Punk Rock HR Question #3: Resourceful Father Needs HR & Benefits Advice

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Dear Laurie,

My son was diagnosed with ADHD. I am taking advantage of my benefits to the fullest extent possible. FMLA for time off to handle appointments and issues at school, flexible work schedule, mental and health benefits for specialists, and my wife and I are talking to a counselor through my employee assistance program. My manager is flexible when I take time off for my son, so I’m lucky.

I feel like I have to go to Human Resources and tell them what I’m eligible for instead of the other way around. If I have to look out for myself, can you tell me what I’m missing out on? What else can help me and my family?

Thanks,
Dad Who Is Trying

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Dear Tryin’ Dad,

I am very impressed that you have such a handle on your benefits package, and I know this knowledge came with a tremendous amount of research and hard work. Most companies outsource the management of benefit plans, these days, so HR is there for basic guidance only.

I hear what you’re saying, though. Sometimes it seems as if Human Resources is less resourceful than one would expect. This is because many HR people are trained in very specific areas — or not trained at all — and we have a very limited knowledge of benefit plans. Don’t even get me started on pension plans. I once had a colleague ask me for retirement advice and I suggested that he call his financial planner.

He asked, “What do they pay you for, Laurie?”

Good question, chump. I’m very sure they don’t pay me to advise you about the most opportune time to retire. And by the way, thanks for being a baby boomer and sapping my social security.

I am sympathetic to your situation, Dad, because I fear that your future will be wrought with medical claims and long hours on the phone with your insurance provider. Your frustration will begin when the bills start to arrive: your benefits may be great, but they are useless if the medical billing specialists at your insurance company aren’t coding the claims properly. I’ve also seen claims rejected because doctors use an incorrect, numerical diagnosis on their end of the paperwork chain.

I recommend keeping a close watch on your benefits — save all EOBs, check them for accuracy, and log them into an Excel spreadsheet if necessary. Take advantage of your insurance provider’s electronic website to track claims and to understand your deductibles, co-payments, and annual out-of-pocket expenses.

I would also recommend that you take advantage of a Flexible Spending Account if your company offers this benefit. It’s another way to save yourself money on medical claims and childcare.

I have two final recommendations:

  1. If you have any issues with your insurance provider, attack those problems sooner rather than later. If there’s even a hint of confusion or issues with billing, you can ask your insurance company to assign a patient advocate to you. This person acts as a caseworker and will review your claims, sort through the paperwork, and establish a time line to address any confusion or billing issues. There are also outside resources and foundations that can provide a similar service.
  2. Finally, consider ways in which you can take this experience and share it with co-workers who are going through similar situations. At my former employers, there was an informal network of employees who came together and provided peer leadership on all sorts of issues: children with autism, surviving cancer, HIV/AIDS, aging parents, etc. If you’re someone who can listen and offer support, your skills are definitely needed at work. Due to HIPAA privacy regulations, this is not a company-sponsored endeavor; however, the best way to get plugged into a network of people with similar issues is to start opening up and sharing your own experiences at work. You will find out fairly quickly if someone needs your help.

Good luck, Dad. You’re doing great. If there are any other HR professionals who would like to add to this advice, please be sure to visit the comments section of this post.

Best,
Laurie Ruettimann

punkrockhr@gmail.com

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