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Agents can help you weigh health insurance options

By Angie Koury

For the past six months, we’ve been inundated with opinions and speculation about the success and failures of the open enrollment and initial rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

Bottom line: The ACA, enacted in its entirely on January 1, 2014, can be a great benefit for some small businesses.

Is health insurance more expensive is some cases? Yes.

Was the initial roll-out disappointing? Yes.

Are there favorable and not-so-favorable aspects? Yes.

But as a business owner, before you decide if the Affordable Care Act is a help or a hindrance for you and your business, ask yourself this question: Are you missing an opportunity that may benefit your business because you haven’t asked the right questions or talked with a broker who is willing to explore all your options?

I’ve met with numerous business owners, who have tolerated skyrocketing health-insurance premiums and diminishing benefits for years. Most business owners, whether employing two or 200, have struggled with whether or not to offer an employee benefits package, and if so, how to pay. One thing is certain: after January 1, 2014, employers have more options to explore.

Many businesses that didn’t offer employee benefits before due to the cost now have options.

If you are interested in helping employees pay for health insurance benefits without sacrificing your bottom-line, it may now be a viable possibility.

I recently met with a pediatric dentist who didn’t offer benefits before because with less than 10 employees, the cost-sharing for both her and the employees was too high. But now because the majority of her employees qualify for a premium credit or some other cost-saving measure, we’ll be able to enroll each of them on individual health insurance through a private insurance carrier, with great benefits, at about a 50 percent cost savings over a comparable group plan.
It isn’t just those individuals who qualify for a premium credit that can benefit from the new ACA guidelines.

Another client I have is a small business with four people enrolled on the group insurance plan. The owner’s child has medical conditions that preclude the family from getting individual insurance. Since the inception of the ACA, no one can be denied health insurance due to medical conditions. Even without a premium credit, we were able to enroll his entire family in an individual plan, with better benefits, and a lower cost than what he was paying on a small-business group plan.

This business owner took the process one step further. Using an outside vendor, he set up an HRA, where he contributes a set dollar amount per month to each employee’s account. Those employees can use those funds however they want. One employee was able to “buy up” to a more robust plan and add dental coverage. Another employee was able to use the savings to add his wife to his insurance plan.

What to look for:

Do you have a local health insurance agent?

Insurance companies, plan options, rates, and networks can vary based on where your business is domiciled in Florida. A local agent can assist you with trends in this area.

Do you know for sure that you are adhering to the ACA guidelines for small and large groups? The regulations regarding the number of employees you have, part time vs full time, the waiting period for new employees, possible financial penalties, possible tax incentives, and other rules are constantly being changed, delayed, updated, and revised. The right broker is an integral part in determining compliance issues and guiding you toward the right solutions for your business both now and in the next few years.

Do you review your plan offerings once a year? A broker can review your benefits plan, and based on your employee profile and budget, make recommendations. If you have employees living and working outside of North Florida, confirm your current plan selection(s) accommodate their needs. If you have employees covering spouses and children under the group plan, there may be better ways to offer great coverage at a lower price.

What should you do? If you have a broker, set up an appointment with him or her to review your current benefits plan.

If you don’t have a benefits plan in place and are interested in seeing if now may be the time to do so, an insurance agent or broker is your best source for comprehensive information.

If you don’t have a broker, ask other small-business owners that you know for a recommendation. You can also visit www.nahu.org and click on “find an agent.” It will direct you to enter your zip code for a list of local agents who are certified and trained to help you navigate these new and ever changing times for employee benefits.

 

angie kouryAngie Koury is the Vice President of George Koury Insurance and has worked with the Agency for over 8 years. She has Property and Casualty license along with Life, Health, and Variable Annuites licenses. Angie’s focus is Health Insurance. She can be reached at 904-262-8400.


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