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Employee Benefit Enrollment Deadlines- Not Arbitrary
by Karen Kehr, MS
Health & Welfare Manager, American General Corporation

Well it is getting to be that time of year again at most mid to large size companies- the dreaded benefits annual enrollment. This annual exercise may seem like some kind of form of modern day employee torture developed by corporate managers with too much time on their hands. But, the reality is companies that offer benefits on a pre-tax basis are required by federal law to allow employees to elect/change benefits once a year. So, keep your eyes open for information on plan enrollment and changes around September/October for companies' who begin their benefits plan year January 1.

In subsequent articles, more detailed information will be provided on how to review and select the best options for you and/or your family. For now, you need to know the general rules that apply to making elections/changes. The term "rules" is used as that is how the provisions set by companies in tandem with applicable tax codes and federal/or state laws may feel to you as an employee. You need to be aware of the rules so that you don' t end up with default or worse yet "no coverage" in the next millennium.

Annual enrollment is a set time frame, generally 2-3 weeks. Most important is that a deadline is set and you MUST make your elections/changes by the deadline. If you do not make this deadline, you may not have coverage for the next year. It is similar to the annual tax filing deadline of April 15; you must adhere to it or be faced with stiff penalties. It may seem to you that this deadline is flexible and yes you have the right to appeal to your company if you miss the deadline. However, as long as the company provides written information to you about the deadline and changes made to the current plan, you are responsible for taking the appropriate action.

Remember the deadline is not flexible. You may write the company plan administrator to explain your reasons for missing the deadline, known as an appeal. As a benefits manager, I have seen some real whoppers as excuses. Believe it or not, I have even seen the ole "my dog ate my benefits packet (homework). Some of these excuses may very well be personally legitimate but the company is required by the same laws as mentioned above to be consistent in administering the plan for all participants. You may be the most likeable employees or the longest term but the answer will be no unless the company was in error.

Briefly, there is one exception to making elections/changes outside of the annual enrollment. That exception is due to change in family status. A family status change means life events such as birth or adoption of your child, marriage, divorce etc. In these cases, you have 30 days to make changes to coverage. The 30 days is also a real deadline. Please be advised NOT to miss it.

All sarcasm aside, it really is far from funny when you and/or your family is left without benefits coverage. The coverage protects you from serious financial and hardship and provides peace of mind. So take the time to review your companys' rules for enrollment- IT IS WORTH THE TIME.

The information in this article is general, consult your companys' benefits department for specific information regarding your plan. Any questions on taxes and/or federal laws on benefit plans should be referred to a CPA or attorney.

View Karen's Bio




Weight Training
Lat Pulldowns
Pulldowns are a great exercise for the back muscles but avoid pulling the bar behind the head. Pull the bar down in front of the body toward the collar bone and with the bar just below your chin. Pulling the bar behind the head puts undue stress on the shoulders and rotator cuff.
Running
Avoiding Shin Splints
Do you have lower leg pain or shin splints from running? Running on hard surfaces, worn out running shoes and weak calf muscles could be the culprit. Try running on soft trails, buying a new pair of running shoes or adding calf exercises to your weight training routine.
Walking
The Talk Test
A great way to make sure you are staying in your aerobic fat-burning range is the talk test. If you cannot comfortably carry on a conversation with your walking partner you probably need to bring down the intensity to assure yourself that you are burning fat.
Fat Burning
Your Anaerobic Threshold
A great way to make sure you are burning fat during cardio sessions is knowing your anaerobic threshold or where your heart rate zone needs to be to burn fat stores. Find a gym or fitness center that offers anaerobic/VO2 testing. Merlino Fitness offers anaerobic threshold testing every month. Check out the link below for more details.
Merlino Fitness Metabolic Testing
Nutrition
Keys to Weight Loss
If you are trying to drop weight make sure you incorporate the following to get you on your way. Drink lots of water, don't skip meals (especially breakfast), do not eat late night meals or snacks after 7 or 8 pm and build as much activity into your everyday life as you can. Michael also recommends joining weight watchers to anyone trying to lose weight and keep it off long term.
Nutritional Supplements
Stay Away From Ephedra!
The weight loss/energy supplement is in the news again. Supplement companies that market this controversial supplement claim it is safe although many have died from this dangerous supplement. Make sure you check the labels of your nutritional supplements as many are laced with ephedra, also known as ephedrine or ma huang (the actual herbal).
Quick Tip Archives
Our archived collection of fitness and nutrition tips to help you stay focused and fit.
Tip Archives

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Ice Cream Sandwiches
Take the edge off those sweet cravings with this healthy soy alternative to an ice cream sandwich without the unwanted calories and guilt.
Product Website
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Take the edge off those sweet cravings with this healthy soy alternative to an ice cream sandwich without the unwanted calories and guilt.
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Our latest collection of on-line articles to help you stay focuses and fit.
Grocery Archives
 
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Pamela from Chihuahua, MexicoI work out 5 days a week and can't loose weight. I do spinning, tae bo and many types of cardio. Where am I going wrong?
Answer
Nutrition
Ross from Sidney, AustraliaI am currently trying to eat six small meals per day. Apart from breakfast and dinner, I always seem to forget or skip my meals during the day. I also need some simple, easy meals (snacks) that do not require refrigeration or preparation, apart from the obvious fruits.
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