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Can I Say No to Health Insurance and Get a Raise Instead?

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I'm retired from the Navy and, therefore, covered by military health insurance. When the economy took a dive I declined the company paid health coverage. In three years of not paying for this, the company is saving around $16,000. This summer will make three years since I've had a pay raise. Is there a tactful way for me to mention the amount of money the company has saved, and ask for a raise based on that? Or is that horribly tacky? I've done a lot of good things for the company, and just based on the fact that I'm still employed, I know I'm appreciated. At this point I would just like a little more tangible proof!!
Tangible proof in the form of a bigger paycheck sure is nice. You can and should ask for it. I think the best way to go about it is to be direct. There's no reason why you cannot just point out that you've saved the company thousands of dollars and would like to have a raise. It's not tacky to ask for more money and it's not tacky to point out that you've saved the company far more than you're asking for.

However, you may not get it. While it makes sense from an absolute total outlay of monies sense, it doesn't necessarily make sense from a budgeting standpoint.

Benefits often come out of a different budget line than salaries do. Your boss probably never sees the benefits costs and furthermore, doesn't get any credit for saving money on the benefits side. If he fires a coworker, he may be able to reallocate that person's salary. But, if someone declines benefits, he doesn't get to use that money.

So, while he may be amenable to the idea he may be powerless to change your salary.

And, there's another reason why he might say no. Or rather, why HR won't let him. (We're mean that way, sometimes.) That's because when open enrollment comes up, we can't legally prohibit you from taking benefits. So, if we give you a raise in July to reflect the fact that you've saved the company money, when open enrollment comes around in November, there's nothing to stop you from signing up.

You can say that you'll agree not to ever take benefits, but the company can't sign off on that. And as for agreeing to take a pay cut if you decide to take benefits, that doesn't go over well either. No one likes to get their pay cut, even if they volunteered to do so 3 years previous.

This may not be fair or logical, but it's the reality you deal with. But, by all means ask. Sometimes you just need to ask. There is a chance the answer will be a positive one.

And thanks for your service to the country. We appreciate it.

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