Where do you go in the event of a health crisis?

That often depends on the source of your health insurance.

If insurance is provided through an employer, you may turn to the Human Resources Manager. Often the crisis will entail taking time off work to attend appointments for self or others, so it’s appropriate to contact the manager. Typically this person knows the most about company policy for time off as well as the benefits of the health or disability plans of the firm.

The best of HR professionals are familiar with other sources of assistance such as State Disability and can direct you how and where to go to start a claim.

According to a recent article by Standard Insurance company, their research shows “employees who worked with an HR manager were more likely to receive communication on leave and returned to work 44% faster than when they worked with their direct supervisor”. So if you feel like your supervisor is just passing the buck when they send you to HR, you might want to reconsider.

If you are an employer, this might be the time to really appreciate those HR professionals who are so well versed in the resources and ultimately keeping your work force productive.

Whether it’s financial wellness support, connection to mental health resources through an EAP or one-on-one sessions with a health coach the HR department is most likely to know about the resources or at least be able to direct the employee as to where to find out the information.

Often that HR professional relies on a well-informed insurance broker to assist them as well.

In my experience, the best HR professionals genuinely care about the employee and want them to have access to the best care as well as options and assistance in addressing the problems. At times there may be a lack of respect from upper management for those “touchy-feely” relationships that are developed by HR with employees.

Upper management is often bottom line oriented and do not necessarily appreciate their employees as a core asset. I am always disappointed when I hear a manger or owner say, “they are lucky to have a job!” implying that the employee is easily replaced.

I venture to say in today’s economy that is not necessarily true. But further, I feel that the employer is simply missing the point. More often than not, employee commitment and loyalty are earned by owners and managers that truly care about their employees. This investment pays dividends in the long run. And that’s not even including the good karma that is generated!

For the self-employed or those working for small employers without an HR department, dealing with a health crisis is usually more chaotic. You will get advice from friends who have “been there”, and/or google around trying to figure out benefit options. You may call our own insurance broker or financial advisor to get pointers and direction on the next steps.

As someone once said, “who knew health care was so complicated?” I can assure you that most HR professionals and insurance brokers have known this fact for a long time!

Considering that most families are paying as much as a house payment for insurance benefits, you want to take advantage of all the perks that come with the plans.

Most plans now include some telehealth benefits that allow you to access a board certified physician by phone or internet. This can be a huge time saver for minor illnesses. Typically there is a low copayment required by the individual to access the benefit.

Other benefits include fitness tracking and coaching apps that can help keep one motivated toward fitness goals. My husband’s health plan recently enrolled him in a program for monitoring his habits and as a perk included a new digital scale that measures weight, body fat and even tells you how many calories you need to burn to simply maintain your current weight. (It does not however come with a shock device to put on the cookie jar!)

Most of the Blues have access to programs like a “Decision Guide” that will help the individual evaluate treatment options by providing information and questions to ask your provider. The Mayo Clinic website is terrific for learning about treatment options as well as understanding the diagnosis.

Keep all the search cautions in mind. Beware the source of the information. Wikipedia may be great for general information, but do not base a major decision on what your find there. Be careful of “sponsored” sights that are not-so-clearly designed for marketing rather than information.

Consider doing “incognito” searches if you don’t want the next person who uses your computer to know that you may have serious illness and erase your browsing history. Foremost: be your own advocate!

Margaret R. Beck
Margaret Beck  CLU, ChFC, CEBS started her insurance practice in Redding in 1978. As an insurance broker/consultant,  she represents businesses and individuals as their advocate.  She assists in choosing proper products, compliance with complex benefit laws and claims issues once coverage is placed. All information in her column is provided to the best of her knowledge, subject to final regulation by the respective agencies. Questions to be answered in this column can be submitted to [email protected]. Beck's column is also published in the Redding Record Searchlight.
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