Cynthia Bengtson has served in the employee benefits field for over 30 years as a benefits leader at ARCO/British Petroleum. She now cares for three elder relatives in two different states and works with voluntary supplemental employee benefits with Combined Worksite Solutions focusing on businesses with little or no budget for employee benefits. Its a pleasure to have have Cynthia as a friend and valuable resource.
One question that Cynthia often gets is, 'Why take voluntary benefits into Medicare years?'
Here are Cynthia's insights:
Voluntary supplemental plans do not pay doctors or hospitals. Voluntary plans pay you cash benefits when you obtain medical treatment for an accident or illness. You can use the cash benefits however you wish—to pay for
· deductibles and co-pays;
· alternative or experimental medical treatment;
· rent, mortgage, gas, groceries or other non-medical out of pocket expenses;
· travel costs to have relatives come to take care of you or vica versa
· and more!!
Voluntary plans are not major medical plans—they are cash flow protection plans and should be viewed as part of one’s financial protection strategy.
Voluntary plans to pay you cash in case of:
- Critical Illness (heart attack, stroke, MS, blindness, etc)
- Certain wellness activities like mammograms, pap smears, blood screenings and more
Keeping a voluntary plan after you are eligible for Medicare could help with your cash flow and help pay for extra care needed after an injury or illness including the costs of children or relatives traveling to care for you or extra caregiver services.
Various companies offer voluntary plans today. Be aware:
· Not all companies allow all plans to continue past age 65. Research each company’s plans before enrolling.
· Some plans include cancer in the critical illness plans; others do not and offer a separate cancer only plan.
· Some plans reduce benefits at age 65 or 70.
· The cost of many plans is based upon age at issuance of the policy and the younger you are when you join the plan the lower your premium will be.
· Traditionally, premiums are fixed at purchase and do not increase over the years—but ask the insurance company agent!
· Voluntary plans can be obtained on an individual basis or through a Company at group rates and on a pre-tax basis if desired.
· Some companies allow you to file claims online or over the telephone.
· Most plans pay claims within 4-10 days. Ask each company about their performance.
· The payment methods for individual plans vary. Make sure you understand all your options.
· Industry experts recommend you set aside one hour’s wage per week for voluntary plan coverage. Make sure you stay on your budget.
· Purchase only the protection you need. Do not get “over sold” more plans that you need. Insure only what you can not afford to lose.
· Make sure you know who your individual agent is and have his/her direct phone number!
Voluntary plans might be of help to you. Be aware of your options and make the right decision for you or your elder relatives!