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Talking ‘Turkey’ on Thanksgiving
A Health Coverage Diversion

Talking Turkey on ThanksgivingRacial, gender, social and political harmony has been sorely lacking in our country, and the ‘perfect storm’ to potentially divide families on this particular Thanksgiving was both real and ominous.

This particular Thanksgiving, many American families were understandably apprehensive to discuss anything remotely political at the dinner table. Because of this, three NFL football games suddenly became unusually more interesting, perhaps because the game or teams served as a common thread to unify rather than divide. Upcoming Netflix shows also morphed into a topic for others to share – shows to watch, avoid or to anticipate an impending release.

Diversions can be a great thing, when needed!

Almost immediately after arriving at our family Thanksgiving gathering, I was approached by my 23-year-old niece, who had taken a job shortly after graduation – a fact worth celebrating! She was leaving her parents’ health coverage and was trying to navigate through her new health benefits. Her question was simple, lacking any political or social overtones, and yet quite revealing to this baby boomer:

“Uncle David, would you have time to visit with me this weekend to discuss my benefit options available through my employer? The health insurance, in particular, is complicated stuff!”

I quickly gave my niece a hug, partly to assure her that I would be happy to assist her, but just as importantly, it was a natural ‘diversion’ that we both could safely partake!

Educating a new generation of Americans about health insurance ‘stuff,’ is nothing new. Once upon a time, most of us boomers were also ‘barnacles’ – living off our parents’ health plans. Somehow we survived the switch to ‘real world insurance’ once we took our first legitimate job that offered health coverage. No longer is health insurance just a card handed to us by our parents. It becomes a key to gain access to a very complicated system of care. But it also takes time to become educated on what this card will do.

What strikes me most, however, is that today’s coverages have become more, uh, complex. Now more than ever, employers are asking their employees to accept a greater financial burden when seeking healthcare. Not only is this a taxing problem for older employees who have weathered health insurance changes in the past, but for our newly-employed youth who enter the workforce. Think about it, we are handing them a ‘perk’ that requires a greater explanation than a cursory, ‘Good luck with your decisions.’

In a short period of time, young, first-time employees are entering a new world of qualified-high deductible health plan options, coupled with health savings accounts (HSAs), health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), flexible spending accounts (FSAs), preferred provider organizations (PPOs), health maintenance organizations (HMOs), and many other benefits beyond health insurance.

As indicated in a prior blog, “Understanding Health Insurance 101,”only one in 10 Americans can adequately define key components of their health plan, such as deductibles, coinsurance, copayments and out-of-pocket maximums. The other 90 percent is expected to make choices about their coverage that demands additional education from their employers (or vendors).

I enjoyed spending time with my niece discussing her benefit options. Even though it wasn’t the most captivating topic that could be discussed on Thanksgiving, it was a good diversion – and for that, I am thankful!

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