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Taking advantage of your benefits

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This week’s post is an excerpt of our interview with health insurance expert and friend, Tina Holliday Cerda of Laurel Insurance Agency & Associates for our YouTube show The Solution Point, where we reveal solutions to everyday problems in your life, business and the law.

Catalina: All right, well, thank you so much for joining us, this is another little version of The Solution Point where normally you’ll see Mike and I together. We’ve got a bit of fun for Friday, and we’ve got a great guest today for The Solution Point. And she’s really a great friend of both of ours. We have Tina Holliday Cerda of Laurel Insurance Agency and Associates with us. And Tina, we were both just kind of chit chatting and texting on the phone and going crazy before this interview and you were driving in from another place in town. Tell us about what you are in the midst of right now.

Tina: Sure. Well, thank you. Thank you so much for inviting me to join you guys. It’s always exciting to have somebody interested in hearing what we’re talking about right now in our insurance world. You were asking where I was coming from. Some of our very large clients are in the middle of open enrollment for their employees. And what that means is that it’s that time of year when their employees can go in and make all of their different benefit selections. And of course, last year, due to covid, we weren’t able to meet with people in person. And this year we are able to be out there to help people that have questions and need a little extra help. Most large employers, praise God, had begun to convert to an electronic format in the years prior to covid. So, what’s cool with that is they were already really well positioned to be able to serve their employees in that capacity. The challenge is, as I see it, is we still have a significant gap between people that are really comfortable getting online and buying things and making selections and knowing what to click and trusting that they are not going to single-handedly break the Internet and then we have a population that for whom working with a mouse, or a laptop is just completely foreign to what they do on a day-to-day basis. So, we’re there to help facilitate the online open enrollment process and selection of benefits for those people that need a little extra handholding.

Catalina That’s fantastic. And I can imagine before, when you weren’t able to see folks in person for this whole process and you would still have to march on, and open enrollment season still happened for those large employer groups to make sure that they select their benefits. How does it compare to last year now that you are able to help people in person? Is it making an impact?

Tina: Well, certainly it makes an impact because people have questions. And I think the whole covid journey that we’re all on together has brought to surface questions that maybe people didn’t have before. I like to say insurance isn’t very interesting until you need it, then it’s really interesting. And now with the whole covid process, everybody has known somebody that has been impacted, most of us know somebody that we’ve lost to covid. It’s still happening, it’s still a very real thing, but what I think it’s doing as far as benefits go, is making people take a moment to look and understand, and ask themselves, “OK, how exactly does my health insurance work? What happens if I’m not able to work? How am I going to have an income stream? What happens if something happens or what happens if I die? Who’s going to take care of my family? How are they going to take care of my health?”. And that’s where your open enrollment benefits, your employer-based benefits can really come in and fill in all of those gaps. On paper, they’re just gaps, but in reality, it can be difficult to jump across these gaps of understanding when you’re in the middle of it.

Catalina: Right. So, in these opportunities to explain the benefits to these employees of large-employer groups, can be eye-opening. I can imagine that people might visit with you and your team and say, “Wow! I didn’t even know that I had this benefit.” Are there still a lot of “a-ha moments” for folks and then, “Why did I not take advantage of this sooner”?

Tina: There are a lot of “a-ha moments” and today, as a matter of fact, this morning there was a gentleman that I was working with. He said, “They really do take good care of us!” And he’s right. They do. And it was so nice to hear somebody kind of approach it from a place of gratitude versus a place of not getting enough. He mentioned that he was really reassured to see that if anything happened to him, his employer has mechanisms in place to take care of him. And I think that’s a great testament to both his employer, in this case, the City of Laredo, for looking out for their employees and to this gentleman for approaching it from that standpoint.

Catalina: Right. And, of course, you deal with a lot of large employer groups, but the majority of small businesses in our area are mom-and-pop institutions, who also might have health insurance on their mind for themselves and their employees, but it might not be high on the list of priorities. What do you see as far as in trends? Do you see folks biting the bullet and saying, you know what, I’m going to get insurance for me and my staff? Or are they going to the marketplace? What are they offering to their employees?

