Managing Health Care Costs at Your Small Business
Even with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, health care continues to consume more and more of companies' benefits spending—and forecasts suggest employer premiums will rise again, at least modestly, in 2016. In the past, premiums for small businesses have run 8 percent to 18 percent higher than those paid by larger businesses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The provisions of the Affordable Care Act provide assistance to small businesses, yet some are hesitant to make changes to this important employee perk, even when premiums often rise significantly from year to year. If health care costs are becoming difficult to manage, take time to research additional options early in the year. Here are a few ways to help make the most of the dollars spent.
Small Business Health Care Tax Credit
If a small business meets certain requirements, they may receive a tax credit for an amount equaling up to 50 percent of their health costs. The credit may be carried back or forward to other periods if a company doesn't need to take the full amount as an offset in the current year.
Benefit from the SHOP Marketplace
The Small Business Health Options Program (also known as SHOP) provides qualified smaller companies options to offer employees quality health and dental care plans. Participation in SHOP is required to qualify for the small business health care tax credit. Managed online, the SHOP marketplace is a resource for small businesses that offers a number of health care plan choices by state. If a business qualifies then they can enroll and administer the programs online.
Start a Wellness Program
Companies that actively seek ways to keep workers healthy may reap the benefits in lower health care costs. Many low-cost wellness programs can be implemented relatively quickly and easily. Smoking cessation programs, fitness class discounts, or even just an organized activity center in the office can encourage employees to get moving and stick with a physical fitness plan.
Offer Health Care Assistance Services
Though it may seem counter intuitive, offering additional health care assistance services can help manage health care costs over the long-term. Research the cost of an outside health care assistance service or ask your insurance provider if they offer any assistance services. Hotlines staffed by nurses or experienced personnel can help employees with basic health issues, specialist referrals or even provide assistance with insurance questions. Programs that help manage asthma and other chronic diseases are another area which can benefit employees and help manage health care costs.
Manage Deductibles and Co-Pays
Companies looking to stretch health care dollars may consider changing the current deductibles or employee co-pays. For employees who rarely visit the doctor, paying more per visit may be preferable to an increased health care premium amount subtracted from their bi-weekly paycheck.
As health care costs continue to rise, health insurance continues to be viewed as an important employee benefit. To attract and retain high quality employees, companies should make an effort to provide quality health care choices to employees and take advantage of new programs offered in conjunction with the Affordable Care Act.