer to understand your benefits package. Don't be mislead by the term "health insurance," especially if you are young and entering the working world for the first time. For recent graduates and people under the age of 26, you may not realize that you're eligible for Obama's extension of health care benefits because you may think that you're already covered. Be careful not to accept the term "health insurance" at face value, especially if you weighing different career planning options or job offers.

From the FTC, here is some advice to help you distinguish health insurance from health incentives:

1) Double check the list of providers that are included in the plan.
2)Pay attention to the fine print, focusing especially on the fine print
3)Calculate actual costs by weighing your enrollment fees with your savings potential. Be sure to factor all costs of prescriptions and medical office visits.

What do you think? Have you enrolled in a medical discount plan, thinking that it was health insurance? What career advice do you have for people in this position?

Photo Credit: a.drian

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