Consumers Still Baffled by Health Insurance Websites

By Sally Poblete

In the process of assisting several individual consumers and small groups in finding coverage, I visited and used many insurance company websites, in addition to the State and Federal marketplaces. It was a very humbling and gratifying experience to service consumers who were confused and frustrated by their health insurance search experience. Here’s what I found: 

Terminology and Network Very Confusing to Consumers

Consumers were confused by common insurance terminology and how it could impact them. They did not know the names of the networks needed to determine which doctors and hospitals were included in their network. For example, a consumer may have had an in-network doctor from a prior plan with their employer, but that same doctor may be out-of-network in an individual plan of the same carrier. A consumer needs to know the name of the network and how to search the right provider directory in order to access accurate information. Without that information, they may purchase a plan that does not cover their current doctors or provide the benefits they need. The carrier website network searches were cumbersome, and the State and Federal marketplaces also did not offer adequate support in this area.

Carrier Websites Far From Intuitive

Carrier websites offered helpful summaries of the plans. However, they did not always include SBCs (summary of benefits and coverage), which is necessary to drill into the details. In addition, a consumer would have to research each carrier’s website individually to determine what the plan would actually cover. It was challenging to find both the prices and the level of detail on the same site. 

The bottom line is that the user needs to understand that the carriers, networks, and products can differ drastically. Consumers could easily purchase a plan that doesn’t cover them appropriately or include a network that doesn’t meet their needs. Consumers need the information in an easy-to-digest format that explains the nuances of the various plan options in a way they can understand. 

I understand the aggravation and headache that people feel when trying to navigate such an important buying decision. It is not surprising that Aflac found that just over 40% of employees surveyed would rather be subjected to some form of discomfort, like doing three hours of hot yoga or cleaning up dog poop, than research their insurance benefits during open enrollment. 

Part of the reason why I started Wellthie was to simplify the way that people learn about and choose insurance. I always knew that this was a significant goal, and working with consumers first hand reinforces our mission.  

Wellthie’s Definitive Guide to Small Business Health Insurance

By Angela Sluss

This Small Business Saturday and always, Wellthie wants you to provide access to health benefits for your small business employees. Wellthie’s definitive guide has valuable information to help you navigate the small business health insurance space.

What Kind of Small Business Are You? 

Your business is considered a small business in the majority of states if you have fewer than 50 Full-Time Employees (FTEs). If you are located in New York, Vermont, Colorado, or California you would be considered a small business if you had fewer than 100 FTEs. 

If you are a Contractor, Sole Proprietor, or Freelancer, with no other employees, you may be eligible for Individual Medical plans and possibly Association Health Plans

If your business is over the above thresholds, you would be required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to offer health insurance. 

Why Offer Health Insurance? 

There are countless reasons to offer health insurance options to your employees, ranging from ACA requirements to the health, wellness, happiness, and productivity of your team. You should prioritize making health coverage available for your employees even if you are not obligated by law to do so. Budgeting for the sake of your employees’ well-being is proven to produce healthier, more motivated workers and to both attract and retain the best talent for your company. Metlife’s 2019 report on Employee Benefits Trends found that 76% of employees agreed that “employers have a responsibility for the health and well-being of their employees.” Demonstrating your investment to your employees by providing them with health benefits choices rewards you with “a more engaged, loyal, and productive workforce in return.”

Can I Afford It? 

A limited budget can seem like a considerable barrier preventing you from deciding to offer medical insurance to your employees. For businesses under the 50 life threshold, Fully Insured ACA rates are determined based on your employees’ ages, the location of your business, the carrier, and the type of plan. Your employees’ health insurance rates will not vary based on their health or pre-existing medical conditions as per the ACA regulations.

You need to understand the amount of money that you can allocate towards benefits (don’t forget to account for the cost of adding employees if growth is in your plan for the year). 

You will need the dates of birth of your employees and their dependents (spouses and children).

Online national small business health insurance marketplaces like Wellthie are great ways to shop and compare your employees’ health insurance costs and options. Simply plug in your company’s ZIP code and immediately see the number of plans available in your area, at the lowest average employee only cost for a 35-year-old.

If you enter specific ZIP codes on Wellthie’s platform, you can view and compare typical small business health insurance prices between the locations. For this example, let’s focus on the following cities: Phoenix, AZ, Atlanta, GA, Detroit, MI, Denver, CO, Jersey City, NJ, and New York City, NY.

As you can see, the price based on your location can vary widely. The most expensive area in this example is New York City, NY (10019) while the least expensive is Detroit, Michigan (48204). 

The numbers above include the assumption that you are covering 100% of your employee’s monthly cost, but that is not always required. Small business owners will commonly contribute at least 50% of the total costs of their employees’ monthly health insurance premiums. Carriers may have certain requirements around contributions based on your size. 

What Options Are Available?

Fully-Insured Plans

Fully-insured plans are employer-sponsored health plans where your company pays the insurance carrier a premium. You can more easily budget for fully-insured plans because the prices are based on the ages of your employees and/or the zip code of your company headquarters. The health of your employees doesn’t impact the rates, and you cannot be denied based on your employees’ health. The insurance company assumes all risk, and the insurance provider manages all claims.

You traditionally have more options when it comes to plans or carrier choice, and can normally purchase a fully-insured plan if your business has at least two employees.

It does differ from other alternatives in that fully insured plans do not offer any assistance with payroll, HR, or compliance. 

Professional Employer Organizations (PEO) 

Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) offer services providing support and workplace insurance coverage, payroll processing, benefits administration, and HR training to small and medium-sized businesses.

The services PEOs offer to small business employees go beyond health benefits. PEOs provide payroll, workers’ compensation, compliance support, and human resources services.

