September 13, 2008

Employee Benefit Shopping 101

As the fall season approaches, many large and small companies will begin to start shopping for their 2009's employee benefit programs. Typically employers should plan on shopping insurance 60-75 days before the desired effective date.

High deductible health plans and Health Savings accounts will continue to be popular. These plans make workers responsible for costs up to a certain amount but then covers most expenses over that. Workers have a greater risk of paying out-of-pocket expenses, but premiums are lower — so their paychecks are higher. Wellness programs encourage them to take care of themselves, ultimately cutting costs for themselves, their employer and the health plan. Wellness plans usually allow employee's to visit the doctor for a flat co-payment of $20-$40, for services such as well baby care, annual physicals and well woman's check up's. Others allow for office visits without first satisfying their deductible.

For 2009, most employers will see premium increases in excess of 10%. This leaves employers already stressed by a stagnant economy with a larger dilemma: how to offer good health benefits to keep or attract quality workers at a price they can afford.

It is important to plan ahead. October is a great month to begin shopping for 2009's benefit plans. For employer groups with less than 50 employees, shop online with an internet brokerage firm. Before you start the process you will need some basic information. It's actually very simple. You will need your employees dates of birth (along with any family members participating) and their zip codes. The plan design and costs will evolve as you begin to shop for plans. An online brokerage service such as allows you to use the same software system brokers use to shop and compare prices throughout the state. Instantly compare affordable health insurance options without ever speaking to an insurance agent. Once you have completed your market study, QuoteBroker has Group Insurance specialists available to assist you with the enrollment process. Larger groups are encouraged to use a quality insurance broker that has experience in negotiating rates with multiple insurance providers.

If you have more than 20 employees "ask for more". There is often room to negotiate lower rates for additional products such as dental, vision and term life insurance.