How to Evaluate a Company’s Benefits
5 min read •
30 sec brief
Evaluating employer benefits is important. Whether you're deciding between two different employers, or evaluating changing your benefit options during open enrollment, it's important to understand the different kinds of options your employer offers.
Whether you’re in the job market looking for a new gig or you’re wondering if your current company’s benefits are all they’re cracked up to be, we’ll help you figure out what you need and what just sounds good on paper.
We’re going to go out on a limb and say that everyone needs not just medical insurance, but affordable premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses as well as coverage that fits their circumstances. Here are some examples of possible medical benefits:
Individual coverage under a traditional group plan
If your employer has 50 or more employees, they are legally required to offer you health insurance at an affordable rate, and even if they don’t have more than 50 employees, most companies know that it’s good business to have a healthy workforce.
In 2018, all employers covered an average of 82 percent of the cost of premiums for individual coverage. Which is great! But here’s the thing: the workplace is a diverse landscape that includes people of all ages and health needs and a traditional group plan is meant to satisfy as many of those people as possible. So if you’re a young, healthy person who doesn’t take regular prescriptions, you could end up over-covered by your company’s group plan and thus paying too much money(even with your employer’s contribution) for healthcare. You might benefit more from a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) with a health savings account (HSA) that will allow you to build up a health savings safety net for later on when you’ll really need comprehensive health coverage.
Conversely, if you have a chronic condition that needs monitoring, you could end up under-covered under a group health plan. In this case, you might benefit more from a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) that allows you to use company money to buy the appropriate plan for you in the marketplace.
Family coverage under a group plan
Family health insurance coverage is the most expensive benefit for employees (outside of prescription drug coverage for specialty and tier 4 drugs). This is because most employers contribute a lower percentage to the premiums for family coverage than they do to the premiums for individual plans. In 2018, all employers paid for an average of 71 percent of premiums (compared to 82 percent of individual plans). This meant the average family paid $13,927 for their health premiums.
If you need family coverage and your spouse isn’t able to cover the family, you’ll want to consider looking for an employer that offers family health insurance coverage. But just like with the individual plan, you and your family could end up over or under-covered in a group health plan. You’ll have to evaluate your family’s needs and do the math on whether your employer’s contribution toward premiums plus the deductible and likely out-of-pocket expenses makes the group plan more or less expensive than buying a plan in the marketplace.
Dental and vision insurance
These types of insurance are relatively inexpensive for your employer to offer so most will. Again, we’re going to go on a limb and say everyone needs dental insurance and since most group dental plans are affordable, this is something you should probably buy. Vision insurance is a little different as it’s not something you typically purchase unless you need it. It’s nice to have the option to purchase a plan should you feel glasses or contacts are in your near future.
Mental health insurance
This is a benefit that people without a diagnosed mental illness or people who are not currently seeking counseling might dismiss. If you have a stressful job or personal life, affordable access to mental health professionals could be a huge asset.
Retirement plans like pensions and 401(k)s are more typical of large employers, a good portion of which offer contribution matching up to a certain point. If your employer offers this type of benefit, you should definitely take advantage of it by contributing up to the matched amount (provided you can afford it). Otherwise, you’re leaving free money on the table.
Paid leave and PTO
Vacation time, sick days, maternity and paternity leave, leave to care for a family member, time off for school, time to decompress after a stressful project—at least one of these situations will apply to you at some point during your employment, and you want to make sure your employer allows you to take the time you need.
But how much time do you need? If traveling is a major priority for you, you’ll want a PTO package that allows for at least three weeks a year as well as flexible work arrangements during holiday travel. If you want to take time off for career development, you’ll want to make sure your company allows employees to take a sabbatical. If you or your partner are pregnant or planning to get pregnant in the near future, you’ll want to look for a paid leave package that includes at least a month for the non-birthing parent, and at least 12 weeks for the birthing parent.
Student loan repayment and tuition reimbursement
If you’re new to the workforce and just getting out of school, tuition reimbursement and student loan repayments should be extremely attractive benefits for you. The quicker you get out of debt (and don’t take on any more debt), the more opportunities you’ll have to build your wealth.
The employer benefits that speak to you are completely dependent on your needs and your financial situation. The best way to evaluate your options is to take stock of your current and near future needs and decide which benefits will best meet those needs.
About the author
Lauren Hargrave is a writer from San Francisco who focuses on technology, finance and wellness. She follows comedians like most people follow bands and believes an outdoor sweat session can cure almost any bad mood. She’s also been writing her first novel for so long, her mom doesn’t ask about it anymore.
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