Tips to get the best benefit from your employee benefits

Employee benefits are more than just a health care plan and a retirement account. A study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that benefits count for almost 30 percent of employee compensation. UA staff benefits count for between 30 to 49% percent of our annual salary.

Open enrollment closes May 8. Now is the time to consider what changes you need to make to make your benefits work for you. Erika Van Flein, director of employee transitions and benefits shares some tips to make the most of your employee benefits.

  • Read what Human Resources sends you. Don’t assume it doesn’t apply to you. It might not, but until you read it and think about it, you can’t be sure.

  • There are no dumb questions. If you don’t understand something, and you can’t easily find it on our website, please ask us. The Employee Transitions and Benefits team is a group of smart, dedicated people who want to get you the right information. If they don’t know the answer, they’ll find out and we’ll all learn something! 

Reach out to HR via email: or by phone at (907) 450-8200. You can also leave a message via Spoke by logging on at

  • Save additional money for retirement. I don’t know of anyone who got to retirement and thought “dang it, I have too much money!” The voluntary 403(b) is a powerful tool that everyone should use to save additional money for retirement. Even if things are tight financially, get started with even $25 a pay period. This is an account you can use for life’s unexpected emergencies as well because it’s the only retirement plan we sponsor with a loan provision and opportunities for hardship distributions.

  • If at all possible, enroll in the Consumer Directed Health Plan and contribute to the Health Savings Account. Not everyone is eligible, but if you are you should be doing this. The HSA is the best tax-favored vehicle out there: contributions are tax free, earnings are tax free and distributions for eligible health care expenses are tax free. And you can save it for the future and use the funds well into retirement.

  • Sometimes you need an advocate, that’s why UA offers DirectPath, a completely free, confidential and independent health care advocacy solution that helps you navigate the healthcare system. DirectPath can help you determine which health plan is right for you, resolve claim issues and answer questions about your benefits. Contact them Monday-Saturday at (866) 253-2273 or request assistance via the website.

  • Qualify for the wellness rebate. It’s really not hard and the new program has a much more user friendly interface. We want everyone to qualify for the $600 rebate. Have questions on it? We have a great resource here in Alaska with our program manager, Victoria Carver. Ask her anything about the wellness program.