Almost three-quarters of small businesses not currently providing health care benefits blamed high premiums as the reason in a national survey. Within six months after health care reform became law in March 2010, the country’s largest insurer, UnitedHealth Group Inc., added 75,000 new customers from companies that had fewer than 50 employees. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City has seen a 58-percent increase in small businesses buying insurance since the bill was signed into law. According to a national Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 59 percent of firms with fewer than 10 employees were offering health benefits this year. Last year, only 46 percent did.
One explanation may be that health plans with traditionally low rates, high-deductible plans, got a jump start. These plans had been criticized for not providing any upfront coverage. Employees tended to put off seeing a doctor because they had to pay for services until they had spent enough to meet the plan’s deductible. Health care reform turned these plans upside down by paying for preventive health care to reduce the need for delayed, costly medical intervention for neglected problems. Low premiums, preventive health care and catastrophic coverage make these plans more useful now.
Tip #1 – The insurance policies currently available include free preventive care screenings to keep employees on the job. By shifting away from just treating the sick, expanded preventive services help keep people well and productive for a lifetime. Even plans with deductibles over $10,000 (and correspondingly low premiums) pay for preventive care without co-pays or co-insurance charges or having to meet a deductible.
Tip #2 – Certain high-deductible plans can be combined with a tax-advantaged Health Savings Account (HSA). Both the employee and employer may contribute to an employee’s account, and any balance that is not needed for health care grows into a retirement account with tax-free earnings similar to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
An HSA remains the property of the employee even with employer contributions, and the employee has more control over an HSA than an IRA or Roth. There’
Tip #3 – Similar policies from different insurers may have premium prices that vary by hundreds of dollars. Compare coverage options from several insurance companies every year to get the greatest return on investment. eTXHealthinsurance provides instant online quotes and professional consultations to help small business owners compare plans from leading insurers.
Tip #4 – The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit is available for the 2011 through 2013 tax years for companies with fewer than 25 full-time employees or an equivalent number of employees working part time, and average annual wages of $50,000 or less. The tax credit can cover up to 35 percent of the cost of premiums for workers. That rate will increase to 50 percent in 2014. At that time, companies with 100 or fewer employees will be able to reduce administrative costs that are presently added into premiums by pooling purchasing power with the state exchange.
Tip #5 – When an employee of a small business becomes ill, sudden premium increases are still common. Beginning in 2014, “community rating” rules will block rate increases when an employee becomes sick. According to the White House, the cost of treating the uninsured is figured into premiums like a hidden tax, which adds more than $1,000 to the annual premium cost. Covering 32 million more people by 2019 is expected to reduce premium prices by decreasing the cost of treatment for those with no health insurance.
Compared to last year, 13 percent more of small businesses now provide health care to employees. The new tax credit for small firms can cover up to 35 percent of the cost to provide workers with a health plan through 2013. Then in 2014, the rate increases to 50 percent of premium costs, and premium increases for ill employees will be blocked. Plans with comparatively low premiums now provide preventive health care with no out-of-pocket costs, and some of these policies can be combined with a tax-advantaged HSA. To find the best value, eTXHealthinsurance advises small business owners to compare health plans from leading insurance companies at least once a year or whenever they are subject to premium increases.
# # #
eTXHealthinsurance has become a leader in providing educational resources that enable Texas families, individuals and small businesses to keep their healthcare costs low. Online information explaining how to keep premiums and out-of-pocket costs down is available at http://www.eTXHealthinsurance.com/
Texas residents seeking health insurance options in the individual market may use eTXHealthinsurance online resources to compare plans and apply online. Individuals and small companies may also schedule consultations with professionals to compare coverage options by calling 1-866-585-7664 between 9 AM and 11 PM Eastern.
eTXHealthinsurance also provides tools to lower healthcare costs that are not covered by insurance at http://www.eTXHealthinsurance.com/