PEOs offer minimal choice in carriers, which means your employees may not have the option to enroll in the best health plans for them and their families. PEOs require monthly administrative fees to support their services and may require additional information in order to finalize a quote option.

Association Health Plans (AHP)

Association Health Plans (AHPs) allow small businesses to join together to offer large group coverage. For certain companies, AHPs can be affordable alternatives to more traditional health care plans. AHPs cannot discriminate against individuals based on any previous health conditions or how old they are. In addition, there is no limit (annual or lifetime) on health coverage. 

Depending on the industry, AHPs can be more expensive, and the plan rates may vary based on age, and gender within a specific geographical location.

Self-Funded Plans

Self-Funded Plans or Self-Insured Plans are health plans where the employer assumes the risk of paying health claims as opposed to the insurer. Self-Funded Plans can be affordable options because there are no risk or profit margins to pay to an insurer, in addition to no state-levied premium taxes. Self-Funded Plans provide control to the employer, including the freedom to customize plans to fit the company’s personal goals and the needs of the employees. The employer can select, coordinate, and monitor all plan vendors and retain funds should a health claim be lower than expected. Additional information may also be required to obtain a quote including health information of your employees. 

The employer risks financial losses in the cases of higher claims, operational inefficiencies, unpredictable current year expenses, regulatory penalties or lawsuits, in-house fraud, or abuse. 

 Where Do I Begin to Research Options* in My Area?

– National small business health insurance marketplaces like Wellthie

SHOP 

– Insurance carriers in your area

– Ask other small businesses for licensed health insurance broker references

*All of the options above are free to you – you should never pay for advice

What Are the Differences in the Plans?  

Fully Insured small group plans are separated into 4 metallic tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Bronze is usually the cheapest, and the premiums go up from there. 

A network refers to the suppliers, facilities, and providers your employees’ health plan or insurer has contracted with to provide health care services.

There is a variety of plan types available, including Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs), Exclusive Provider Organizations (EPOs), Point of Service (POS), and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO).

What’s a Good Plan? 

A good plan is defined differently by every company, set of employees, budget, and the health needs of the given employee population. Wellthie is an excellent tool to browse your employees’ fully insured small group health insurance costs and options, generate quotes, and then schedule an appointment with a licensed health insurance broker at your convenience. You have many different options when it comes to affording small group medical insurance. As a reminder, you may not have to contribute the full amount towards employees’ premiums. 

Ultimately the best option is the plan you can afford that provides sufficient coverage for your employee population. 

There are plenty of options available for you and your employees if traditional insurance plans are too expensive. We’ve outlined several other options for you above, but reach out to an expert who can guide you to the right choice for your small business.

Other Considerations (Options)

Health Savings Accounts

Health Savings Account, or HSAs, provide tax advantages that can be used as payment for healthcare expenses. If you’re a small business owner looking to shop and find an HSA to use in conjunction with your qualifying High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), consider opening an account with Lively.

Health Reimbursement Arrangement

Health Reimbursement Arrangements, or HRAs, are accounts funded by employers like you in order to help your employees pay for qualified medical expenses that are not covered by their health plans. If you’re a small business owner looking to shop and find an HRA to offer your employees in conjunction with a small group plan, consider signing up with Take Command Health. There are a lot of new HRA options available. Some of those are listed below:

Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement 

– Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement, or ICHRA, is based on reimbursing employees for insurance rather than buying it for them. Employers design their plan, including establishing reimbursement limits and defining which employees are eligible. Employees can be divided by classes (full time, seasonal, part-time, salaried vs. non-salaried, etc.) and each class can be extended a different level of benefit—varying reimbursement amounts or even in combination with a group plan.

– Employees purchase the individual plans they want.

– Employees submit claims for reimbursement.

– Employers reimburse employees for valid claims.

Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement 

– Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement, or QSEHRA, allows small employers to set aside a fixed amount of money each month that employees can use to purchase individual health insurance or use on medical expenses, tax-free. 

– Employers design their plan and set reimbursement allowances.

– Employees pay for their own health insurance and medical bills.

– Employees provide proof of their expenses.

– Employers reimburse the employee up to the set limit.

Supplemental Insurance

Supplemental insurance products are additional coverage that you can use to help with the out-of-pocket expenses that may not be covered by your employees’ major medical insurance, such as serious illnesses or accidents. These types of voluntary insurance would pay a cash benefit if one or more of your employees receive a specific diagnosis or had a hospital stay. If you’re a small business owner interested in securing extra financial protection for your employees, consider visiting Aflac.

Start Offering Benefits Today

If you’re a small business owner considering making health insurance options available to your employees, there is an abundance of resources at your disposal guiding you every step of the way. Don’t wait! Make sure your valued team members are covered!

Securing the Right Employee Benefits for Your Small Business

By The Wellthie Insights Team and Take Command Health

This past year, the number of uninsured Americans rose from 25.6 Million to 27.5 Million, with small business employees making up a considerable fraction of this figure. In the vast majority of states, small business owners with over 50 employees are mandated under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to provide their employees with health insurance options. In the states of New York, Vermont, Colorado, and California, there is an exception. Small business owners only have to make health insurance options available to their employees if they employ 100 or more people in these four states. But you should still prioritize insuring your team, even if your small business has an employee population that falls under the designated threshold for your state.

Employee benefits packages that are customized by you to meet the needs of your employees are one of the top 5 happiness drivers in the workplace. Naturally, employees who are happier while at work tend to work more efficiently and productively. 

It should be noted that every small business is different, with unique budgetary and health needs. That being said, if you are a small business owner considering employee benefits, it is beneficial to know your options. With new health reimbursement arrangements on the market like the Individual Coverage HRA (for companies of all sizes) or the Qualified Small Employer HRA (for companies less than 50), it’s important to understand the pros and cons of this new model of benefits and how it relates to traditional small group plans. 

