Time to get a grip on health insurance? Survey says yes
As lawmakers grapple with the intricacies of a national healthcare overhaul, many small-business owners are facing a healthcare struggle of their own: determining a suitable health insurance plan for their company.
A new survey reveals that many executives at small firms in the U.S. lack the confidence and know-how to pick a health insurance policy that will meet the needs of their employees and their company’s bottom line.
Of the 500 executives surveyed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), 64 percent said they don’t feel confident choosing a plan, and 60 percent said they’re unsure of how their taxes would be affected if they shell out to cover a portion of their employees’ health insurance.
More discouraging still, one-third of small business execs who responded said they can’t afford to provide health coverage for their workers.
With employer-sponsored insurance premiums up 119 percent over the past decade, according to another recent study, the odds are certainly stacked against small businesses and their employees.
But financial ignorance about employee health policy seems like bad business, even when none of the options out there seem particularly favorable.
The NAIC suggests boosting your health insurance “IQ” in the following ways:
- Before purchasing any insurance policy, interview several licensed insurance agents specializing in the health insurance needs of small businesses.
- Before selecting a health plan, survey your employees to find out what coverage they consider particularly important.
- Understand the factors that influence the cost of the small group coverage in your state. States vary with respect to the methods they permit for calculating premiums.
- Take advantage of the tax benefits available to your company. Businesses can generally deduct 100 percent of the premiums they pay to qualifying health plans for their employees. Be sure to discuss this matter with your accountant or tax adviser.
- Know your rights with health insurers by checking with your state insurance department. Typically, small group health plans must treat equally all of your eligible employees (generally full- or part-time employees who work at least 30 hours a week).
- Determine if your state has a special program to assist small business owners with providing employees and their dependents with health insurance.
How confident are you about choosing an employee health insurance plan for your business? What suggestions do you have for other small-business owners stuck in limbo?
(Photo: Medical equipment is shown in a paediatrician’s office in Encinitas, California in this July 30, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Blake)