Tina: That’s a really good question. It’s a little of both. I tell employers when they call in, when they ask about getting benefits for their business, “First of all, health insurance is not cheap. It’s a very expensive benefit to offer. And that being the case, if you’re going to offer health insurance for your employees, it’s easier to start when you’re small because you’re adding this expense incrementally; instead of waiting until you have a large employee population. It can be really challenging to come back and add a larger group of people from your team and financially challenging to make that investment”. So, my word of advice is if you say, “I’ve only got two employees, I’ve only got three employees”, that’s the time to start. Because if it’s going to cost you and I’m just making up a number here, but if it’s going to cost around five hundred dollars a month, it’s easier to spend a thousand dollars a month on two employees than it is to wait until you have 20 employees. And now you’ve got to spend much more than that. That capital investment becomes almost cost prohibitive.

Catalina: And a lot of people, they may think, well, it’s something that I just I can’t imagine affording. That it’s like a pie in the sky kind of dream. But what you are saying is if they start small and just work their way up or at least begin to have an opportunity to contribute to their own premium and have access to health insurance for their employees, in the long run, it will be beneficial because a healthier employee is going to be somebody that’s going to really be an asset to your team.

Tina: Absolutely. And I think that in our post covid world, where employers are really scrambling to find good employees, that benefit package they offer, along with good wages; those are the things that people are really beginning to take a serious look at. One of the organizations that I’m involved with, we’re going to have an opening at the end of October. This is a nonprofit organization. And we have someone leaving to take a job with a company that offers retirement, better pay, better benefits, all of those things. Now that people have had time and the presence of mind to put pencil to paper, those things matter. And to your point, Cat, an employee that is a healthy employee versus an employee that’s sick and pushing themself to come to work, they’re going to be so much more productive. They’re going to make a better impact ultimately on your employer’s bottom line.

Catalina: Right. And we’ve been seeing the Olympics at the time of this taping and the focus on stress and mental health and pushing yourself to the limits has been at the forefront. Do you see a trend in mental health insurance benefits from employer groups being added, or were the benefits always there? Are employer groups creating more awareness of their mental health benefit offerings and maybe letting their employees know, hey, we do have mental health benefit and are you taking advantage of them?

Tina: I think the biggest trend on that is a result of covid. Telemedicine has become really more mainstream. And I think it’s here to stay on a permanent basis. But one of the beautiful things, especially where we live, which is in an underserved community, particularly as it relates to mental health providers is that appointments are available through your telemedicine provider which are generally available from your insurance, depending on your policy; you would need to check and make sure that it’s available. But mental health services are available online and they’re covered online. And I think that is going to really be a game changer for people because their ability to access mental health is going to be so much stronger and the obstacles to mental health are being chipped away. And I’m really hopeful that. With the Olympics and what’s gone on with some of our athletes, I hope it will give us the opportunity to have a more honest dialog about just how important mental health is for your overall well-being. You know, when you hear somebody like Simone Biles talk about the “twisties” and you watch her on those parallel bars, doing those twists and flips, you realize that the fact that in her head, her head is not connecting to what she wants her body to do, that can have really huge ramifications. And can apply to all aspects of our life and all of our chronic conditions as well of making those decisions. We have the choices to do the things that we need to do so that our bodies can perform at the level that we need them to.

Catalina: And making the decision to say, you know what, I have met my limit. This is it. I’m not going to push myself anymore and take it from there. And I think that’s courageous. And I think is as an employer and having employees and being an employee myself, it’s good to just take a moment and give yourself a check in and make sure that you’ve have the elements in your world stabilized. Thank you so much. This has been The Solution Point and Tina brought the solutions in today! Thank you, Tina. And again, if you like what content we have here at, The Solution Point, please, like and subscribe to our channel and share this video. The Solution Point is where we reveal solutions to problems in your life, business and law. We’ll see you another time on The Solution Point!

You can contact Tina Holliday Cerda by going to their website: https://www.laurelassoc.com

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