Your employer provided health benefits may be about to shrink

A November 18, 2010 article in the Business Section of the Los Angeles Times reports that costs for health insurance benefits for employees have risen 8.4% this year in California. The rise in costs for health benefits was greater in California than nationally which only saw a rise of 6.9%. The article attributed the cost increase to employees possibly using more healthcare services for fear of losing their coverage if they are laid off.

Employer-provided health benefits are traditionally the best coverage available and lowest rates for participants. However, at the end of the calendar year, when most employers will update their benefit plans, it is important to review the health benefits that are provided by your employer and any changes for the next calendar year. For example, employers may notify employees that benefit deductibles or co-pays may be increase. The article states that “California employers said they expected to hold their cost increases next year to 7.8% by changing the benefits they offer or by picking new insurance vendors.” The implication is that California employers will attempt to curb cost increases by reducing employees’ health benefits.

Furthermore, if you are facing a job loss, your employer is required to notify you of your rights under COBRA, the federal act which provides employees the opportunity to continue their health benefits after their job termination for a limited period of time. Additional information on COBRA notification may be found at the Department of Labor website: http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/cobramodelnotice.html

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