Small-group health coverage gives employers competitive edge

June 6, 2018

This paid piece is sponsored by Avera.

Constant change is part of business – and certainly commonplace to business owners who provide health care coverage for employees.

One challenge in particular is attracting and retaining talented employees. Small employers are not required by the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, to provide health insurance to their employees. Yet it’s a benefit considered to be table stakes by many employees as they seek positions.

Our company’s culture is a big reason we offer health insurance for our employees. Your organization is only as good as the talent, and coverage is about people,” said Gary Gaspar, co-owner and president of Interstate Office Products. “The small-group coverage we have allows us to attract top talent and to retain them. Businesses sometimes overlook the full impact of turnover, but it can really affect your company’s overall performance.”

Gaspar’s business fits into what’s called small-group coverage in the health insurance industry. That applies to businesses with between one and 50 employees. He said the changes in health care, including the ACA and attempts to alter or repeal it, require business owners to stay nimble.

“Options will change, and we’re always evaluating the options, looking at the way things are rapidly surfacing in terms of costs and benefits,” he said. “We worked with our coverage to make sure we could keep co-pays, deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket caps at a reasonable rate. But it’s a big number, and all businesses have to manage costs down. We have to do it in a way that still takes care of our team and their families.”

Melissa Johnson is the founder and owner of Oh My Cupcakes, which employs 28. Her full-time workers are offered coverage, and she said with rising costs of care, as well as premiums, she and her team communicate often about how to “make it work.”

“Being as small as we are, we can have frequent conversations about our plans with our team and our agent,” Johnson said. “We know there are many people who leave jobs they love because they need insurance. We provide coverage because in many ways our employees are like family. We want to take care of them.”

Employees value their benefit options and look for a wide range of value-added services, Gaspar said. That’s why providing things such as an Employee Assistance Program, out-of-town referral pathways and telehealth services are included in Interstate Office Products’ coverage.

“We get great feedback from our employees, and since benefits have been a part of our company’s culture from its inception, we continue to find ways to respond to that feedback and provide services our teams need and want,” he said.

Unlike individual coverage, which can be obtained only during fall open enrollment or after a qualifying life event, small employers can set up small-group coverage anytime. Coverage is generally set up for one year, and when the coverage year has ended, the company can renew or consider other options.

“The balance between benefit and premium is a moving target and one that employers approach successfully when they remain fully engaged and look to the advice of an experienced agent,” said Avera Health Plans CEO Deb Muller. “Using innovative products like health savings accounts, health reimbursement accounts and telehealth platforms like AveraNow can help the savvy workers of today’s businesses find convenient value in the coverage their small-group employer provides.”

“This is about people and about their families, and that’s why we work hard to make it effective for everyone on our team,” Gaspar said. “It’s a significant expense, but it’s also critically important to take care of our people. It comes back to balancing things out for the good of your people, their families and the long-term financial success of your business.”

Johnson said that coverage matters to her and to her bottom line.

“It’s certainly not inexpensive, but we have a lot of talent and we want to keep them on our team. Great bakers and designers are valuable,” she said. “Having an agent that can help us consider choices and keep our coverage affordable – so we can keep those valuable employees – makes a huge difference for us.”

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Small-group health coverage gives employers competitive edge

For small businesses, offering health insurance doesn’t have to be out of reach.

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