Not all medical benefits packages are created equal. While some offer the world, others may only offer coverage on the bare minimum. No matter where you are in the scale, if you have a medical benefits plan, you will often not use everything and you may not even know all the options available to you. As medical benefits generally run on a yearly cycle, this is a great time to brush up your knowledge.
What medical benefits do you have access to?
It is true that some countries have robust, government-funded healthcare systems accessible to all citizens; however, many only provide for basics in government hospitals. Some companies offer employees full medical benefits to compensate for this, while others work with third party medical provider to supply options to employees at their own cost. Every country, company, provider, and plan is different, and it is up to you to find all of the details on your coverage.
Get the details of your medical benefits
Remember the flurry of activity when you started your new job? Sometime during all of that you were probably handed a stack of pamphlets/papers/documents, and sandwiched in there was a breakdown of all your medical benefits. If you don’t remember where you filed these details ask your HR team or Benefits coordinator how you can get hold of another copy.
If the company provides medical benefits, your outline will state exact allocations for each category of health and medical. If your company works with a provider that allows you to tailor your coverage, you would have been able to put your own plan together based on the needs of you and your family. Re-educate yourself on the specifics. For example, while some plans have full coverage on dental, others will only cover a percentage. The best way to know what you are eligible for is to get informed.
This is also a good time to re-assess if your plan is still robust enough to cover any changing life circumstances. If you have recently gotten married, have you added your spouse to your plan? Did you get a basic plan when you were 22 and invincible, and now realise that dental coverage might be a good idea? Walk through any changes you are looking to make and ensure you are getting the medical coverage you need.
Get those appointments booked
The end of the year is near, and we are about to enter the busiest season for massage therapists, dentists, opticians, chiropractors, and a lot of other medical practitioners. As people realise the unclaimed coverage they have remaining, they start booking appointments to make sure everything is used up before it is lost. It is a good practice to call your practitioners and see what their availability is for the rest of the year. Booking in advance will give you more flexibility on time and will allow you to space your appointments out through the end of December.
Careful you don’t overspend
As you are busy booking appointments and doing check-ups, make sure you are doing it all in line with the guidelines your plan provides. For example a lot of optical plans cover glasses every 2 years. Make sure you are not within that 2 year mark; otherwise you may be responsible for covering the full costs.
Additional health care spending fund
If you have a health spending allowance in your plan, pay attention to the balance available to you this year. Some packages allow you to carry over a certain portion. If you know of a big medical purchase or treatment you will have in the new year, you may be able to save your allowance to cover that cost.
Your health care spending fund may also cover health and wellness outside of a medical practitioner’s office. Depending on your plan, you may even be able to allocate that spending to a gym membership, a child’s sport activities in a club, or even a new pair of running shoes.
Access to Employee and Family Assistance Programs (EFAP)
Employee and Family Assistance Programs are incredibly underutilised by employees. Most medical benefits offer a version of an EFAP; it may go by a different name but they all function generally the same way.
Most of us assume that an EFAP is only for crisis management and counselling. While these are 2 important areas of this coverage, that is not all they offer. Many plans have medical and/or certified professionals assisting with a full suite of services from lifestyle changes to coaching. From career counselling, health plans with a nutritionist, stress management, retirement planning, to bereavement assistance, your EFAP is an incredible resource that we encourage everyone to fully investigate.
Not all are so lucky
There are many people the world over who don’t have the luxury of medical coverage. If you are lucky enough to have benefits available to you, please use them to their full degree to better the health of yourselves and your families.
Don’t make any assumptions about what medical benefits you have or how they work. Get informed and be empowered by that information.