Benefits are very important to employees and human resources professionals receive many questions on that subject. Last week, the Mississippi Business Journal asked a few HR workers who field these questions every day about the ones most frequently asked. It comes as no surprise that questions about healthcare benefits are the winners.
Devon Stribling, who works in benefits at Trustmark Bank in Jackson, says approximately 90% of the questions he receives are about healthcare and the number one on that subject is an inquiry about the effective date of coverage.
“Employees also want to know about networks — who’s in it; which providers — and we let them know they have better coverage if they stay in the network,” he said. “It’s confusing. We spend a lot of time going over it during orientation and on the phone explaining it.”
Stribling says Trustmark employees often want to know who they can contact with the insurance carrier if they have a problem with a claim. “Usually the problem is because of something simple like a wrong address and we help them work it out,” he said.
His advice to employees everywhere is to read employer handbooks and newsletters that go out periodically explaining benefits. “That would really help,” he said.
Questions, questions, questions
At Singing River Healthcare Systems in Pascagoula, HR director Nebo Carter agrees that healthcare is the hot topic.
“The most common questions are about the amount of insurance co-pays, prescription costs and which physicians can be used,” he said. “The most unusual question that I can recall ever receiving is if they can add their elderly parents or grandparents to their medical insurance.”
Stribling gets some of those questions about adding someone who’s not eligible, such as a boyfriend, to healthcare plans, too.
Eligibility, vacation and retirement
Ann Bell gets those eligibility questions at Mississippi State University (MSU) where she is director of the Department of Human Resources Management.
“Also, employees often want to know why health premiums are so expensive, and if they can add or drop dependent coverage at any time during the year,” she said. “Others are: does MSU offer a vision plan, and how much does it cost to add a spouse or child?”
She was even asked if an employee who waived health insurance coverage could get the employer’s part of the premium to apply to another health policy.
Carter says there are lots of questions about vacation and holiday time, too. “Employees always want to know how many paid time off days (PTO) they are eligible for and how much they accrue each pay period,” he said.
This being vacation season, Stribling is getting asked what employees are to do if they have an emergency while traveling. “We tell them their coverage will remain in place,” he said.
Bell says retirement brings about lots of questions, too. Many of the questions are simple. When can I retire? Is retirement mandatory? Can I contribute more or less to the state retirement? In the event of a financial hardship, can I borrow against the state retirement? How much will I receive each month or year? How much service credit will I receive for my unused leave?
“Then some are a little different. Like, ‘Can I work part time for MSU or another covered agency or public school after I retire?’ Or, ‘If I don’t like retirement, can I rescind my retirement and come back to work full time?’” she said.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.