When it comes to insurance, teachers are in some unique situations. Are you part of a union? Chances are they have fought for some great medical insurance benefits. Learn how to use them to the fullest. Talk to your human resources representative, or sometimes called personnel. Many times they give you options. Most school districts pay your premiums in full, so nothing out of your paycheck. But you do need to check and see if they offer different coverage plans. Each person's situation is unique and what is best for one is not best for another. Look at the options especially if you have a family. What dependents are covered? When can you add them? Many times you can only add new dependents during certain times of the year. Different coverages have different co-payments and other out-of-pocket expenses. If you are a new hiree, you really need to get as much information to make a wise choice. Ask for all pamphlets available.
Other coverage such as dental and vision are another case. Sometimes they are included in the medical, many times they are not. Certainly if you have kids you will want to look at what is offered. Be aware that most dental and vision plans only cover some of the costs. Rarely do they cover everything. You will be surprised if you have never received a dental bill as to how much you are expected to pay. And some employers will charge you for dental or vision. If you do not need glasses, and are single, you may be able to skip this coverage. For example, if you are charged $20 a month for vision, and you get glasses, it may only cover the vision test, lenses, and perhaps $25 towards the frames. Since the total cost per year is $240, you may not get $24 worth of benefits each year. Walmart and other department stores offer low-cost check-ups and glasses. Sometimes the cost is much cheaper than paying premiums. The situation is similar for dental, although there is no low-cost alternative. But the plan may be something like 80/20. Meaning they will pay for 80% of approved procedures and you will be responsible for 20%. Certainly this is a much better deal than vision. But if a crown is $1200, you can bet you will have about $240 out of pocket! Add to this that many times you are talked into procedures that are only cosmetic. Chances are you will foot this whole bill. Some dentists have low-cost options for kids and first time patients.
Life and disibility insurance are two other common options. Your union probably has negotiated both of these. Normally they are quite good. Insurance companies may try and talk you into more coverage. Life insurance is more of a personal choice. How much do you need? If you have children, you may need more. Be aware that if you have a mortgage, you probably have some time of insurance that pays it off if parents die. You will almost always be asked to get more life insurance, so watch out. Disability can be a touchy subject as well. They will try and scare you into buying more. Chances are, you school district offers a basic plan for free that probably provides you coverage of a disability for a few years. Then and only then would any extra coverage kick in. Add to this that most times you CANNOT collect on more than one policy at a time. When you factor in state disability and social security or other federal programs, extra disability insurance may be a waste of money. Read the fine print. Plenty of school districts have generous vacation, personal days, or sick days that can be saved and used later. Some have rules that say you must use these before you tap into any disability insurance.
Bottom line, look over your situation carefully. If you are single, chances are you do not as much coverage as a married person with kids. If you have kids you certainly need to look at the options you will use, as well as which makes it convenient. Some cheaper insurance with lower copayments may be more complicated to use and get seen. Sometimes it is prudent to spend a few extra dollars up front and on copayments if you or your kids can get seen anytime, anywhere.
Getting talked into more insurance than you need.
Getting insurance that you will never use.
Getting insurance that is difficult to use.
Not getting enough insurance.
Not knowing the rules of your insurance.
Don't forget summer! Ask if you do not get a paycheck in the summer, are you still covered? If not, ask how you can get covered.
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