The Benefits of Defining Any and All Benefits

The Benefits of Defining Any and All Benefits

Lewis Fein

Jul 13, 2018

The Benefits of Defining Any and All Benefits

 Defined benefits are, ironically, too ill-defined. Ambiguities lend themselves more to sustained conflict than a speedy conclusion. No matter how voluntary a program may be, and regardless of how generous a medical policy is, doubt is the enemy of morale and a malevolent force unto itself. It is destructive, not because of what a company says, but because of what employees think their employer does—or does not—say; that their health insurance covers a specific procedure; that their out-of-pocket expenses are one amount versus another; that their benefits activate automatically, when in fact restrictions may apply and standards vary.

Clarity, then, is the ultimate benefit. According to Wayne R. Cohen, a professor at The George Washington University School of Law and a partner at Cohen & Cohen, P.C., voluntary benefits can easily elicit an involuntary response of anger or confusion. He says:

A poorly worded plan is nothing more than a corporate roadmap to the poorhouse. Like any other document, be it a medical policy or a pension plan, the benefits a company purports to offer versus those it provides—the differences between the two demand clarification. Unless a company resolves this matter and does its best to ensure such a situation does not happen again, what begins in a boardroom may very well end in a courtroom.

I agree with Professor Cohen’s assessment because too many benefits’ programs are more an exercise in bad writing than an example of bad intentions. Indeed, the authors of many of these programs do not intend to do harm; but they nonetheless hurt their cause—and cause the nation’s health insurance crisis to worsen—due to ineffective counsel. Put another way, when a business volunteers to help its workers, it helps to have a program of absolute clarity.

Consider that statement an absolutism that a company violates at its own risk. The risk itself, in terms of lawsuits and countersuits, in addition to lost hours of productivity and a shutdown in operations, is too substantial to ignore and too significant to deny.

And yet, that this is an avoidable risk makes this subject all the more important. The investment in hiring an experienced lawyer far outweighs the costs of retaining a team of lawyers after the fact when what could have been made clear in writing is now crystal clear in the wording of a jury’s verdict against a company.

Let clarity be the measure of excellence, so workers can enjoy their medical benefits and companies can reap the benefits of a happy workforce.

Let legal professionals analyze these benefits, so agreement trumps ambiguity. Let all relevant parties participate in this process, as a meeting in good faith will more likely yield a good result.

Let us define every benefit with exactitude, so everyone knows exactly what they have a right to receive.

Such is the definition of a plan that is beneficial to all, sparing companies from having to contest their own programs while saving employees from having to endure this process.


About the Author

Lewis Fein

Lewis Fein is a writer and a healthcare advocate, as well as a volunteer for patients battling various autoimmune diseases. Based in Southern California, he can be reached at [email protected]