What To Know About Group Benefit Plans

This week, I invited Carol Guerieri of Policyowner Advisory, Inc. in NYC to be my guest blogger. Carol is a pro at insurance review, planning and analysis. Having been in the industry for over 20 years, she has seen virtually every scenario possible and can help you to protect yourself and those you love not only in bad times, but in good times. I’ve asked Carol to share some insights on how to handle insurance coverage when your career may be in flux, and whose isn’t these days?

According to our insurance guru Carol, there are valuable need-to-know aspects of a benefits plan whether you are:
- Currently employed
- Suddenly unemployed
- Have been unemployed for a period of time
- An employer
- Faced with having to lay off employees

Group disability and life insurance policies are extremely valuable employer-offered group benefits. Group disability is generally discounted and the life insurance is often free and offered at 1-1/2 times your salary. What makes these benefits so valuable? You can take them with you should you leave your firm voluntarily or if you are laid off. Why is it important to consider taking the policies with you? Because you may be unable to obtain the insurance as an individual because you are uninsurable, or you have a health problem that you were unaware of that would result in very expensive premiums. In addition, you may not qualify for disability income insurance because you are unemployed, or for life insurance because you do not have the means to pay. (Most insurers require that you that you have a source of income in order to obtain a life insurance policy.)

One of the media financial gurus writes that you should get your ‘own’ coverage whether or not you are laid off. I agree, and let me go one step further. Individuals who require protection for themselves and their loved ones should have individual coverage along with their company-sponsored plans. Yet, the truth is that many people don’t go this extra step and obtain personal individual insurance. If you find yourself in this situation, do NOT allow your company sponsored group insurance to lapse. Most company-sponsored group insurance policies can be converted. Go to your Human Resource Department and get the details whether you are leaving the firm, staying with the firm, or moving onto another position. Learn all you can about the benefits offered by the organization. Lapse, discontinue or cancel your converted individual insurance policy only after you have received an offer of insurance and have purchased a policy that is suitable to your needs, in your best interests, at the right cost, and with the appropriate insurance carrier.

Important Note on Health Insurance: Recent COBRA changes under The American Recovery Reinvestment Act of 2009 (signed into law on February 17, 2009 by President Obama) are of particular interest to those recently unemployed, as well as to those employers who are required to offer COBRA coverage. This particular line of insurance really requires a blog posting all its own. Hopefully Karen will invite me to guest blog again. Until then, please post your comments and your questions.

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