‘Trust but verify’ at JAX

BAR HARBOR — The Jackson Laboratory is taking steps to ensure everyone on employer-paid health and dental plans is eligible for those benefits, according to a letter employees received from the lab’s human resources department earlier this month.

The deadline for proving eligibility for all dependents is June 9, and any employees who do not get their paperwork in on time risk losing coverage for their dependents.

Legal spouse status must be proven by a copy of marriage certificate, and documentation dated within six months showing “current marital status” such as a joint bank account statement.

For biological children and stepchildren covered by the plan, employees must provide a copy of a birth certificate, which also proves the age of the child for cut-off purposes. The cut-off age for children to be covered under a parent’s plan is 26, unless the child is disabled in which case proof of disability is required.

For adopted children, a copy of the adoption decree or court documents is required.

The lab has contracted with Hodges-Mace, LLC, an Atlanta-based company specializing in “employee benefits technology and communications,” to verify eligibility.

“The Jackson Laboratory has arranged for Hodges-Mace, LLC to help all removed dependents find alternative coverage,” the letter from the lab to employees said.

For example, though divorce settlements sometimes require one former spouse to provide benefits for the other, former spouses to not qualify as dependents and therefore are not eligible for an employer-paid health plan.

The newly instated benefits review “is really just a standard operating procedure for employers,” said lab spokesperson Sarah Laskowski. “The Jackson Laboratory is dedicated to ensuring that our healthcare benefits apply to all eligible individuals … This is a standard best practice which we’re now completing at all campuses.” The lab has campuses in Maine, Connecticut and California.

According to a January 2017 article by Claude Solnik in Detroit Legal News, it is indeed becoming more common for companies to require employees to verify the status of their dependents.

What Solnik called the “Reagan-esque approach” of “trust but verify” could result in some purging of ineligible dependents. “This can save companies hundreds of thousands of dollars, while requiring workers to prove something traditionally taken as a matter of trust,” he wrote.

The lab has around 1,500 employees in Bar Harbor and 41 in Ellsworth, the laboratory’s COO Katy Longley said in February. Plans were announced in April to hire 300 more employees, mostly in Ellsworth, and increase the organization’s minimum wage to $15.75 an hour.

We’re so proud of the excellent benefits we offer our employees and their families,” said Lakowski, “including comprehensive medical, vision, and dental plans, life and disability insurance, 403(b) retirement savings and flexible spending plans, paid time off, and so many others.”

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