health insurance life insuranceBenefit plans can add considerable value to an employee’s overall compensation, and they are a key reason that many employees take—or decline—employment opportunities. That makes it important to evaluate benefit plans before taking a new job.

Group health insurance benefits

Group health insurance is the most common benefit offered by employers. In 2011, 85.3 percent of employees from the private sector worked for employers who offered health insurance, according to the 2012 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Of those employees who worked where health insurance was offered, 59.4 percent were enrolled in the insurance programs. That percentage will likely increase over the next few years as companies with 50 or more employees face federal fines when they fail to offer affordable coverage plans to their employees.

When comparing health insurance benefits, look at the details to determine which one matches your needs best. Some companies pay for group health benefits, while others only cover a portion of the insurance costs.

Insurance plans can also vary by coverage options, deductibles, and reliability. Do some research to find an insurance provider with a stellar reputation.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

A health savings account (HSA) can also make medical expenses more affordable. An HSA is a type of savings account that helps consumers afford medical treatments—even when they have high-deductible insurance plans.

Many employers set up HSAs so employees can contribute pre-tax dollars that they can then spend on medications, doctor visits, and other medical services. Some employers match employee contributions, others allow employees to make their contributions independently.

Life insurance plans

Life insurance is another benefit that many employers offer full-time workers. This type of insurance pays a certain amount of money to a beneficiary when the policyholder dies. Employers often cover the full cost of this benefit.

Paid sick time and vacation days

At some point, everyone gets sick or burned out at work. Companies know this, so they offer paid sick time and vacation days, allowing workers time to recharge and come back to their jobs ready to tackle new challenges.

Comparing this benefit is rather easy—some companies offer more vacation and sick days than others. Consider how quickly the company adds time off. Some add more sick and vacation days every year, while others add days according to a five-year schedule.

Retirement benefits

Few businesses offer traditional pension plans. Instead, most companies let employees invest in retirement accounts. 401(k) accounts are popular, and many employers match worker contributions up to a certain percentage. This works for the company in two ways: It provides an additional benefit to offer potential employees, and it encourages current employees to save money for retirement.

Some employers also offer stock options that let their employees earn or purchase stock in the company. Employees can evaluate retirement benefits offered to them by comparing contribution limits, and analyzing how well one company’s stock performs against another’s.

After looking at these benefit options, it becomes clear that employers can offer more than financial compensation. Without considering these other benefits in addition to compensation offered, employees could sell themselves short.

Jeff Rose is a Certified Financial Planner and Iraqi combat veteran. He blogs at Good Financial CentsSoldier of Finance and Life Insurance By Jeff.