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Primum Non Nocere

October 8, 2015

“Primum Non Nocere” is a latin phrase. It means “First, do no harm.” 

If nothing else, your company benefits should not make people’s lives worse. 

Generally, people are going to join your company for the benefits. Sure, salary is a big part of that. But, benefits include a lot more than just the money you hand your employees at the end of the month. Some of the types of things that can be included in your benefits are:

  • Vacation Days
  • Sick Leave
  • Bereavement Leave
  • Free Soda
  • Free Food
  • Free Sports Tickets
  • Free Company Stuff
  • Company Parties
  • Friday Afternoon Beer Parties (Microsoft was famous for these)
  • Game Rooms
  • Work From Home Days
  • Cell Phone Reimbursement
  • Company Car (Does anyone still give this?)
  • Preferred Parking Spot
  • Awards
  • Trophies
  • Bonuses (More Money)

and of course, 

  • Health Insurance

Make no mistake, benefits are a part of why your employees work for you. So, when you are deciding on a benefits package it’s really important to “primum non nocere.” If a benefit costs your employees money, it’s not really a benefit. It’s a cost.

I once hurt my hand while working for a computer company. What do they always tell you to do if you get injured on the job? You are supposed to fill out some sort of injury report and report it as a Workman’s Comp issue. So, I did that. 

My injury was to my wrist. Computer workers are susceptible to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It can be pretty devastating. I’ve seen it ruin people’s careers. So, when I started getting excruiating shooting pains in my right wrist, I was a little worried. In addition to reporting it, I also went to the doctor. Not the emergency room, but just to my regular doctor. 

Here’s where my benefits bit me in the . . .ah. . .wrist. 

How would you like to pay for this Mr. Bliss?

Well, it was a work related injury, so I think we need to classify it as a workman’s comp issue. 

No problem. We’ll fill out that paperwork and bill your insurance. 

There is a big difference between “billing your insurance” and “getting your insurance to pay for it.” Eventually, I started getting notices from my doctor’s office. Insurance was balking at paying for my office visit. 

That’s not a worry. I worked for a BIG company; literally hundreds of thousands of employees. Our HR department should have a lot of pull with the insurance company. I reported it to my local HR rep. I gave him copies of the bill, and the injury report that I filled out when it happened. No worries. They’ll take care of it. 

What I didn’t realize was that my company was so large that HR was fragmented. My HR rep had no idea who in the vast HR department handled workman’s comp disputes. Every time I got a (now overdue) notice, I’d send him email. He would then send another email into the void. Meanwhile my wrist was improving

Eventually, my doctor’s office got tired of waiting for their money. You know that you are ultimately responsible even if your insurance won’t pay, right? So, I paid the bill of $235.70 (including $1.57 of past finance charges.) My HR rep sent me an an email with the name of a person at the insurance company that I could petition directly.

We can’t get the insurance company to pay this, but feel free to try it yourself.

Here’s the crazy part. If I’d treated that original doctor visit as a normal office visit, I’d have had to pay a $25 copay and that would have been it. Even if I’d have gone to the emergency room, it would have only been a $75 copay. But, by calling it a workman’s comp issue, I got stuck with a $235 bill. 
Primum non nocere

Is workman’s comp a benefit that my company offers? 

Apparently not. 

My wrist is fully recovered. I’m still waiting on that workman’s comp claim. The next time I get hurt at work, I’m gonna lie and tell them I fell off a ladder. . . at home. . . while juggling a cat. Anything except an injury at work. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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