Happiness will surely be yours. If only your group insurance rates weren’t so high…
September 1, 2015
It’s been a pretty dull week for office gossip and Survivor goings-on. However, you still need your 10 o’clock caffeine break, and you somehow find yourself in the lunchroom discussing your group insurance rates with co-workers. You quietly sneak away at the first opportunity. With a topic like this, you may as well do some actual work. Who knows, maybe your boss will actually notice you did something.
You can’t help but dwell on a few things your co-workers were saying. Mr. Two-Cubicles-Down said his wife’s group insurance plan has much better rates than what your employer is offering. And then there’s the Post-It Note Thief. She swears her individual Blue Cross insurance plan has even better rates still.
You tap open the calculator on your desktop and realize that if they are right, you would actually notice a difference in your take-home pay.
You gaze out the window and think: “How cool would it be if Cmdr. Chris Hadfield somehow came to work here now that he’s back on earth. He’ll probably end up getting anormal job once all the hooplah fades, right? What if he ended up at the desk beside me! Oh, the stories! No way HE would steal my Post-Its!
Integrity. He would have that reserved sort of integrity.
Moustaches… meh. Not for me, but he actually kinda pulls his off, if I’m to be honest.”
Then you think,
“Huh. That was pretty random. I should probably get this work done.”
You clacketty clack away, and yet, your mind still wanders back to your coffee break. Maybe you really are missing out. With lower group insurance rates, you could afford a new, more glamorous life. Never again will you discover yourself in the middle of a conversation about health insurance. Cmdr. Hadfield would hang off your every word, enticing you throughout the day to reveal some shiny new details about the function you were at last night at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Your colleagues will drip with adoration towards you, and happiness will surely be yours. Finally. If only your group insurance rates weren’t so high…
I get approached with this scenario quite often. Well, something similar to this scenario anyway. Someone will tell me about a colleague of theirs bragging that their spouse’s group insurance plan is better than theirs. I have yet to take a closer look and discover that even if this colleague is correct, it was nothing more than a coincidence. This colleague offers up their opinion through no malice whatsoever, but it is usually misleading, and more often than not based well outside the realm of fact.
Other times I will get a call from an employer looking for guidance after being approached by an employee with the same concerns. A benefits package is a major investment for any business, regardless of size, and when a business owner hears even a hint of resentment towards their group insurance plan offering, it can be very unsettling.
I wish I could offer a concise response to these concerns. I usually can’t answer their question; “Am I paying too much?” at all. All I can tell them is, “well, it depends”. An unsatisfactory response, I agree, but anything else would be an educated guess at best.
I am fond of using an analogy of the co-worker who seems to always gets the best deal on everything. He paid less for his car than you did. And according to him, his car is nicer. I would argue that this statement is just as difficult to measure as the claim that your group insurance rates are too high.
Is the ‘car’ the same year? Same make, model, colour, and mileage? His car doesn’t have your nice 19″ chrome rims or leather. Loudmouth’s car has a couple dings, is cat-puke-brown, and ughh… it’s an automatic.
Ok, so you can see where I am going with this. You need apples-to-apples for a fair comparison. I guarantee that no matter how similar two group insurance plans may seem – they are not.
So, unless you are an expert in the field of benefits consulting, and sometimes even if you are, it is extremely difficult to make a solid and defensible statement which declares one plan the winner. The larger the case, the more difficult this becomes. Variables which cloud these comparisons range from being cumbersome to rendering it downright impossible to draw a quantifiable conclusion.
Benefits packages are not what they used to be. They are not a commodity which can be easily bought, sold, or swapped-out to save a quick 5%. Seemingly irrelevant details hidden within the recesses of your renewal calculations, or the absence of a specific word on page eighty-whatever of your contract, can have real and irreversible consequences to plan sponsors and their members.
When someone tells you there is a better group insurance plan with better rates, please proceed with caution. It could be true, and may well be worth exploring further, but unless you are overly proficient with employee benefits and adjusting for maybe a hundred variables or more, you should regard their statements cautiously.