Is a small group plan the way to go?

When comparing reimbursing for individual plans versus traditional small group plans, remember what’s great for one company might not be great for another. It largely depends on how your company is structured, where your employees live, and your budget. 

If prices on the individual market are more expensive than what you’d find in a group plan, the traditional route is the way to go. If there’s limited plan options or narrow provider networks with little competition on the individual market, that’s another indicator that a group plan is probably best. 

But how do you find a small group plan that’s right for your business and your budget? 

Wellthie is an online national health insurance marketplace featuring thousands of medical and ancillary plans offered by hundreds of carriers. Wellthie is a free and easy tool that will revolutionize your health insurance shopping experience, whether you have never provided health insurance options to your employees before, aren’t sure whether you can afford it, or are dissatisfied with the plan/s in which your employees are currently enrolled.

Simply enter your company’s ZIP code, name, and the number of employees, and immediately view and compare your company’s healthcare costs and options. 

You can filter the plan options available in your area by the carrier, network, metal level, deductible, and more. Select plans to compare and generate accurate, beautifully branded quotes in minutes.

At any stage in the process, seamlessly connect (via chat, email, or phone) to one of the licensed health insurance brokers in Wellthie’s network. These licensed agents will answer any questions you may have and ultimately facilitate enrollment in the plan/s of your choice. 

The traditional process for acquiring health insurance for your small business employees is outdated, requiring numerous in-person appointments and tedious paperwork. In order to receive an accurate health insurance quote, you could wait for days, weeks, even months! With Wellthie, you can get reliable quotes in minutes, all formatted in a way you can understand. Discuss your options and get your employees enrolled in your desired plans with the help of a licensed health insurance industry expert at a time convenient for your busy schedule.

Reimburse employees with an Individual Coverage HRA

If a group plan isn’t in the cards for your business (or for all of your employees), you might take a look at offering an HRA instead of a small group plan or in conjunction with one. A few indicators of this would be if group plans are too pricey to be feasible for your company, if you can’t accommodate the group plan increases year over year, if you only want to offer some of your employees benefits, if you’re worried about minimum participation requirements, or you’re just plain stressed over choosing and administering a one-size-fits-all plan for your diverse workforce.  

A new tax-friendly HRA—the Individual Coverage HRA (ICHRA) is about to hit the market on the heels of a big push for flexibility and accessibility in the healthcare market that has manifested itself in recent regulatory rule changes.  

A result of ongoing healthcare reform efforts spanning two presidencies to alleviate healthcare costs for businesses and return healthy individuals to the market, ICHRA is part of a growing trend in the employer-sponsored healthcare market of switching to a more flexible financial model, much like the shift from pensions to 401ks. While it’s too early to understand the full potential of these new HRAs, the HHS projects that in the next 5 to 10 years, roughly 800,000 employers will offer Individual Coverage HRAs to pay for insurance for more than 11 million employees. 

Here’s what to know. 

How the new Individual Coverage HRA works

As the name implies, ICHRA is based on reimbursing employees for insurance rather than buying it for them. At a high-level, the way ICHRA works is very simple:

1. Employers design their plan, including establishing reimbursement limits and defining which employees are eligible. Employees can be divided by classes (full time, seasonal, part-time, salaried vs. non-salaried, etc. and each class can be extended a different level of benefit—varying reimbursement amounts or even in combination with a group plan.

2. Employees purchase the individual plans they want.

3. Employees submit claims for reimbursement.

4. Employers reimburse employees for valid claims.

Here are a few other arguments in favor of an Individual Coverage HRA benefits solution. 

Retain your top talent: The 11 classes and unlimited custom class options allow employers to focus their healthcare spend on the most crucial team members. Want to offer salaried works a group plan and non-salaried workers $300 a month? The ICHRA can make that happen. Want to offer different reimbursement amounts to your seasonal crew than your full-timers? That works too. Want to keep your group plan for existing employees but offer an HRA to anyone new? You can do that as well. 

No surprises when it comes to cost: define your benefits budget and stick with it. No annual increases to stress over.

Design the right benefits solution for you: design a plan that fits your team vs. being locked into what an insurance company offers.

Risk de-management: take managing your employees’ health risk out of your business plan. 

Plan portability: employees own their health plan and can take it with them if they change jobs.

Plan choice and personalization: employees select individual plans that fit their unique needs

No minimum participation concerns: Most group plans require employers to maintain a high participation rate—typically around 70%. This can force employers to offer more generous and expensive benefits than they may have otherwise in order to keep the plan intact.

What next?

If you’re looking for an affordable and customized group health insurance plan to offer instead of or in conjunction with your HRA, Wellthie is an excellent resource for you.  

If you want to learn if HRAs like ICHRA are the best option for your business, reach out to Take Command Health, an ICHRA administration solution company that also has its own private exchange for employees to shop for the individual plans of their choice.

Michigan Business Vs. Individual Health Insurance: A Cost Comparison

By The Wellthie Insights Team

In the state of Michigan, an individual health insurance policy is 86% more expensive than the monthly premium for a small group plan.

As an employer, depending on your business’ size, you may be required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to offer your employees qualified health insurance options. Employees who don’t receive health insurance coverage through a job will need to purchase an individual health care plan. For families, Individuals, and business owners alike, health insurance premiums can seem like an enormous financial burden.

In 2017, health insurance premiums in the state of Michigan accounted for 36% of an individual’s median household income. Naturally, it is recommended to seek out where you can compare health insurance and save money to find the best policy at the lowest available price.

Wellthie partnered with ValuePenguin, a free source for information and tools to help people make consumer spending decisions, to analyze Michigan health insurance plans and identify small group and individual health policy premium differences.

