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Eat Your Damn HMO and Like It! [HorroR Stories]

Dear HorroR Stories,

I hate my HR Department, they are so strict and I don’t understand why. I never got a dental insurance card and when I went to them to ask about it, they said I never signed up for dental insurance. And then they said I couldn’t just add it on, but I had to wait until the end of the year. Why? I think they are just being bitches.

–Crooked teeth

Dear Crooked,

My first reaction to reading your question was: “Huh, that HR Department doesn’t communicate very well with its employees.” I mean, if you are going to prevent someone from enrolling in the dental plan, you should at least explain why. But then I thought about it for a minute, I looked back on the past 15 years of my professional life and changed my mind. Nope, I’ve got your HR Department’s back on this one.

So, just for fun, open up Outlook the next time you are at work and click on “All Mail Items” and then in the search box type: “Open Enrollment.” Depending on how long you’ve been at the company, and how much storage space they allow you to keep in Outlook, you should see at least one email per year pop up. Nothing shuts off employees’ ears like the words “Open Enrollment.” It never ceases to amaze me, I mean we are talking about benefits, which by definition, are good things. Why don’t you care?

For those of you who automatically delete any email you get from HR, I guess I should explain what Open Enrollment is before I go any further. Your company has a benefit year, usually it’s the same as the calendar year, but sometimes it isn’t. Toward the end of that year, the carriers collect a bunch of information from your HR Department, send it to their underwriters and come back with a quote for the next benefit year that is usually 20-30% higher than the year before. This begins the dance, as Benefit Managers and their brokers try to come up with ways to save money that will still be acceptable to the employees, because that 20-30% increase is not acceptable to the CEO or the Board of Directors. Sometimes they have to find a new carrier. Health insurance carriers are notorious for low-balling an offer to get a company’s business the first year and then hiking the premiums the second year. Then, if you keep changing carriers to keep ahead of the curve, not only does your entire employee population hate you, but carriers will stop quoting you all together. What a racket.

Once negotiations are done, and your hard working Benefit Manager has gotten the increase down to an acceptable 10%, the next phase begins. We all sit around and try to determine the best way to communicate all this to employees. We decide when “Open Enrollment” will begin and end, emails are sent out, booklets are sent to the printers, Tums are passed around your HR Department like M&Ms.

So, who cares? That’s their job, right? Well, YOU should care, for lots of reasons. The number one reason is that Open Enrollment is the only time you can add a benefit or change a benefit during the year. This includes adding your spouse, domestic partner or kids to your plan. Once Open Enrollment is closed, you are locked in until next Open Enrollment. The only exception to this is if you have a “life event” during the year, ie: marriage, birth, death, or if you were on your spouse’s plan and they lost their job, etc.  And why is this, what sort of Nazi came up with this rule? Actually, I don’t know. I suspect it has something to do with the IRS, because all those deductions are pre-tax. But I’m not really sure. I imagine the carriers also don’t want people bouncing in and out of the plan during the year, costs being what they are and all. But, honestly I don’t know the reason and I don’t really care. It’s the way it is, and it’s like that everywhere you go, so get the hell over it and get your ass to the Open Enrollment meeting and listen to what they are telling you and for God’s sake, turn your freaking forms in on time!

My first job in HR was administering benefits, and after two years of that, I ran screaming away and never looked back. Sure, I still get called into the occasional broker meeting, and if an employee asks me a question I know the answer to, I of course answer them. But, my goodness, you are all just a bunch of ingrates. I know how Obama feels, let me tell you. Why should I have to shove healthcare down your throats? And I’ve made it as easy as possible; I’m even giving out free toothbrushes and eyeglass repair kits! Why, oh why don’t employees care about Open Enrollment?

Even my Dear Husband, who loves to piss me off by doing all the dopey things that employees do. He’ll mumble something about Open Enrollment, grumble about having to attend a meeting, having to *gasp* fill out a whole form. All while clutching his mysterious brand new toothbrush and tiny screwdriver that he can’t remember where he got. I’ll ask him questions:

Me: “Are you changing carriers this year?”
Dopey Husband: “I don’t know.”
Me: “Are they changing your copays?”
Dopey Husband: “I don’t know.”
Me: “Are they changing your payroll deduction?”
Dopey Husband: “I don’t think so. What’s a Flexible Spending Plan again?”

Really? What’s a Flexible Spending Plan? If I have to explain that one more time I might end up in some loony bin where I just sit in an empty room all day explaining the difference between HMO and PPO to teddy bears.

Do you realize how many millions of dollars your company spends on your health insurance every year? This reminds me of a time, very early in my career, when I worked for a non-profit. Now I don’t remember the occasion, but my boss decided to have me order a nice lunch for the whole staff. This might seem like nothing to you, but at the time it was a big deal. We were cheapskates, big time, and we employed the pickiest employees on the face of the planet, so just figuring out what to order was like trying to pass a healthcare bill in Congress.  So I settled on a deli platter- the UN of office lunches. And there we are, gathered around our common table in the back, scooping up cold cuts and macaroni salad when the 90 year old bookkeeper who works part time announces: “The turkey is green.” And, honestly, that’s how I always felt when I worked in Benefits. I just gave away my first born so we could keep the costs down and only increase your payroll deduction by $0.50, could you at least take a glance at my fucking power point presentation? I’M TRYING TO HELP YOU.

So, dear Crooked Teeth, I challenge that you already know the answer to your question. Unless you just got married or gave birth, your teeth are going to have to remain crooked until the end of the year, sorry. You should think about setting aside some money in a Flexible Spending Account to help pay for those braces. And, the way things go, they are probably going to have to cut out orthodontia from your plan next year to save money. Don’t blame your HR Department, blame Blue Cross or whoever your carrier is. They are up there with oil companies when it comes to evil. They are making money hand over fist and they don’t care that it’s all of our lives that the decisions they make affect. So take some responsibility for your health care and show the fuck up and listen. I know it’s boring but you might actually get some news you can use. And while you are at it, thank your HR Department, buy them a muffin or something. Stop focusing on the fact that the turkey is green and be grateful for the fact they are still serving it to you!

Good Luck out there,
Madame HR

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