When a raise leads to higher health-care costs

Q: After my husband receives his annual review and cost-of-living raise, he will be in a new pay bracket. When this happens, the cost of his health insurance will increase as well — way beyond the raise he would receive — so he will be bringing home significantly less in his paycheck. His coverage and benefits will not change. Getting a raise is actually going to cost us money! How is this legal?

A: As health-care costs have risen in the past two decades, more employers have adopted a “the more you make, the more you pay” approach to health-care coverage, says Gary Kushner, president of Michigan-based HR consulting and benefits administration firm Kushner & Co. Generally, under traditional “fully insured” employer-provided plans — where employers provide health-care coverage through a third-party insurer — employees can be required to pay a larger share of their health-care costs based on their age (if the employer is also incurring higher coverage costs based on age) or income, says Kushner.

But just as your employer can adjust employee contributions, it should be able to tweak its rules so rewards don’t become punishments. For example, employers can implement “corridors” between pay brackets that allow workers to transition gradually to the higher contribution tier, Kushner says. He recommends your husband start by outlining his situation to HR: “This can’t be the result you wanted.”

Alternatively, Pittsburgh lawyer and benefits specialist Terry Connerton suggests investigating whether your husband can opt out of his employer’s coverage and find a better deal at HealthCare.gov.

Q: My boss has become obsessed with Google’s reviews for our business. He has now made the reviews a mandatory part of the sales process: We literally can’t let customers leave without having them complete a survey, and we’re allowed only four “refusals” every month, for which we have to provide compelling explanations to the boss. I’m often asked if we are owned by Google when I say we require a review. I have begun to write fake reviews. I know it’s wrong, but I feel it’s worse to strong-arm a client.

A: As I’m sure you know, the Google My Business review policy frowns on business owners and employees publishing their own reviews. Other users can flag those self-serving plants for removal, although deliberately mediocre reviews could probably slip under the radar without helping or harming your employer.

But although that route spares your clients some hassle, it’s not as effective as letting them provide their own feedback. A string of one-star reviews complaining about being detained and hounded to fill out surveys — or an on-the-spot conversation with the manager including threats to cancel a purchase — stands a better chance of getting the policy changed.

PRO TIP: Workers can seek answers about employer-provided health insurance from the Labor Department’s benefits administration (askebsa.dol.gov).

Ask Karla Miller about your work dramas and traumas by emailing wpmagazine@washpost.com.


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