To good health
As I write this column, New Hampshire voters are at the polls, weighing in on who should represent the Republican and Democratic parties in the 2008 presidential election. Healthcare looms large in the primary race, with each candidate claiming his or her plan will lessen the financial burden on small businesses and their employees.
Opinions vary as to how to fix the current system, but it’s clear change is necessary. In the National Glass Association 2007 Competitiveness Survey, auto glass repair and replacement retailers listed rising insurance costs as the second greatest threat to profitability, following higher energy and fuel prices. Results of the entire survey appear on Page 20.
In 2007, the average annual premium cost for family coverage was $12,106, according to The Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust “2007 Employer Health Benefits Survey.” About 70 percent of that financial burden fell on the shoulders of business owners.
Despite the financial strain, retailers remain committed to providing employees with health insurance. Seventy percent of respondents to the NGA survey reported offering shop-paid medical benefits.
To reduce employer health insurance costs, consider implementing a wellness program for employees that promotes a healthy lifestyle. Offer smokers an opportunity to enroll in smoking-cessation classes or partially refund employees for costs associated with fitness classes or gym
Look into cost-sharing. More than 63 percent of respondents to a 2007 e-glass weekly poll reported they split costs between the company and employees to help offset rising health insurance premiums. If you choose this option, be aware that employees have had to tighten their belts as well. Offer them tips and suggestions for reducing costs on their end.
For example, employees might consider splitting up family coverage. In a Jan. 7 appearance on NBC’s “Today” show, CNBC correspondent Bertha Coombs pointed out that “it might pay for [mom and dad] to be covered under their own employers, then put the kids on the plan with the best coverage.”
Employees can also take advantage of Flexible Savings Accounts, Coombs said. These accounts enable people to put aside a portion of their paycheck for co-pays, deductibles, prescriptions and other medical expenses that is not subject to payroll taxes.
Whether or not the next president of the United States can solve the healthcare problem remains to be seen. In the meantime, we must take matters into our own hands to keep costs down. Hopefully, some of these suggestions benefit you and your organization.
Here’s to good health in 2008!