|Small Business Information|
Provide Affordable Health Care To Employees At Little To No Cost To You
You can provide affordable health care plans to your employees. If you feel overwhelmed by health care plan costs, you may be able to achieve far more than you believe. Here is how.
REAL NEEDS, REAL SOLUTIONS
Today, millions of EMPLOYED Americans depend on government aid, charitable organizations, and their own incomes to pay medical expenses. Until an extended illness or hospitalization occurs, these resources usually suffice.
When faced with catastrophic health expenses, people often turn to their employers. If your company provides insufficient insurance, will you pay someone who cannot work? To add insult to injury, this year Congress passed bankruptcy legislation that burdens millions of Americans in medically-induced financial crises.
Employers feel the pinch too. With every health insurance quote, numbers add up quickly: $150-250 per employee, $300-500 per family. Many businesses shift these costs to employees through higher deductibles and co-pays, partial premium payments, and other means.
And despite some television advertising, supplemental benefits are not well known in the workplace. Most providers rarely advertise or not at all. Supplemental health plans are separate from major medical and dental plans. A supplemental benefits broker brings you proven cost-reducing advantages.
The best supplemental benefits providers don't require employers to pay premiums. The employees pay for most benefits. However, competitively priced plans are inexpensive and pre-tax options can make them extremely attractive and affordable. Be sure you find a competitive provider with truly low-cost products to maximize savings and benefits.
Most insurance brokers do NOT handle supplemental benefits. When a supplemental benefits broker contacts you, assume your regular broker knows very little about such products. Ask questions. Make an informed decision. Most importantly, find ways to give your employees options and flexibility to care for their families. You cannot do it all, but they have to.
Good brokers schedule employee meetings to explain plans in detail. You should insist on a group meeting.
Plans fall into two categories: insurance and spending accounts. I'll describe them briefly, but you need to sit down with a knowledgeable broker to fully understand these programs.
Employers are usually asked to payroll deduct insurance premiums. Therefore, most voluntary plans may be offered as pre-tax deductions. Pre-taxing often reduces employee Federal and F.I.C.A. withholding. If employee F.I.C.A. contributions are reduced, employers who match contributions may save money, too.
Section 125 of the I.R.S. code defines the rules for pre-taxing voluntary benefit deductions. These plans are often called Section 125 or Cafeteria 125 plans. Pre-taxed plans restrict employees' changes.
Although some providers ask employers to guarantee premiums, competitive providers will NOT ask for employer contributions. Seek inexpensive insurance plans that incur no direct costs to employers. Accident care plans should cost no more than $15-25 per month: a dollar a day per employee. Family coverages and riders incur additional costs, so be informed.
Riders extend policy benefits. For example, an accident plan with a disability rider, a wellness rider, and a hospitalization rider provides considerable protection. If plans offer any reimbursement for preventive testing, employees may recoup some of their premiums.
The most popular insurance products are disability and accident plans. On average, about 50% of employees participate in them. Averages are not guarantees, but many employers are surprised by how popular these plans prove to be.
Cancer and critical illness plans are also popular. Employees may not want to pre-tax disability, cancer, or critical illness since benefits would be taxable. Some supplemental benefits providers have plans to help employees cover high deductibles and co-pays in major medical plans at reduced costs.
The several types of spending accounts are usually handled through third-party administrators. Because employees don't pay premiums, spending accounts are even more popular with some employers than insurance products. The neat thing about spending accounts is that they are pre-taxed, so both employer and employee may save money.
A Flexible Spending Account (FSA, or unreimbursed medical account) is used for co-pays, deductibles, over-the-counter expenses, and many items not covered by typical (or low-cost) major medical plans: crutches, hearing aids, etc.
Unfortunately, employers must pay small administrative fees for Flexible Spending Accounts. While they may recoup their expenses from reduced matching F.I.C.A contributions, some organizations don't make such contributions. Evaluate each FSA plan carefully to find the best match. With FSA plans, employees must budget carefully because they lose unspent funds at the end of the year.
Dependent Child Care Accounts are also popular. Some providers take a portion of reduced F.I.C.A. contributions as their fee. I.R.S. rules limit dependent child care expenses as tax deductions. Employees should understand two things: they will NOT claim these expenses on their tax returns AND their deductions become post-tax deductions after they have matched the current limit.
A new type of spending account is an HSA, or Health Savings Account. Unlike Flexible Spending Accounts, HSAs allow you to roll the unspent funds in the account over to the next plan year. So, what's the catch?
HSAs must be used in conjunction with High Deductible Health Plans. An HDHP costs less than typical major medical, but your deductible must meet a minimum requirement ($1000 individual, $2000 family). And you have to exhaust the funds in your HSA before you can use your insurance. So, HSAs are not for everyone. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has published a Web site with information on HSAs:
Work with a supplemental benefits broker to learn more about and understand how these programs help employers reduce costs, increase benefits, and assist employees in reducing their own medical expenses through effective, proven programs.
Michael Martinez is a licensed Life and Health insurance agent in the state of Texas. Insurance and benefits programs may be subject to both Federal and state regulations in your state. This article does not offer legal, tax, or financial advice. Consult a licensed supplemental benefits broker in your area to understand what choices you have available to you.
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