Articles

As school bells ring, workers should study up on insurance benefits

The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are drawing to a close and kids are heading back to school. While many parents are waving goodbye at bus stops, others are fighting back tears – some of joy and some of sorrow – as older kids leave the nest for college dorms and off-campus apartments.

As an employer or broker, take advantage of this seasonal opportunity to communicate with workers about their benefits plans. After all, the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report revealed that 43 percent of workers believe their human resources departments communicate too little about health insurance options.1

Back-to-school is a natural time to launch communications that help ensure families have the right amounts and types of insurance coverage. After all, open enrollment is just around the corner, giving workers who aren’t adequately protected the opportunity to make changes. While their kids are settling into the new school year, parents should study up on these types of policies:

Health insurance

College life isn’t always the most sanitary, as parents who were once students themselves well know. Dorms and student apartment complexes are breeding grounds for colds, flu, respiratory infections, strep throat, meningitis and even the “kissing disease” – mononucleosis.

Employees should make sure their students are covered by adequate health insurance. Under current law, adult children can remain on or be added to their parents’ health insurance policies until they’re 26 years old, and that includes kids who live away from home or are attending school.

Companies should communicate with workers about the health insurance protection their plans offer to students, particularly those attending colleges far from home. Parents should know what their employer plans do and do not cover, as well as whether out-of-state treatment requires local referrals. Make sure workers have a list of approved providers so they can determine whether in-network coverage is easily accessible in the city or town in which their child’s college is located.

If parents’ employer-provided health insurance isn’t sufficient for any reason, make them aware that many insurers and colleges offer student health insurance. Most universities also provide discounted medical treatment at on-campus clinics, although care can be expensive if an illness or injury is serious.

Disability coverage

Parents who aren’t covered by disability plans should consider enrolling. When a parent is sick or hurt and cannot work, the resulting expenses mean lifestyle changes for all family members, including students.

Remind employees that if they become disabled, they’ll be responsible for treatment costs that go over and above what major medical insurance is intended to cover. What’s more, if they can no longer work due to accident or injury, the monthly bills for food, rent, electricity, housing and auto loans will continue to roll in.

Parents who aren’t protected by disability insurance might no longer be able to help their college students with tuition or housing, forcing them to drop out. Other students might have to quit school to help care for a disabled parent, or even take on full-time jobs to support their families. Money problems, not bad grades, are the reason cited by most college students who have considered dropping out, according to a recent Associated Press-Viacom poll. 2

Life insurance

Ideally, parents should have sufficient life insurance coverage to ensure their children can finish college even in a worst-case scenario. Encourage employees to review their policies with an eye to their families’ current and future needs and expenses. They should ask themselves whether their loved ones could retain their current standard of living if they received only the benefit amount currently in place. If not, workers should increase their life insurance coverage. It’s the compassionate and right thing to do to ensure that grief isn’t compounded by financial woes.

Auto insurance

College students – as well as high schoolers just getting their driver’s licenses – can be costly to insure. Parents of smarties should check with their auto insurers about good-student discounts. Most insurers offering these discounts require a grade-point average of B or better. Employees whose kids aren’t hitting the books can use the possibility of reduced rates to encourage better study habits.

Some auto insurance providers also offer discounts to teens who complete driver-safety courses, so employees should check for money-saving opportunities there too. They’ll be less fraught with worry when their teens are on the road, plus they’ll have a few more dollars on hand for those late-night calls from students who’ve run out of money.

Homeowner’s insurance

Today’s college kids don’t embark on their new experiences with a few belongings stuffed into a suitcase. They want all the luxuries of home in their dorms and apartments. We’re talking televisions, laptop and desktop computers, computer tablets, cell phones, stereos, bikes, appliances, video games and consoles, and a whole lot more.

Parents should check with their property and casualty insurers to find out whether students’ belongings are covered under their existing homeowner’s insurance policies. They can also check into rental insurance, as well as riders that protect against theft or breakage of computers and other high-dollar electronics.

Sources

1 The 2013 Aflac Workforces Report, a study conducted by Research Now on behalf of Aflac, accessed Aug. 9, 2013 – www.aflacworkforcesreport.com
2 Associated Press-Viacom poll, Finances Dictate College, Career Choices for Students, accessed Aug. 9, 2013 - http://ap-gfkpoll.com/featured/poll-finds-finances-dictate-college-career-choices-for-students