Is your insurance cover worth the paper it's written on?


Let's talk about something you're not likely to read about too often in business papers, yet is something that your fellow co-workers are likely to discuss among themselves at the water cooler - the quality of their insurance coverage.

While it seems that everything that needs to be said on the subject has been said, I'd like to address a frequent problem that people tend to ignore until it hits home.

Most salaried employees working in high-earning sectors (information technology, for example) generally equate decent health insurance as an expected benefit. After all, the common perception is that it's usually unskilled positions that are synonymous with inadequate, or non-existent, health insurance benefits.

Take note, as this is no longer the case - just don't expect to read about white collared workers protesting in the streets of Boston or Atlanta any time soon. As Business Week just pointed out, the number of companies offering employees health insurance coverage has slipped almost eight percent in six years.

Indeed, a recent Harvard study showed that 75 percent of people who file for bankruptcy due to illness started off with coverage.

Even though many salaried employees may feel secure in knowing that their families are protected through health insurance programs subsidized to some degree by their employer, the wakeup call may come when you actually try to use your benefits!

For example, a former colleague was once inexplicably denied asthma coverage (breathing apparently is not a birthright) by their large insurance carrier, despite being part of a large company with an expensive policy.

Another example is that of an overweight former colleague being denied weight management or surgical coverage because his employer didn't pay for that particular rider. Curiously, had the guy had a cocaine or whisky problem, the company and insurance carrier would have covered it (did I mention that the employer also had a zero tolerance drug abuse policy?)

In both cases, it seems that the plastic insurance card is only really valuable if you need a family practitioner to give you something for your cough. Even worse is dental insurance, where a single dental act can void your coverage for the rest of the calendar year!

While most of us in the business world can appreciate the rising costs of health insurance, we should also realize that investing in our companies also means investing in our employees and their health. For bottom-liners concerned about the cost, can you really afford to have employees not taking care of themselves?

In any case, it's not likely that any of the major insurance carriers or corporate decision makers are likely to wake up and seriously ponder this question - not while they're collecting wages that most of us would have trouble counting all the zeroes to the left of the decimal, and certainly not when they've got the promise of full coverage for life.