A controversial title, yes. And no, I don't believe BMC or any other company other than the health insurance companies are profiting from our use (or lack thereof) of healthcare coverage.


I CAN tell you that in light of so many changes to healthchare benefits structure (not just at BMC but across the board, at least in the United States), I wonder if the term benefits shouldn't be changed to a phrase more like "possibilities" or "maybe's" or even "hopefully not's." The trend, to keep healthcare costs down and profits up (which I certainly advocate for, btw) is to implement a complex series of FSA's and HSA's that require us to set aside a buttload of our own money upfront and gamble on the costs of our future health expenses. In the event we are healthier than we anticipated or exercise extra discipline and restraint in going to the doctor, we lose the remaining money and it often goes directly to our employers. Hmmmmmmm. . . in what world is it a benefit to me to fork thousands of dollars back to my company?


To add insult to injury, there is no standardization nationwide on all the rules of using FSA money. Some companies allow you a grace period for spending flex money. I found out today that while I have until tomorrow to submit receipts for my 2010 FSA funds, the money had to be spent prior to December 31, 2010. This is different than many other companies, who allow the FSA administrator to accept purchases made in the first couple months of the new year, as a grace period - in this instance, up until March 15th, 2011. A small misunderstanding on my part around a poorly documented clause that varies from company to company will cost me to lose $2,000 from my 2010 FSA account - and subsequently means that the $2,000 I just spent on new glasses (thinking I was depleting my 2010 funds) have actually depleted my 2011 funds. Basically, a $4000 oversight - and $2,000 into BMC's pocket.


Don't get me wrong. As a shareholder, I would much rather that money go to BMC than to the insurance company. At least I benefit indirectly from cash in the coffers at BMC. But what I would rather have is access to my money, and a more clear and simple way to navigate through all the crazy if/then scenarios.


Sure, the major insurance companies have all come out with apps that let you see your account balances, etc. They're basically just alternate access points to data you can access on the web. Maybe I'm the only other employee on the planet that feels this way, but taking advantage of my benefits often feels like a game in which I am the only one not privvy to the rules. The providers get it, the insurance company gets it, the HR guys get it - and I am competing directly against them without a copy of the rule book.


I'm begging for an app that would let me dial in any scenario and get real feedback in return. It would know my coverage - ALL of it, from FSA and HSA accounts to my actual health care insurance, vision and dental benefits, etc. Before I, oh, say fork out 2k for glasses I will not get back, it would be nice to open the old iphone and enter:


I would like to:

>Spend $2,000 for glasses

> Go


The app would come back to me and tell me how the coverage would be applied. Sample result would be:
> Submit $400 to VSP Vision Insurance for frames and lenses
> Submit $1000 to 2011 FSA
> Pay 600 out of pocket or from 2011 HSA


The app would include push notifications that alerted me to looming deadlines. And as cellular phones increasingly become positioned as payment devices, it would eventully integrate in real time with my mobile / digital wallet. When I pay for a health care expense, the expense receipt would automatically port to my benefits app and get placed in the appropriate queue for filing or reimbursement.


I loved my PPO plan that I used to have, because it was easy:

  • I didn't need a finance degree to calculate how much the plan was really costing or saving me.
  • There was no claim submission dance where I had to lay out a chart of permutations and wait until a daytime lunar eclipse to submit a claim
  • I knew my how much it was costing me. There was no risk at the end of the year of losing something.
  • More than anything, it FELT like a benefit to me and my family. When you work hard, shouldn't your benefits feel like benefits, not puzzles you can't solve?


PPO's have become inaccessible to many of us, due to the high costs of coverage. Employers believe that FSA's and HSA's put financial responsibility into the hands of the employee, preventing unneccessary trips to the doctor and encouraging preventative care. When you look at charts and graphs in dollars and cents today, they are likely right.


I would argue that people with a propensity for putting off health care will just put it off further - compounding the problem and costing us all more in the end. In the more short-term, what is the value of employee happiness and peace-of-mind? How many hours of productivity did I lose today doing the health care do-si-do and grieving the loss of thousands of dollars?


At minimum, I'd love all of our employers, across high-tech and other fields that attract talented, hard-working, dedicated employees, to audition potential benefits against the word "benefit" and take a "gut-feeling" test. If things have to be complicated, though, I would urge some more high-tech tools to help us make better decisions. I've navigated 3 different websites and chatted with multiple reps from two different benefits coordinators, and I can only tell you I feel a bit stung today. I lost a lot of money. And I still can't find the fine print that warned me against it.


This blog is about everything even loosely relevant to a technologist - from pointed articles about ITSM to cool pictures of laptop bags, funny memes, and more. The technology behind our healthcare benefits, and how it can help guide us to financial decisions that benefit not only our companies but ourselves is highly relevant. I'd love all manners of feedback - including those that tell me I'm just a sore loser and a bad budgeter. It's all fair play at Accordion Solo :-)