With every open enrollment period comes fears that health insurance premiums will no longer be affordable. Some companies breathe a sigh of relief when they figure out that they can still keep health insurance benefits in place. Others face the daunting prospect of telling employees their health insurance has been canceled. Either way, rising costs are gradually making health insurance a financial boondoggle to employers.
Despite all that, it is not a given that employers have to accept whatever policies their insurance brokers offer them. Health insurance is very similar to car insurance in the sense that there are many more options than most employers are aware of. Above and beyond that, there are ways to control healthcare costs so as to keep insurance premiums in check.
Take a Look at Your Broker
A good place for employers to start is taking a good look at their insurance brokers. The health insurance industry operates on a structure similar to auto, home, and life insurance. Brokers can work independently, representing multiple carriers as they see fit. They can also be independent but represent just a small number of carriers. Finally, they can be contractors representing just one carrier.
The brokers with the most options tend to be those who work independently but are affiliated with a general agency. Dallas-based BenefitMall is one such agency. They connect more than a hundred carriers with thousands of insurance brokers located around the country. As a general agency, they give brokers access to a large selection of carriers and products.
It is interesting to note that BenefitMall encourages employers to shop around. If they do not like what their brokers are offering, employers can ask for more options. They can even shop on their own. It is really a matter of how much time and energy employers want to put into the effort as opposed to what their brokers are giving them.
Like car insurance, health insurance packages offer a variety of price points and coverage options. There is no way to know what is out there without looking around. Furthermore, just accepting whatever policy a broker offers doesn’t guarantee employers are getting the best deal.
Look for Subsidy Programs
Though subsidies for health insurance are not a dime a dozen, there are some out there. For example, The Affordable Care Act (ACA) created the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) to give qualifying employers access to less expensive health insurance programs through state marketplaces. In addition to cheaper insurance policies, SHOP also offers a handful of business tax credits.
Taking advantage of government subsidies may put a bad taste in a business owner’s mouth. But the reality is that the ACA mandates employer-sponsored healthcare for most companies. As long as the federal government is going to require employers to offer health insurance, employers might just as well take advantage of whatever subsidies are available.
Work on Employee Wellness
Health insurance policies aside, one of the keys to managing premiums is reducing the amount of money employees spend on healthcare. Experts have been telling us for years that the best way to do that is to work on improving employee wellness.
There are numerous ways to approach employee wellness. Right now, there seems to be an emphasis on mental health benefits. The thinking is that employees will require less healthcare if mental health is maintained. Investing in mental health should theoretically help control healthcare costs.
The long and short of it is that managing healthcare costs is possible. Businesses do not have to just accept rising premiums as a cost of doing business.