Five Ways to Cut your Health Insurance Costs

Nearly one-third of all health-insurance premiums increased to 30
percent or more. At that rate, the average cost of health insurance
per employee will exceed $3,000. Seventy-three percent of senior
executives believe health-care costs will continue to increase 20
percent or more each year for the next three years. The message
here is clear: If you haven’t already gotten serious about cutting
your company’s health-insurance costs, now is the time. It can be
done. The first thing you should do is learn how the system
works–or doesn’t work. Most small employers spend fewer than four
hours a year thinking about their company health plans. Learn what
your options are. Your insurance agent can help you shop for
cheaper plans. But don’t stop there. Compare plan benefits,
insurance-company records, and service guarantees.

Consider Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans and HMOs
(health-maintenance organizations), even if your agent doesn’t
handle them. The Blues in some areas, offer clear advantages to
small companies. Experts regard HMOs as the best buys in health
care. Find out if your company is eligible for new, low-cost health
insurance plans now available in five states. In addition,
foundation-funded pilot projects in several parts of the country
are demonstrating that it is possible to cut health-coverage costs
30 to 40 percent. In short, health insurance isn’t as simple as it
used to be. And the pace of change is accelerating, offering new
hope for a truce in the business battle with exploding health-care
costs. The next couple of years present as much potential for
change as at any time in the past 20 years. You can be part of that
change by putting at least some of the following 5 ideas to work
for your company.

1) Increase Cost Sharing By Employees This recommendation is at the
top of every consultant’s list. Small companies tend to pay far
more of their workers’ total health-care bill than large companies
do. Yet research shows that insulating employees from the costs of
care encourages unnecessary use of health services. Fifty-two
percent of the companies responding to the Nation’s Business health
survey said they pay 100 percent of their employees’
health-insurance premiums. But 45 percent said they intended to
implement or increase employee contributions to these premiums. An
equal number said they plan to increase employee deductibles.
Insurance companies first attached $100 deductibles to
major-medical plans in the early 1950s. But 40 percent of employers
still set deductibles at $100 or less. Raising a $100 deductible to
$250 would cut premium costs for single coverage by about 11
percent. A $500 deductible would cut costs by about one-fourth. A
$1,000 deductible would save about one-third.

2) Allow Employees To Pay For Health Premiums With Tax-Free Dollars
Set up a so-called flexible spending account, which allows your
employees to pay their share of health-insurance premiums and
un-reimbursed health-care expenses with pretax dollars. A flexible
spending account could save employees 20 cents to 35 cents on the
dollar, because state and federal income taxes and Social Security
taxes are not imposed. Moreover, the company saves by reducing the
employee’s base salary on which it pays Social Security and other
taxes. Hire an outside payroll accounting firm to handle the
paperwork. You can pay the service fee and still come out with a
net savings. The monthly administration fee would run between $2
and $5 per employee.

3) Transfer High-Risk Employees To The State’s High-Risk Pool
Insurance premiums soar whenever someone in a small-group plan
becomes very ill–with cancer or heart disease, for example. As an
employer, you should explore the possibility of moving employees
with serious health problems into a state high-risk pool and then
negotiating a lower premium for the healthy members of your group.

4) Switches To An Open-Enrollment Blue Cross And Blue Shield Plan
Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans operate as de facto high-risk
pools in a number of states by providing “open enrollment” periods
during which any group can buy insurance. Among the 74 Blue Cross
and Blue Shield organizations nationwide, 21 offer open enrollment.
All the Blues once used community rating to set premium levels. But
that began to change in the 1960s when commercial insurers started
to lure away firms with low risks by offering them cheaper health

5) Replace Your Traditional Health Plan With An HMO Unlike
traditional health insurance, HMOs cover all medical needs,
including routine preventive care, for a flat monthly fee that
typically is less expensive than traditional health insurance.
Moreover, two types of HMOs, the staff and the group models, have
proven to be more effective at controlling costs than any other
form of health-care delivery. Staff models employ physicians
directly and put them on salary.

DISCLAIMER: This information is for educational and informational
purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for
professional advice. Always seek the advice of a licensed Insurance
Agent or Broker with any questions you may have regarding any
Insurance Matter.

Five Ways to Cut your Health Insurance Costs

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