Rising health care costs put pressure on small businesses

2013-06-02T00:00:00Z Rising health care costs put pressure on small businessesBy Timothy J. Cummuta | Colonial Life Winona Daily News

Although double-digit health insurance cost increases affect all business owners no matter the size of their company, smaller businesses feel more pressure because they typically don’t have as many benefits options available to them as large companies. Yet you need to offer a competitive benefits package to compete with larger companies for qualified employees.

Voluntary benefits offered at the worksite can help small businesses lessen benefits program management pressures by providing much-needed solutions: voluntary products to help employees fill gaps in their core benefits and benefits communications to help employees better understand their benefits and the value of what you provide them.

Voluntary products expand the benefits program

We’re seeing larger numbers of small business employers putting in high-deductible health plans, and some are even adopting consumer-driven health care plans. Either way, employees are taking on more responsibility for their health care expenses. Voluntary benefits can help you better manage your benefits program costs and help provide employees with coverage choices to meet their out-of-pocket medical expenses. Adding a supplemental health insurance product and other voluntary benefits such as life insurance, cancer insurance and short-term disability can expand your benefits program. For example, if you have a high-deductible health plan, employees could choose a supplemental health insurance product to help pay for their additional out-of-pocket expenses.

With voluntary benefits, you can pay a portion or all of the premiums for the voluntary benefits or let employees pay for the additional benefits themselves.

Communication helps employees appreciate, understand benefits

Small businesses typically have little to no human resources staff, which means the business owner often handles HR duties in addition to all the other responsibilities. In many cases, you don’t have the time and resources to fully communicate your benefits program. Yet employees who understand the benefits they have and the value of what their employer provides appreciate their company more and use their benefits more responsibly, according to the Watson Wyatt WorkUSA 2004 study.

Having a voluntary benefits partner who can communicate your benefits program — both core and voluntary benefits — and help employees make educated coverage decisions can help take the load off of you. Find a voluntary benefits partner who is experienced in conducting one-on-one benefits communication sessions and who is willing to provide this valuable service at no cost. Many larger companies have staff or outside partners to help them with benefits communications and enrollments. But by partnering with a quality voluntary benefits provider, you can take advantage of these services in your own company at no additional expense. It’s a huge competitive advantage.

Voluntary benefits can help you relieve some of the pressure from increasing health insurance costs yet still remain competitive in the marketplace. The benefit to you is an enhanced benefits program, savings in program costs, quality benefits communications and an effective enrollment process. Your employees will benefit from having more coverage choices to meet their needs, plus they’ll understand and appreciate the value of what you provide for them.

Tim Cummuta is a district general agent for Colonial Life. A veteran of more than 20 years in the insurance and benefits industry, Cummuta is responsible for marketing Colonial Life’s products, programs and services in the Western Wisconsin area. For more information about Colonial Life’s products and services or opportunities with the company, call Cummuta at 1-877-539-9490 or visit www.coloniallife.com.

Copyright 2015 Winona Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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