Major Findings

On average, small group policy premiums are $271 cheaper per month when compared to individual health insurance plans.

If you currently do not receive health coverage sponsored by an employer or a federal health insurance program like Medicaid, individual health insurance is available for purchase through a state marketplace. The individual pays entirely for a marketplace policy, which can usually make the policy more costly than a group plan, for which a person would only pay a portion of the monthly premium’s total. 

In the below table, you can notice these differences in health insurance premiums. Group health insurance plans in the Gold tier were 111% less expensive than individual policies. However, individuals whose incomes fall below the federal poverty level may be eligible for premium subsidies on individual plans. Click here to check if you qualify for these subsidies through Michigan’s health insurance marketplace.

 This study utilizes a 70% employer-to-employee contribution ratio of 70%, an industry average for health insurance, meaning that an employer would be responsible for paying 70% of the monthly premiums, while employees would pay the remaining 30%.

As is illustrated below, employees will find significantly cheaper health insurance costs through small group plans as opposed to individual policies. Employees will pay $605 more for an individual Gold-level plan than their share of a small group health insurance premium. Compared to an employee’s percentage of a small group premium, an individual plan will be, on average, 539% more expensive.

On average, employees will pay $518 less for group health plans than individual plans through the Michigan marketplace in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Kent, and Genesee. 

When analyzing policies in Michigan’s most highly populated counties, the gap between the group and individual health insurance costs only widens. Group policies will be 137% less expensive than individual health insurance plans of the same metal tier across Bronze, Silver, and Gold metal levels. In Michigan’s five largest counties, Platinum individual health insurance policies were not offered and therefore were not a part of the analysis. 

In 2019, monthly premiums for small group health insurance reached an average of $315, a 3% increase from the cost in 2018.

From 2018-2019, small businesses witnessed a minor increase in per-employee group health insurance costs. The metal-level group health insurance policies which saw the most significant monthly premium increase, with premiums rising $18 over a single year, were Bronze plans.

Gold health insurance policies saw the least significant YOY change, with only a 0.46% increase since the year 2018. Employers should note the Gold tier health insurance plan is the most common policy offered in Michigan, with an average of 121 Gold policies available in each county.

From 2018-2019, small group plan deductibles raised by 2%. 

Depending on the tier, deductibles can vary greatly. Additionally, deductibles directly affect the amount an employee will have to pay for health insurance. It is beneficial for employers to analyze deductibles and decide what plans will be of the most value to their workers. By providing a high tier plan such as Gold, employees will gain access to coinsurance benefits more quickly and will not have to spend as much money out of pocket. 

The most massive increase in deductibles occurred in Gold health policies, which spiked 12% year over year.

Michigan Complete Rankings of Counties and Their Average Group and Individual Premium Costs

Technique

Wellthie, in conjunction with ValuePenguin, compiled and researched individual and small group health insurance policies from the Michigan state marketplace. Wellthie is a national, online small group benefits marketplace that allows a business owner to connect and interact with hundreds of carriers and a licensed broker network. Here they can find a benefits program that can be tailored to their business needs. Wellthie has in-depth knowledge of the small group health industry and can provide some of the most accurate quotes available.

In this study, all plans and quotes were generated from the 2019 plan year for a single individual and then averaged based on coverage metal tier. An industry standard of a 70% employer contribution was used for all employer-employee contribution calculations. Census Intercensal County Population Data was utilized to determine the most populated counties in Michigan. 

New York Business Vs. Individual Health Insurance: A Cost Comparison

 


By The Wellthie Insights Team

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires business owners in most states to offer health insurance to their employees when they have 50 or more Full-Time employees (FTEs). In New York, Vermont, Colorado or California, business owners are bound by law to make employee health benefits available when their company has 100 employees or more. If a company falls under this threshold, they should still consider providing benefits to their employees as soon as it is feasible for their budget. Offering health insurance has been proven to be an effective way to attract and retain talent; Doing so benefits a company’s employees, their families, as well as the business as a whole. 

In New York, an employee would (on average) pay 233% more for an individual health insurance plan than the amount in premiums they would contribute to a small group health insurance plan. Employers are risking losing top talent and the health of their workforce by opting out of offering small group health insurance as a benefit to their employees.

The at-times staggeringly high costs of health insurance premiums can weigh heavily on small business owners and individuals who are purchasing their own coverage. Since the ACA may require an organization to offer health insurance, (depending on the size of the organization in question), business owners are naturally curious to know their cheapest health insurance options. The cheapest health insurance options for both small business owners and individuals can vary greatly based on a variety of factors. It is recommended for business owners and individuals to make a thorough comparison of health insurance options in order to guarantee they are enrolled in the most suitable coverage.

Wellthie and ValuePenguin, a free source for information and tools to help people make consumer spending decisions, dug into the New York health insurance market and compared small group and individual health insurance premium costs.

Major Findings

From 2017 to 2019, small group health insurance prices rose by 15%. In 2019, the average monthly cost of small group and individual health insurance is around the same at $712, with employees insured under a small group plan paying only $213 of the total health insurance premium. Small group premiums in the metropolitan areas of New York (the five largest counties) were 13.12% more costly than individual premiums. Over the past two years, small group insurance premiums have increased by 15%.

Small business owners’ group health insurance premiums have increased at a steady rate since early 2017. The average monthly premium for qualified health insurance soared by 8.92% between 2017 and 2018. And between 2018 and 2019, the average premiums for a small group health plan across all coverage metal tiers rose by $5.60%. While this is a more modest rise, small-business owners should know about these cost increases, which will undoubtedly affect a business’s bottom line.

Out of all of the metal tiers, Gold metal plans saw one of the most notable rises in average premium costs, with a 16.49% increase over a two-year period. Small business owners should take note, as Gold policies are the most common metal tier plans sold on the small group marketplace, with 172 health plans offered in 2019.

On average, individuals who do not receive health insurance through an employer spend $499 more for coverage.

For people who currently do not receive coverage through an employer or federal programs like Medicaid or Medicare, individual health insurance is available for consideration. With individual plans as opposed to group plans, the individual pays the entirety of the premiums. As a result, individual plans tend to be much more expensive for an individual as opposed to what they would be expected to contribute to their premiums if insured under an employer policy.

For this study, we decided to use an employer-to-employee contribution ratio of 70%. 70% is an industry average where an employer would be responsible for paying 70% of the monthly health insurance premiums, while employees would pay the remaining 30%.

In NY’s five largest counties, employees pay 195% more for an individual policy.

In some of New York State’s most populated areas, the differences between small group and individual health insurance premiums have even wider gaps. When compared to a marketplace policy, the monthly health insurance premiums for small group plans were, on average, 13.12% more expensive. We analyzed the Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, and Suffolk, which are the five largest counties by population.

In aggregate, the small group policies are more expensive in these highly populated areas of the state, but there is a more narrow difference in premiums for the employee. Compared to their monthly premium contribution for small group health insurance, a person would pay, on average, 195% or $532 more for an individual policy.

Competitive employee benefits programs can attract competitive talent.

Depending on an organization’s employee population, small-business owners may be required by the ACA to offer their employees health insurance options. The ACA does not currently have the individual mandate in 2019, but the employer mandate is still in place, and something for employers to keep in mind. According to the ruling, employers with 50 or more FTEs are required to offer minimum essential coverage or face a penalty. However, if a company has fewer than this number of employees, an employer is not required to offer their employees health insurance coverage. But despite the ACA’s mandate, there is a multitude of reasons it can be beneficial to provide employee coverage.

Choosing to offer health insurance to employees can positively impact your employees and business overall. In the Harvard Business Review’s survey of the “Most Desirable Employee Benefits,” over 88% of respondents mentioned better health, vision and dental insurance as a primary factor when deciding whether or not to accept a job. If employers decide not to offer insurance, they may lose out on potentially strong candidates for positions at their company. This loss could negatively affect profits and bottom line, as companies won’t be hiring the best workers for the job.

New York Complete Rankings of Counties and Their Average Group and Individual Premium Costs

Technique

Wellthie, along with ValuePenguin, compiled health insurance plans and quotes from the New York small group and individual health insurance marketplace. ValuePenguin possesses a wealth of valuable data, which, coupled with Wellthie’s in-depth knowledge of the small business health insurance industry, enabled ValuePenguin and Wellthie to collaborate to produce a thorough analysis of small group and individual health insurance premiums in New York State. The quotes and plans used in this study were pulled for the 2019 plan year for a single individual and then were averaged depending on the coverage metal tier. For all of the employer-employee contribution calculations, there was an industry standard of a 70% contribution from the employer used. Census Intercensal County Population Data was used in calculating the largest counties in New York to determine which were the most populated.

Small Business Medical Carriers: What Is Your Approach To Digital Sales?

By Sally Poblete

By 2020, millennials and Gen Xers will collectively own more than 60% of U.S. small businesses. Industry trends are shaping the shopping behavior of health insurance consumers. Business owners are looking for the ability to shop for plans online, and health insurance carriers should take note, lest they lose these prospects to their competitors. The vast majority of health insurance carriers could be missing a growing demographic of small businesses who are starting their insurance shopping journey online. One of the top carriers in the health insurance market is currently offering an online shopping experience on their website. Stay ahead of your competitors by opting to provide your small business owner prospects with a modern, holistic, and delightfully simple platform to drive sales while still supporting your broker community. What are you currently doing to attract small business owner prospects?

How Do You Stack Up Against Top Competitors?

One of the major small group health insurance carriers already offers an online shopping experience for their prospects. Providing an accurate and quick quote for your prospects in just a few minutes is an essential competitive advantage. Your competitors are capturing leads that can be utilized by either your internal sales team or your broker partners.

Considering A Build?

While an internal build is an option for carriers it could take over 12 months to complete. Furthermore, complex rating factors and changing regulations would require a great deal of effort to build and maintain. There are software solutions available that would only require a limited amount of your tech team’s time and energy. 

New Leads For Your Top Brokers

A direct to employer approach would allow small business owners to easily shop for your plans online. These highly qualified leads could then be passed to your top brokers or internal sales teams. The lead would include details about the small business that are necessary for enrollment. Given the typical time and effort required to find new leads, a carrier can enhance broker relationships with new employer leads.

What Is Everyone Else Doing?

Capturing a prospect’s information through an online lead form is by far the most common experience offered by carriers today. Small business owners complete these forms and then wait days or weeks (and even months) to get a response back from a broker. By that time, the business owner has moved on to another carrier or another task in their busy day. Don’t miss the opportunity to provide the information your prospect is looking for when they are looking for it directly on your website.  

How Can Wellthie Help?

Nearly 50% of small and medium-sized enterprises will buy insurance online within the next 5 years. Wellthie offers a full-suite solution that provides carriers with a digital shopping experience for small business prospects. Wellthie can help your company increase sales:

  • Reach an underserved market of micro-groups who may find it challenging to find a broker 
  • Appeal to business owners who prefer the convenience and transparency of researching insurance shopping online
  • Simplify the customer experience for your small business owners while ALSO generating leads for your top brokers
  • Save on administrative costs by streamlining your internal/external broker/sales rep’s activities 
  • Make the transition at a portion of the cost of building the platform in-house  
  • Implement within 60 days! White-labeled deployment is available without the lag time and high cost of an internal build

Capture these new leads in a cost-effective and holistic manner that does not disrupt your broker distribution efforts. Contact Wellthie today for a free demo of what your new digital distribution platform could look like just in time for the 4th quarter!

The Importance of Employee Benefits to Stay Competitive

By Julie Scott, PayTech

Did you know that many American workers feel that employee benefits are more important than a higher salary? In a 2018 study, potential candidates cared about healthcare, vacation time and 401k opportunities alongside their compensation when evaluating employers. Company perks such as gym memberships, flexible schedules, and free snacks are also important to modern employees. Companies who understand the importance of employee benefits and perks are not only able to recruit top candidates, but they are also profiting from the improved performance from their current employees. 

What is the purpose of employee benefits?

The purpose of employee benefits is really to improve an employee’s life outside of work. But, what companies are beginning to understand is that an employee’s happiness outside the office has a direct correlation to their performance at work. By removing some stress and offering solutions to employees’ pain points, companies benefit from more committed and focused employees. This also helps foster a long-term relationship with employees who feel that their company is taking care of them, and in return, employees put in their best effort to take care of their company.

Why are employee benefits important?

Employee benefits are an important part of any compensation package. Benefits help an employee feel taken care of in multiple aspects of their lives by helping them manage the cost of healthcare, plan for their financial future, and enjoy an overall higher quality of life. When your employees feel secure and taken care of, they perform better and stay at a company longer. This creates a more positive work environment, helping companies better achieve their goals. In short, the importance of employee benefits is that they keep your employees happy and make your company more successful.

A good benefits package can help recruit and retain talented employees.

When people are looking for a new role, they consider a lot of factors including the job description, the company culture, the pay, and of course, the employee benefits. Companies can be competitive in many ways, but oftentimes it comes down to one or two key differences that end up making the decision for top talent. Many companies have similar jobs with competitive pay, so the opportunity to differentiate your position lies in your company culture and your employee benefits. 

A good benefits package can also help you retain your current employees. Even if your competitors try to offer one of your team members a higher salary, it would be hard for them to compete with ample vacation time and a comprehensive healthcare plan. Ensuring your employees’ happiness is one of the best things you can do to help keep your team motivated and loyal.

Benefits can help employees focus more on work while they are at work.

The reality is each one of us has a life outside of the office. While we do our best to minimize distractions, sometimes we can’t help letting our minds drift to concerns with our family’s well-being, financial obligations, or mental stress. However, if you can relieve some of this outside pressure for your employees, you’ll benefit from a more focused workforce.

One example might be offering paid parental leave. If one of your employees has a new baby, they’ll be experiencing major life changes at home. Relieving the financial pressure of taking time off work allows your employees to adjust to their new life and come back to work more focused and less stressed.

Wellness programs can help improve performance.

One of the biggest costs companies have to deal with is employee illness. When an employee gets sick, they don’t just miss work. They often perform worse leading up to their time off and take a while to get back in the swing of things when they come back. Even worse, they can get other employees sick which ends up taking a big toll on your company overall. 

You can mitigate employee illness by instituting a wellness program. This allows your employees to manage their health without having to put in money or extra hours outside of the office. This has the additional benefit of reducing healthcare costs for your company. 

Examples of a company wellness program include free gym memberships, healthy snacks in the kitchen, and regular company outings. These wellness initiatives don’t have to cost you a ton of money but can have a huge impact on your bottom line by reducing employee illness.

A good benefits package can improve company culture.

Your company culture is the lifeblood of your business. You can keep it strong and healthy by listening to your employees’ needs and going above and beyond to ensure they are met. This will help your employees feel more optimistic about your organization. When potential employees or even clients come into your office, they will experience a happy, positive environment that they’re excited to be a part of. Your employees may even share their positive perception of your company outside the office, resulting in a terrific public image that will further help you attract top talent and clients. 

A good benefits package can help you meet your employees’ needs both inside and outside of work. This is one of the best investments you can make towards keeping your company culture strong.

Statistics show that benefits, perks are often more important to employees than a higher salary.

You might have been surprised to read that benefits and perks are more important to employees than their salary. But, according to statistics from the business mentoring network, SCORE, employee benefits are an incredibly powerful selling point for potential candidates. 

According to the survey, 88% of respondents cared more about flexible hours than salary. 80% valued vacation time and work-from-home options. 48% wanted student loan assistance and 42% wanted paid parental leave. Company perks like free gym memberships, free snacks, and weekly outings were also valued by more than 20% of employees.

The survey also reported how benefits contributed to overall satisfaction at work. 53% of employees said that more perks at work increased their quality of life. 49% said they made them feel more valued as a team member and 44% said it directly improved their physical and mental health. The numbers don’t lie. Strong employee benefits and company perks are a necessity in today’s work environment.

Which employee benefits and perks do employees consider when choosing a company to work for?

Now you know the importance of employee benefits, but how do you decide which to invest in? 

The following 10 benefits have ranked the highest from employees varying in ages and backgrounds. Not surprisingly, healthcare ranked number one, followed closely by paid vacation time. Performance bonuses were also high on the list in third place. Paid sick days and 401k options finished off the top five. The next 5 benefits were less traditional including flexible schedules, office perks such as free lunch and casual attire, employee development programs, tuition reimbursement, and employee discounts. 

Ultimately, when it comes to selecting the employee benefits and perks your company can offer, you should analyze what your team values the most and what would help improve their overall quality of life. Taking a survey from your existing employees is a great way to get immediate feedback on where to invest your time and money.

The 3 Biggest Challenges for Small Businesses to Overcome When Purchasing Medical Insurance

By Sally Poblete

The decision to purchase medical insurance for your small business employees is a serious decision that impacts both your company and your employees’ lives. Despite the complexities presented with making these types of purchases, health insurance remains a crucial need for families across the country. Here are the three biggest challenges for small businesses to overcome when purchasing medical insurance for their employees:

Payroll

Most carriers require small businesses to have a payroll system in place to provide small group medical insurance to their employees. Payroll is a necessity for every small business owner that wants to purchase group insurance, and finding the right system or service to take care of payroll can sometimes delay their purchasing of small business medical insurance. Payroll providers can be essential in the healthcare purchasing journey for small business owners. If you do not have a payroll system in place, but you want to offer insurance to your employees, payroll is the first step in your journey. 

Budget

A limited budget can be an enormous barrier between a small business owner choosing to offer medical insurance and referring employees to healthcare.gov for individual coverage. For small businesses, health insurance rates are determined based on the age of your employees, the business’ location, the carrier, and the type of plan offered. The rates will not vary based on the health of your employees if you have under 50 full-time equivalent employees (based on the ACA regulations). 

We selected a few specific zip codes in common metropolitan areas and compared small business health insurance prices using Wellthie’s online small business health insurance marketplace: 

     – For the ZIP code 85001 (Phoenix, AZ), there are plans starting as low as $245.64* a month for the third quarter of 2019.

     – For the ZIP code 30302 (Atlanta, GA), there are plans starting as low as $273.82* a month for the third quarter of 2019.

     – For the ZIP code 11106 (New York City, NY), there are plans starting as low as $477.70* a month for the third quarter of 2019.

*employee only cost for a 35-year-old

Metallic designations (Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum) are something to consider as well when it comes to budgeting for small business medical health insurance plans. Platinum plans will cost significantly more in premiums for your employees but far lower costs at the doctor’s office. Bronze plans will tend to cost your employees less money on their premiums and more money when they need to use medical services.

Here are the Small Group medical insurance premium averages in New York state across all four metal levels (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum) for early 2019:

    – Bronze: $544.37  

   – Silver: $673.35  

   – Gold: $789.19  

   – Platinum: $941.86

As a small business owner and health insurance decision maker, you are the only person who can determine what is affordable for your small business. Your best option is the plan you can afford that provides sufficient coverage for your employee population. 

Knowing Where to Start

For many small business owners, simply knowing where to start can be one of the biggest obstacles in moving through the medical insurance shopping and enrollment process for their employees. In this digital age, more and more industries are being disrupted by technological advancements, and small business medical insurance is no exception. Online small business health insurance marketplaces are making it far easier to for small business owners to navigate the medical health insurance shopping process than ever before.

Wellthie’s online small business health insurance marketplace is a tremendously useful tool for small business owners to shop and compare medical health plans and generate an unlimited number of quotes in just minutes. Even if you’ve never offered insurance before, you can begin your search by typing in your small business’ ZIP code and immediately see the number of plans available for your employees in your area as well as the lowest average monthly cost per employee (who is 35 years of age). Enter in your company name, industry, email address, and phone number, along with the number of employees in your company, and you’ll be able to see what carriers, products, and premiums are available, in an instant. You can run quotes side-by-side to compare and make the most educated choice on the plan or plans which best suit your team members. At any point in the process, you can be connected through the platform to a licensed health insurance broker through email, phone, or chat to answer any of your questions and to enroll you in the plan/s of your choice.

4 Different Generational Approaches to Employee Small Business Health Insurance

 

By Sally Poblete

Generations differ when it comes to clothing, politics, music, technology – you name it. It stands to reason that these differences can also extend to differences in approach, such as making important purchases like financial products, housing, and health insurance.

The United States was built on small businesses, and it is no surprise that owners range in ages from Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X, to Baby boomers. Each generation possesses a unique set of needs and desires from their health insurance. From the shopping experience to benefit provisions and premiums, we have broken out how each generation tends to view and approach the purchasing of small group health insurance.

Baby boomers (Boomers)

Baby boomers, or Boomers, are commonly defined as individuals born between 1946 and 1964, or people in the age range of 55 – 73. In 2011, the first people to be considered Boomers reached 65 years of age, also known as the standard age of retirement. Boomers were born into a far more analog world than the one we live in now. Notably, the majority of small businesses are owned by Boomers, with 73% reporting they want to grow their current businesses.

When it comes to employee health insurance, the small group premiums of Boomers are significantly higher than other generations, because with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) the only factors that can affect pricing are age and location. In addition, Boomers tend to prefer working face to face with a licensed broker and tend not to be as tech-savvy as later generations. They have also started qualifying for Medicare and are exploring those options in lieu of their group medical plans.

Generation X (Gen X)

Generation X, or Gen X, refers to individuals born between the early 1960s to the early 1980s or people in the age range of 35 – 54. Roughly 40% of small business owners are GenXers and they are at their prime working years. When purchasing employee health insurance, Gen Xers may be most familiar with working with a licensed broker in a face-to-face setting but are also open to optimizing their shopping experience through digital means. They are also at the age where their families are growing and therefore have needs beyond their own. They may be attracted to plans with lower deductibles and copays such as a PPO plan. Gex X is the generation most likely to be caregivers—perhaps taking care of both their adult children and their aging parents—so they’re likely looking for benefits information that applies to themselves as well as to their multi-generational family members.

Generation Y (Millennials / Gen Y)

Generation Y, or Millenials, refers to individuals born from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s or people in the age range of 24 – 34. Millennials have grown accustomed to using modern technology over the course of their adult lives; they were growing up at the same time the technology was advancing. Transparency is crucial for millennials; They want to know that they have viewed all the options and fully understand all the parts of the decision. This includes access to in-depth cost comparisons to ensure they are purchasing exactly what they need. They love the simplicity of technology and prefer to complete their transactions digitally. They are comfortable with High Deductible Health Plans as they tend to be young and healthy and don’t necessarily need all the benefits of a more traditional plan. In particular, Millennials benefit from Health Savings Accounts to save for the future and they also appreciate wellness incentives.

Generation Z (Gen Z / Zoomers)

Generation Z, or Zoomers, refers to individuals born from the late-1990s to the early 2000s or people between the age range of 13 – 23. As the youngest generation, they are the most accustomed to technological processes and approaches, as they truly have not experienced life without them. Zoomers are diverse and on track to be the most well-educated generation yet – making them the most likely generation to accept the continually improving technological advancements meant to make their shopping experiences more efficient. Research suggests that Zoomers are positioned to become a more entrepreneurial generation than millennials; They not only prefer digital transactions but have come to expect them no matter the purchase. 70% of Zoomers consider quality health insurance as a top priority in a job. This generation may still be eligible to remain on their parent’s plans if they are under the age of 26. They also love transparency but are not tied to traditional views on health plans or options.

No matter what your generational preferences are, health insurance will likely remain a need for you and your family. The one size fits all approach is not conducive to the multiple generations that are purchasing small business health insurance for themselves and their families. Thankfully, there are methods of approaching the purchasing of employee small business health insurance to appeal to any generation, regardless of their level of comfort with the technologies that be. However, surveys indicate that customers are moving online to make their purchasing decisions, and will continue to do so over time at an increased rate.

Insurance Expert Question and Answer with Wellthie CEO and Founder, Sally Poblete

Shopping for insurance is difficult, but Sally Poblete, CEO and founder of Wellthie, is dedicated to modernizing the insurance industry for small businesses. With more than 20 years’ worth of experience, she has watched the health insurance industry develop and is keen to shake things up.

By Callie McGill, ValuePenguin, Inc.

Small-business owners are heavily involved in decisions regarding employee insurance plans (or lack thereof). That’s why innovators like Sally want to streamline the health insurance experience and allow small-business owners to focus on other aspects of the business. Wellthie’s platform enables small-business owners to view and compare medical, dental and vision products in various budget ranges. Then, at any point in the searching and shopping process, business owners can seamlessly connect with a licensed health insurance broker who can expertly guide them through purchasing and enrolling in the plan(s) of their choice.

ValuePenguin checked in with Sally about what inspired her to found Wellthie in 2013 and to learn more about her vision for the future. She sees small businesses in the United States as the lifeblood of our economy. These businesses drive the highest job growth and keep innovation alive and well. Small businesses are diverse and optimistic about the future—yet tremendously underserved when it comes to accessing health insurance options.

Many small-business owners don’t know the first thing about health insurance or whether they can even afford it. They have to use outdated processes when signing up, which can drag on for weeks. Wellthie is comprised of a team of insurance, technology and data experts who want to disrupt this norm to make health insurance more accessible to small businesses across the country.

Why it is hard to compare insurance services in the current way the insurance industry is set up?

The current processes require a lot of time, several in-person client appointments, emailing Excel spreadsheets back and forth, and a whole lot of phone tag.

However, in this digital age, consumers are not only accustomed to shopping online but often prefer it to other means of shopping. There is research which suggests that millennials are twice as likely to buy insurance online. Thanks to the technology provided by online health insurance marketplaces, agents and brokers can deliver a modern digital experience to their small-group clients, who favor digital experiences. This means offering their clients the freedom to browse and compare their own options on their own schedule.

How do you anticipate legislation to change the way the health insurance market currently works? What do you anticipate that meaning for small-business owners?

The current legislation provides some flexibility for business owners with fewer than 50 employees. However, these business owners can still choose to sponsor coverage and purchase fully insured (Affordable Care Act-compliant) plans.

Small businesses can also belong to professional employment organizations (PEOs) that offer payroll and HR services (in exchange for an administrative fee) in addition to health insurance. In certain states, there is also an option to participate in association health plans if you belong to a trade/industry group.

In addition to the above options, small businesses that are not ready to offer health insurance today can still encourage their employees to purchase individual health insurance.

What do you see as the biggest hurdle facing small-business owners when it comes to health care?

While small-business entrepreneurs are very knowledgeable in their line of work, they are not usually experts in insurance. It’s a complex subject and can be stress-inducing for these business owners, as they are often pressed for time and have tight budgets. Here’s what I see as the two biggest hurdles facing small-business owners when it comes to health care:

Knowing where to begin. For companies going through this process for the first time, it can be tough to know where to start. Creating a budget for health insurance. On average, the premium cost of a small-group plan (depending on the region of the country) is anywhere between $400 to $500 per employee, per month, which can really add up on an annual basis for a small company. Employers typically cover 50% or more of the total premium, while the employees cover the rest.

To keep pace with other innovative companies, how do you see health insurance and small-business behavior evolving in the future? What will Wellthie do continue to be at the forefront of innovation?

There is a lot of opportunity in building partnerships with companies, established or upstart, who are serving the same customers or offering related services and technologies. For example, we are working with other start­ups who are selling other types of insurance to small businesses and seeing how we can collaborate, and we are finding a lot of similar challenges and opportunities ­ so we can learn from other’s experiences.

In the coming year, our focus is to continue to refine the way we are marrying the digital experience with human experts. We are most excited about the partnerships we’ll be building, working with insurance players in the ecosystem, but also cultivating partners outside of the industry. Wellthie is actively pursuing partnerships with organizations that have a base of small businesses—payroll and co-­working companies, for example—and want to help their small businesses extend their vision into insurance and help their customers have an easier time finding insurance. We want to be that partner with them so we can scale more quickly.

What is the one health insurance concern that keeps you up at night?

I believe that most small businesses deeply care about their employees and want to support covering health insurance but are not yet able to do so because of cost. As an industry, we need to find more ways to create options for small-business owners at different price/value points.

Previously published at www.valuepenguin.com.