What Healthcare Means to Small Businesses in Waco

Article written by Nancy McEachern, REBC, Business Development Director/Producer with Insurors of Texas, published in the fourth quarter edition of the Greater Waco Business magazine


Any business owner distinctly understands the impact that attracting, developing and retaining a strong workforce has on a company’s growth and success. Many times, small and medium-sized businesses can quickly start to look at what large corporations are investing in their recruitment and retention efforts and feel left out of the game. However, in Waco, with our strong healthcare community and affordable options, it’s easier than ever to gain a competitive edge by strategically building a benefits package that provides choice, meeting the specific needs of employees and recruits, while making sure healthcare spending is managed.

Plan design starts by looking at traditional medical, dental and vision healthcare. By providing options under the umbrella of a group (2+ lives), you are immediately providing shared risk and more stable premiums. Owners must remember that one size doesn’t fit all, nor does one size fit the same people forever. Offering a base plan that meets the budget and needs of the majority with buy-ups for those with specialized needs or more flexible budgets is easy to do at the point of implementation without additional cost to the company.

For this type of major medical plan, insurers are offering more “narrow-network” choices, which cover select hospitals and doctors. Premiums for narrow-network plans can be 13 to 19 percent lower than those for plans with broader networks. For businesses watching each dollar, this is often what gives them the ability to offer such a valuable plan, knowing that in Waco, a limited network still contains excellent provider and hospital coverage.

When evaluating the option of offering a traditional major medical healthcare plan, it is important that the additional benefits of providing an Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant plan, which includes preventative care, be taken into consideration. The ACA makes preventative care affordable and accessible by requiring specific private health plans to cover named recommended preventative services without charging a deductible, copayment, co-insurance or other cost-sharing. Preventing disease is key to improving health and keeping rising health costs under control; and in addition, it provides a healthier, more stable and productive workforce in our community.

With healthcare plans, it’s essential that business owners and their employees become educated on urgent care and emergency room coverages and in-network providers. With the rise of high deductible plans, this has become even more crucial, as a financial burden can quickly get in the way of receiving needed healthcare. Fortunately, our community has ancillary options such as express/urgent care providers with flat rate pay structures as well as annual Membership Programs to provide the peace that these types of service are accessible without unpredictable high costs.

When determining options that assist with unexpected needs, it is essential for businesses to remember that employee benefits don’t end with medical healthcare but extend to disability and supplemental coverage as well. According to Benefits Specials Magazine, even though financial wellness impacts overall health, one in three working Americans doesn’t have adequate disability insurance to provide a source of income when they can’t work due to an illness or injury. Results from a recent survey conducted by Anthem reveal confusion, particularly among millennials, around the benefits of disability insurance and the role it plays in protecting financial wellness. The fact is that one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will experience a disability before they retire, with the most common being pregnancy. However, only one-third of millennials think short-term disability insurance is important to their financial well-being, and over half say they are not very familiar with long-term and short-term disability insurance. This is where a company of any size can easily provide value by offering the coverage voluntarily or assisting with the cost along with educating employees regarding why it is such a fundamental necessity.

Along similar lines, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), are an additional tool to increase the perceived value of a benefits package by providing employees and their family members a broad range of confidential and professional assistance when they need it. EAPs let employees address their problems, seek and receive appropriate counseling or treatment, and return to work with renewed productivity. Businesses have recognized that many everyday life stresses can negatively affect employee attendance and concentration, the general workplace morale, and an employee’s ability to perform well on the job and are a way for a smaller business to provide such services without the cost of significant raises or richer medical plans.

Healthcare costs can be one of the largest expenses within a budget – going from zero dollars to providing full benefits can impact a business significantly. Therefore, some options assist in providing needed medical care without the same costs of more customary plans. Key examples that are being used more and more extensively in our Waco market are Minimal Essential Coverage (MEC) plans, Direct Primary Care (DPC) programs and healthcare sharing. All create the opportunity to add value to what you are providing your workforce while limiting the upfront costs.

As a business begins the strategic planning process for benefits, it is important to remember your audience. In Waco, we are experiencing a paradigm shift with the increasing number of young adults seeking employment, creating the need to look at our benefits packages in an additional light. This takes understanding what their financial stress is in their eyes, as well as the benefits they see as most advantageous.

It has been shown that millennials will change jobs for a particular benefit or perk. Small business owners who cannot afford to rehire and retrain over and over need to consider this when determining which benefits to offer, what to cover (medical+dental+vision are preferred) and which ancillary and supplemental options to include, as this is an on-demand generation, choosing to pick what they deem useful.

Overall, while the options and configurations are varied, it is our responsibility to take care of our people and our community. Entrepreneurship within small businesses no longer means that benefits fall to the wayside. To start the process to build a customized plan, you simply need a business tax ID, two or more employees, birthdates, zip codes and genders. Then, the market opens up to hundreds of options and the potential for small business owners to seize the chance to impact the future of our buzzing economy by protecting both the health and finances of each and every employee is alive and well.