Getting the Best Medical Benefits for Your Employees

Posted on March 1, 2002 by LCT Staff - Also by this author

Before you set up an elaborate health insurance program that provides medical coverage for all of your employees, first take into consideration your employees? specific health-care needs and then do the necessary research into the various programs that are available.

Entice New Hires One way that you may be able to entice a higher caliber of employee is to offer medical benefits. ?We figured if we put up a little extra, then we would find people who are more conscientious and interested in long-term employment,? explains Gary Day, owner of

American Limousine in Baltimore, Md. ?If your employees feel like you?re giving a little more than what some of the other companies out there are offering, you may get the type of people who want to stay with you. They will feel like your company is a better place to work than maybe the two-car operator.? American Limousine?s decision to offer medical benefits to full-time employees has helped the company attract employees who are not only concerned about survival, but also concerned with long-term factors and their future. ?And after they?ve been here awhile, they?re a much better asset because they?ve built up a clientele and people want them as a chauffeur. So it?s a win-win situation, because they?re out there promoting your business and doing a good job, and they?re receiving benefits.?

Prioritize Wants and Needs The first step you need to take before researching health insurance programs is to survey your employees and find out what types of medical benefits are important to them. Day polled his employees before making any decisions and found that his employees had definite preferences. ?Some people have regular prescription needs, and that?s important,? Day says. ?Others see the doctor regularly, so a low out-of-pocket cost to visit their personal physician is important.?

Ask your employees who their doctors are, and see if those doctors participate in the plans that you?re considering. ?Sometimes not being able to go to your family doctor can become a major issue,? Day says.

Prioritizing employees? health needs and desires will help you to customize your insurance plan. ?Our people are more concerned with prescription coverage, so we got a higher deductible for hospital coverage, better options and lower out-of-pocket costs for our prescriptions,? Day says. ?Every little piece costs more money. It?s sort of like buying a computer ? you can customize it, and the more features you get, the more it costs. Some expensive features you can do without. Our people didn?t care so much about eye care, which was $17 per person, per month. So we took that out, put that $17 back into a prescription plan, and that gave us a $5 co-pay vs. a $15 co-pay.? Many HMO programs allow you to pick and choose items within the program itself, allowing you to customize your health plan based on your company?s priorities and needs.

Consider Length of Employment At Greene Limousine in Atlanta, employees must be with the company 90 days before receiving benefits. ?After 90 days, we pay 100 percent medical and dental for managers, and also for their families,? says Jeff Greene, president of Greene Classic Limousines. ?For the other employees, we pay 100 percent medical and dental for them, and offer additional coverage at their expense for spouses and children.? Greene?s chauffeurs are independent contractors and are not eligible for company benefits.

At American Limousine, full-time employees are offered benefits depending on the length of their employment. ?If an employee is here six months, they get insurance after 30 days, but they have to pay for it themselves,? Day says. ?After six months, we pay $50 per month toward the insurance, and after one year, we pay $100.?

American contributes its portion of the insurance cost, and the balance is taken out of the employee?s paycheck as a payroll deduction. After the employee has been with American for 18 months, the company pays 100 percent of the insurance cost. ?This way, people don?t just come in here, go get their teeth fixed and then leave the company,? Day says. ?They have a vested interest. It?s not just about, ?How much money can I put in my pocket?? What we?re looking for is more of the ?Cadillac? type of person ? and offering benefits helps attract them. And, hopefully after 18 months of service, you become fond of them and they become fond of you. There?s a loyalty factor.?

Explore Discounts Sometimes membership in certain associations can provide you with access to a discounted insurance program or a better type of insurance plan. For example, the California Small Business Association (CSBA) is a nonprofit organization that represents small-business issues to state and federal government offices. The CSBA includes an insurance service that allows members to choose among major insurance carriers and receive plans with enhanced benefits or group rates. A choice of HMO, PPO, point-of-service, or a mixture of plans is available to members.

Consider a Broker You can shop around and do research on your own by calling Blue Shield and other popular carriers, but this method is also the most time-consuming. Independent insurance agents or brokers stay on top of ever-changing laws and can sometimes obtain better rates through the carrier than if you did all the work on your own. Day worked with an insurance broker who researched various medical plans and also stays current with any changing insurance rules. The broker continues to keep the insured updated on any time-sensitive decisions that need to be made regarding the company?s insurance plan.

The first step is for an insurance broker to take a census of your company, essentially making a list of your eligible employees, dates of birth and other pertinent information. Then the broker contacts various insurance companies and shops around for various plans. ?Usually, the broker will come back to you with three or four different choices,? says Jeff McAnany, vice president of sales for Transportation Insurance Brokers (TIB). ?The broker is your advocate with the insurance company and acts as a liaison.? McAnany says that contrary to what most people think, the broker represents the insured, in this case the operator, not the insurance company. ?A good, independent broker represents your interests to the insurance company and works on your behalf,? he says.

The broker acts as your own personal plan administrator. You purchase your health plan through them and give them a down payment. In addition, the broker gets a commission from the insurance company selling the product.

If you?re considering using a broker, start with the insurance person you already work with and know. ?We put the word out that we were looking for medical insurance with the people we already had insurance with,? Day says. ?Whoever you have car insurance with sometimes sells that piece of the pie, too. So that?s a good start because you already have a relationship.?

Make sure you ... for more on this topic, check out the March issue of LCT magazine!

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