Make sure your health benefits add up.

New job? Why you should worry about more than the salary

Obamacare’s been praised (and criticized) for letting people quit jobs they hate yet stayed in just for the health benefits. But a new study says it’s still important to look at employer plans before jumping ship.

You ignore benefits at your financial peril, according to a survey from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. The nonprofit, made up of state insurance regulators, polled 250 adult job-quitters and found…

  • 40 percent said improving finances was a major factor in quitting.
  • About 25 percent said insurance changes from switching jobs made their financial situation worse.
  • 73 percent said they spent a lot of time thinking about salary before the switch.
  • 20 percent said they spent as long thinking about insurance benefits.
  • 16 percent said they thought as much about out-of-pocket costs or gaps in coverage.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows health benefits average 8 to 12 percent of total compensation, depending on the industry and whether the job is private or government. Here’s a summary of just the civilian jobs, in the weird little categories the federal government uses…

Average value of employer health benefits
Occupational group Percent of total compensation
All civilian workers 9 percent
Management, business, and financial 7.3 percent
Professional and related 8.8 percent
Teachers 9.7 percent
Registered nurses 8.1 percent
Sales and related 6.7 percent
Office and administrative support 11.5 percent
Construction, extraction, farming, fishing, and forestry 9.1 percent
Installation, maintenance, and repair 9.4 percent
Production 11.1 percent
Transportation and material moving 11.4 percent

What to watch for

Now that you know that ignoring benefits can cost you, here’s what you should keep in mind…

  • Make a direct comparison. Get a document called the Summary of Benefits and Coverage for the plans from your current/former and future employer, which will let you compare the details of the plan line by line and ensure deductibles and co-pays are what you expect.
  • Ask if your new job has a waiting period. Employer benefits, including health insurance, often don’t kick in when you start — there might be a probationary period of a few weeks to a few months. Make sure you have coverage during that time. One option is to purchase COBRA coverage, which continues the benefits of the plan you were on but requires you to pick up the full tab, including what your employer may have been paying.
  • Check out the Obamacare exchange. If you’ve had employer coverage till now, you haven’t necessarily had a reason to look at the Obamacare plans. But if you leave a job, you’re eligible to enroll outside the normal enrollment period, and you may have cheaper, better options.
  • See if the government will CHIP in. You don’t want a lapse in coverage to affect your kids, even if you’re willing to temporarily go without coverage. So visit InsureKidsNow.gov to see if they qualify for free or low-cost care through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which varies by state. You can enroll in CHIP year-round.
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