Providing Health Insurance for Your Small Business Employees

by CherrellT on September 3, 2011

There is no doubt that health care reform in the United States has created much controversy. In addition to the uproar over the best way for U.S. citizens to obtain affordable health care, a large number of small businesses and their workers are confused about how health insurance can benefit employers and their employees and the financial impact such offers might incur. Here are some points small businesses should reflect upon when considering adding health insurance as an employee benefit:

Providing Insurance Attracts and Keeps Employees: With health care costs steadily increasing each year, employers who subsidize health insurance benefits are certain to lure talent. The more benefits a company can offer the greater chance it will have of attracting talented new employees. Offering health insurance is also a wonderful way to keep established staff members. A 2002 survey by Paul Fronstin discovered that small business employers believe that offering health benefits both attracts and retains employees, increases productivity and “is the right thing to do.”

Health Insurance Keeps Staff Healthy: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that nearly 13 million people, or one third of uninsured individuals, are workers employed by firms with fewer than 100 employees. This leaves both the worker and the company at tremendous risk. By keeping staff healthy, insurance benefits also allow small businesses to run more efficiently.

Health Insurance Levels the Playing Field: The majority of large businesses are able to provide employees with health insurance, which sometimes knocks smaller companies competing for the same talent out of the competition. New health care reforms will make it possible for smaller businesses to pool together to purchase health insurance at reasonable rates. This in turn will “level the playing field” and make it possible for small businesses to compete against large corporations for the same gifted employees.

Give the People what they Want: Reform Health insurance coverage doesn’t need to be a “one size fits all” scenario. Employers can offer a health plan that provides several different options with various deductibles. Small firms can opt to pay either the full or partial premium and offer options that have either a low or high deductible where the employee can pay the difference. Employees usually appreciate insurance programs where they can place their spouse or children on the company health plan and then have fees deducted directly from their paycheck.

Shop till you Drop: In January 2009, the article “Taking the Pulse of Main Street: Small Business, Health Insurance, and Priorities” published by The Main Street Alliance revealed that 40% of small businesses are spending more than 10% of their payroll costs on employee health insurance. In order to provide adequate benefits and keep costs contained it is important that companies carefully compare policies, review rates and negotiate the best deal.

Learn what’s Available: In some cases, Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) are the least expensive but require that individuals only use specific health care providers and have many restrictions. Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) are sometimes more expensive but have agreements with a wider variety of health care providers. PPO’s may also pay a percentage of fees charged by health care provider who aren’t contracted.

Get some Extra Credit: New health care reforms are going to provide small businesses in the U.S. with substantial tax credits. Speak with your company’s tax attorney, insurance representative, or human resource professional to learn which credits or deductions your company may receive for offering various employee benefits.

Consider some Extras: If it’s affordable, companies should mull over offering vision, dental and life insurance supplements to employees. While it may seem like an extravagance, additional perks such as vision, dental and life insurance reduce turnover by giving employees even more reasons to stay with you.

Although it may take some time for U.S. legislators to work out any kinks associated with the new health care reforms, it seems as though there might be some good news. In January 2011, Forbes reported that many small business owners are signing their employees up for health benefits. United Healthcare Group added 75,000 new customers working for firms with fewer than 50 staff members and Blue Cross saw a 58% increase in small business health care coverage.

What does this mean for small businesses? While the system may not be perfect, recent reforms may very well help smaller firms increase profits, draw in new talent and preserve valued employees.

Sonia Banfield teaches nursing courses and is a content contributor for education sites. Today, nursing jobs are highly sought after by women thrown back into the work force by a down economy. Sonia feels that give back careers such as medical assistant jobs and nurse jobs are even more important during tough times.

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