The United States Census Bureau pegs the number of Americans with health insurance at 90.9 percent according to their most recent statistics. According to the same set of numbers, over half of the majority with coverage (55.7 percent) got it from an employer.
For those who hold the small business healthcare reigns for their firms, it’s a balancing act that often mixes cost against finding a package that retains people. Anthony Lopez is the Director of Small Business Health Insurance at eHealth. He offered some valuable takeaways on navigating what can be an otherwise daunting healthcare maze by providing 10 tips for selecting a healthcare plan your employees won’t hate.
Selecting Health Insurance for Your Small Business
“Providing the employees with enough options so they feel comfortable and that they’re making decisions on what their healthcare is rather than having the employers owing all of it is important,” Lopez says. Offering multiple deductibles of $2,500, $1,500 and $500 lays the groundwork to accomplish this goal.
Look for a Level Funded Plan
This type is also referred to as a partially self-funded plan. Generally these are 25-30 percent less than other traditional plans and the rates depend on the overall health of the group. The benefits are the same with these. The way rates are determined is the big difference.
Take a Survey
Ask and you shall receive as the old saying goes.
“It possible to send out a survey or have a team meeting and ask them what’s important to their benefits and what’s important to the group,” Lopez says adding that many employers are surprised by the results.
“A lot of employees prefer to pay less in their premium and a higher deductible so they can put the money aside for emergencies.”
The big ones to offer here are dental, vision and life. If you can’t contribute as a small business employer to these, you can make them voluntary whereby employees pay but still get a group rate.
Lopez also suggests doing your homework. As a small business owner, this helps to present the best possibilities to your staff.
“It’s good to compare group rates and individual rates  as well as the networks for each. Depending on where you’re at, you may have a more robust network going with a group plan.”
He also says it’s a good idea to be sure the doctors your employees favor are part of that network.
Sometimes it makes sense to take an individual plan rather than a group package depending on cost. Lopez stresses that a good agent will walk you through all the different options including this one. In cases where there are only one or two employees, this often makes sense for both groups.
Finding the Right Carriers
A lot of finding the right small business healthcare plan hinges on finding a carrier  that will work with your particular set of circumstances.
“You have to make sure that you’re meeting not only the requirements for participation, but that you have enough employees in the home state for the carrier to offer coverage,” Lopez says adding a good agent will know what all of your options are.
Some smaller groups and start-ups find this aspect frustrating since they have people who work from home in multiple states but still want to provide coverage. Lopez stresses not to give up.
“There’s definitely solutions out there. It’s just a matter of shopping and making sure your agent is doing their due diligence.”
HSA vs. Traditional Plan
The most recent healthcare industry buzzword is health savings account  (HSA), but you need to look at the mechanics of these versus a traditional plan before you decide on what’s best for your small business. Lopez says understanding the inner workings makes a big difference.
“Sitting down and understanding how the deductible and those office co pays work is very important.”
With an HSA, you need to pay out of pocket until you meet your deductible. With a more traditional plan, the deductible is higher and the out of pocket costs lower.
Feedback from Brokers
Going right to the source isn’t just about asking your employees what they’d like to see in a plan. Brokers will generally tell you if they’ve had any specific issues with carriers and that information can help you narrow down your choices.
Brokers and Employees
A question and answer session with your employees and a broker can help to further define the ingredients that go into a health plan that will keep your employees happy.
There’s no doubt that getting the right health insurance as a small business can be a little daunting given the current landscape, but Lopez concludes with a solid piece of advice if you’re still sitting on the fence.
“Going without insurance is a risk. Whether you get it through the small business or the individual is important because there’s not going to be a safety net there this year where, if you’re not covered, you’ll be forgiven if there’s a big claim.”
Doctor  Photo via Shutterstock