As spring slowly approaches here in New England, the cost of healthcare will still leave a wintry sting for many business owners. At FBinsure we have been spending the majority of our time proactively providing education to clients along with their employees about all of their healthcare benefit options and whether or not the overall changes are impacting them. So what will this spring bring for the majority of us? Well, for all of you business owners out there, make it a priority to have the proper communication strategies in place for any benefit and health plan changes to your employees, and be thorough! Employees today are looking for reassurance, not just insurance. They need to feel that their employer has done everything possible to keep their current benefit levels stable.
A bonus that some people who are currently insured may not realize is that just about all health carriers today are rewarding their members for being proactive with their health. That means cash rewards for being healthy! For example, there are reimbursements for gym memberships, weight watchers memberships, incentives for annual doctor’s visits, and the list is increasing due to ObamaCare. Most Blue Cross Blue Shield health plans reward their customers $150 for a gym membership and $300 if their doctor signs off on a healthy visit. Fallon Community Health Plans offer $400 annually for gym memberships, etc. So check with the health carrier you use to verify the available rewards programs and then take full advantage. Every single health insurance carrier has great literature that can be distributed to remind employees of what they offer. This can be an important piece of an employer’s overall communication strategy. The majority of these simple reimbursement rewards are being underutilized. Just to note, these perks tend to have cut off dates.
We have also found that many employers are inquiring about Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). Many are implementing this as an overall benefits strategy to help push monthly premium costs down. Using a FSA is a great way to utilize the tax-advantageous features which allow a consumer to save pre-tax dollars for normal medical expenditures. One would start by setting an amount deducted from your paycheck every pay period. I already know what you’re thinking, “I already have my healthcare and benefits deducted as it is, let alone all the other deductions, and I can’t afford anymore to be deducted from my check.” Looking ahead, a company can elect to have a carryover option, which is $500 annually. This can be a strong reason to start using a FSA if your employer offers it. Be proactive. If you can, look back to last year and jot down all of your medical expenses during that time frame. Once you tally those up imagine having a thirty percent savings on the front end because you are using pre-tax dollars. For all you employers out there, it may be a good time to analyze your group and possibly take a look at implementing a FSA into your overall benefits strategy. Most Americans cannot plan on being sick, but if most households were to add up doctor visit co-pays (besides annual checkups), dentist visits (including fillings etc.), visits to the orthodontist, prescriptions, etc. then this would provide them with some evidence as to just how much they spend on their health in a given year. Utilizing a tool like a FSA, employees can have a hands-on approach to additional healthcare expenditures and better budget the overall out-of-pocket costs while saving money in the process; it’s a tax benefit that is underutilized.
As the healthcare reform buzz is slowing and the insured public begins to see the cost effects, business owners and consumers need to constantly be aware of the options available to them. Although all healthcare insurance carriers have updated the plans in their portfolios, there are many adjustments that will have to be monitored and constantly evaluated year to year as we progress deeper into the abyss of the reform system. Simple cut-and-dry strategies are a way of the past. As an employer you need to revisit your overall strategic plan beyond the cost curve. Be proactive as an employee and provide your employer with the appropriate feedback to assist in their decisions.