Benefits At Work
Work can be the source of benefits to pay medical bills, give you a regular income, and protect what you have accumulated over the years.
If you try to purchase insurance to meet these needs individually, you will likely be subjected to medical underwriting -- the company will look at your health history and decide whether to accept you. If it does accept you, it may decide to charge an increased premium. Of course, you may not qualify at all because of your health condition.
If you obtain these benefits through your employer, there may not be health questions at all -- or only a few of them. When deciding about benefits, consider the following steps:
Step 1. Review your current benefits.
- To find out what benefits you already have, see your Employee Handbook. If you don't have one, ask for a copy from your employer.
- If you have not disclosed your health condition at work (in which case we advise you read our article about Disclosure), consider a plausible cover explanation for the request. For example, you could tell your employer that you have an obnoxious (friend)(family member) who is (an insurance person)(a financial planner) who is insisting on reviewing your benefits for you with the hope of selling you something.
Step 2. Decide which benefits are important to you.
Following are the benefits it is advisable to consider if you don't already have them:
- Health Insurance: Health Insurance is the most important part of a benefits package since it provides access to health care without bankrupting you.
- Does your plan provide what you need?
- Does it allow you to go to the doctors to whom you want to go?
- Review our section on health insurance for information on Evaluating Health Plans.
- Thanks to COBRA and COBRA-like state laws, once you get employer based health insurance you are able to keep some form of health coverage for up to 29 months as long as you pay the premiums for it. If you are "disabled" as defined by Social Security when you leave work, at the end of the 29 month period, you qualify for Medicare. If you don't qualify for Medicare, HIPAA also makes sure you can convert your group coverage into individual health insurance.
- If you don't have health insurance through work, there are other ways to obtain health insurance in spite of your health condition.
- Also thanks to the federal law HIPAA, if you have health coverage at work, you can probably change jobs and not be subjected to a new pre-existing condition exclusion.
- Long Term Disability Insurance: Next in importance to health insurance is a steady source of income in case you become unable to work. Trying to get by on just what Social Security pays can be difficult whether it is paid as Social Security Retirement or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This is particularly the case if you receive money from Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Having a disability policy that adds just a few hundred dollars a month to Social Security can greatly improve your quality of life.
- Readily offered by many large employers, Long Term Disability Insurance is also available regardless of your health condition when offered by an employer -- although as you'll read in our article on Long Term Disability, you usually need to be covered for twelve months before it covers your current condition.
- Also consider the following, which are discussed in other sections of this article:
Step 3. If your employer offers more benefits than you currently have: Find out when and how you can request the additional benefits. Perhaps your employer has an open enrollment period every year. To learn more, see Open Enrollment.
If your employer doesn't offer the benefits you need, this may be the time to consider changing jobs to an employer that provides benefits that suit you better. You are protected against job lock: