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Five tips to start offering employees health benefits

Written by: Gabrielle Smith
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Published on May 19, 2022.

If you’re reading this article, chances are your organization is off the ground. You’ve hired some great employees, and now you’re ready to offer a competitive health benefits package to further your recruiting and retention efforts.

While this is a significant milestone, it also brings a lot of questions, including: Where do you start with employee benefits? How do you know which plan is right for your employees? Will you be able to find a plan that fits your budget?

If your mind is full of questions like these, read on for five quick tips for offering health benefits for the first time.

Get our guide for everything small employers need to know about health benefits

Tip #1: Understand the value of offering health benefits

One question on your mind when considering offering health benefits for the first time may be: Is it really worth it? In short—absolutely.

Here’s why: When you give employees health benefits they value, they’ll be more satisfied with their job, take fewer sick days, and even have a higher commitment to helping your organization achieve its goals.

According to studies done by LinkedIn, organizations rated highly on compensation and benefits by their employees saw 56% lower attrition than organizations that were rated poorly.

If that wasn’t enough, take a look at a few more advantages of offering health benefits to your employees:

Recruit and retain key employees

Employee health benefits are valuable in recruiting key employees and retaining your top talent. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has consistently found healthcare to be the topmost requested employee benefit.

Additionally, research from Glassdoor finds that health benefits are an even more effective recruiting tool than offering a higher salary. Four out of five employees surveyed said they’d prefer having better benefits over a pay raise if given a choice.

Learn more about how health benefits can help you recruit and retain employees

Tax advantages

Depending on the type of plan you offer, you can benefit from tax savings for offering the plan, and employees can get tax savings by participating.

For example, health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) are administered tax-free for small employers. Employees are also spared from income tax—provided they’re covered by an insurance policy that meets minimum essential coverage (MEC) requirements.

Employee wellness

Finally, offering health benefits keeps employees healthy and working. Having more accessible healthcare prevents your employees from taking extended periods of sick leave, allowing your organization to be more productive and profitable.

What’s more, employee wellness doesn’t just include their physical health. By offering health benefits, you’re allowing your employees more affordable access to therapy and mental health resources they need to avoid burnout.

Get more tips on how to prioritize your employees' health and happiness

Tip #2: Analyze the risks and costs of offering health benefits

Now that you know why offering health benefits is so important, your next step is to consider the risks and costs of the plans available.

Like any new expense you’d take on for your organization, investing time to research your available options is essential in finding a plan that meets your organization’s needs.

Consider these two areas in particular when researching your options:

Overall cost

Your costs will vary depending on the type of employee health benefits you choose (more on your options in the next section).

For example, health insurance premiums for group health insurance plans typically rise every year and continue to grow. The uncertainty of these rate renewals can make financial planning difficult, which makes cost-controlled options, including HRAs, more attractive.

See what the average cost of health insurance is where you live

Administrative commitment

Next, you’ll need to consider the amount of time and effort it will take to administer the health benefit. If you can’t commit resources to manage the health benefit, it likely won’t succeed.

With a traditional group health insurance plan, your administrator will spend time choosing the coverage and then spend regular time filling out forms, remitting premiums, and acting as an intermediary between your employees and the insurer.

With an HRA, administrative time is greatly reduced, especially if you choose to manage the benefit through an HRA software service like PeopleKeep. These services offload the most tedious tasks, allowing your staff to manage the benefit in just minutes per month.

See how PeopleKeep’s benefits automation software can work for your organization

Tip #3: Research your employee health benefits options

After reviewing the costs and risks, it’s time to look more closely at each of your employee health benefits options.

The three main types of health benefits available to small employers are as follows:

Traditional group health insurance

A group health insurance plan covers all employees and their family members. These plans are generally uniform in nature, offering the same benefits to all employees or members of the group.

Unlike individual health insurance, group health insurance plans are chosen by the employer to be used by all of their full-time employees, regardless of each employee’s unique healthcare needs. Group health insurance is dependent on an individual’s employment.

Learn more about small group health insurance for small businesses

Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs)

HRAs are a formal health benefit that allows employers to reimburse their employees, tax-free, for individual insurance premiums and qualifying medical expenses.

Rather than paying an insurance company for a plan whose costs typically rise every year, employers can fix their costs every month by establishing a monthly allowance.

A qualified small employer HRA (QSEHRA) is an HRA specifically designed for employers with less than 50 full-time employees.

See why a QSEHRA is a good option for small businesses offering their first benefits planOther popular HRA options are the individual coverage HRA (ICHRA) and the group coverage HRA (GCHRA), also known as an integrated HRA. An ICHRA is an excellent option for businesses of all sizes that want to create employee classes with differing reimbursement amounts or set monthly allowances greater than the QSEHRA contribution limit.

If you plan to offer your employees a group health insurance plan, an integrated HRA is a great way to supplement your plan.

See which HRA is right for you with our HRA quiz!

Direct payments or taxable stipends

Finally, small business owners will sometimes choose to simply give employees extra money for health expenses. You simply bump your employees’ pay, and you avoid having to put the time or energy into choosing a plan and administering it.

But, there’s a better way. If you're looking for increased flexibility and fewer regulations, offering a taxable health stipend can be an excellent choice. A health stipend works similar to an HRA, where you reimburse employees for their medical expenses. However, you can also offer them to 1099 contractors and international workers because of their taxable nature.

Employers still have to be careful about compliance, as it’s not a formal health benefits plan. In addition, you’ll miss out on the tax savings associated with offering a formal plan like an HRA.

See how HRAs and health stipends compare with our comparison chart

Tip #4: Work with a broker

Next, if you find the health insurance world challenging to navigate, we recommend working with a trusted insurance broker or health insurance concierge service.

Brokers and agents who work for concierge services are licensed professionals that are knowledgeable about small and mid-sized organization health benefits options. They can help you navigate your options when things get confusing.

Tip #5: Understand how healthcare regulations impact your organization

Finally, it’s essential to understand healthcare rules and regulations and know which ones apply to your situation.

Here are two healthcare reform regulations every organization should know:

Employer mandate

Applicable large employers, or employers with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs), must offer health insurance that meets minimum value and is affordable to their employees.

Applicable large employers who fail to offer an affordable plan that meets minimum value may be required to pay the penalty. If you have less than 50 full-time equivalent employees, this doesn’t apply to your organization.

This doesn’t mean that you have to provide group health insurance. An HRA can help you satisfy the employer mandate if your employees have individual health coverage that meets minimum value.

Minimum essential coverage (MEC)

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), MEC is any type of insurance coverage that meets the individual shared responsibility requirement, also known as the individual mandate.

When the ACA was first introduced, Americans who didn’t satisfy the individual mandate were penalized with a fee. However, as of 2019, the individual mandate is no longer in force for most states, so your employees don’t have to have a policy that meets MEC if they don’t want to.

However, while the federal government no longer requires it, certain HRAs require employees to have MEC to participate—or at least to qualify for tax-free reimbursements.

See which plans meet minimum essential coverage requirements

Conclusion

Making the leap to offering your employees health benefits for the first time is an exciting achievement you should be proud of. Choosing the right benefit to meet your employees' needs and budget will help you recruit and retain employees and give you peace of mind knowing you’re doing the right thing for your team.

If you’re interested in offering a health benefit to your employees, PeopleKeep can help! Our HRA and employee stipend benefits administration software helps organizations set up and manage their health benefits in minutes.

Schedule a call with a personalized benefits advisor today to see how an HRA or health stipend can work with your organization

This blog article was originally published on May 13, 2014. It was last updated on May 19, 2022.

Originally published on May 19, 2022. Last updated May 19, 2022.
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