7 Practical Ways to Save Money on Group Health Insurance

Making sure your employees are protected without breaking the bank

img

There is one thing everyone can agree on when it comes to health insurance:
it's expensive.

And as a business owner, it's easy to feel conflicted about offering it and determining the quality of coverage. On one hand, offering health benefits can be a big line item cost. On the other, you care about your staff's health and want them to have protection in case of a medical emergency.

With a little savviness, you can make sure your employees are protected without breaking the bank.

1. See what plans are available in your area.

To find the right health insurer, it's necessary to shop around and see what plans are available in your area—usually through an insurance broker.

You may find that you can save money by offering new health plan options. Generally, HMOs (health maintenance organizations) and EPOs (exclusive provider organizations) are cheaper than PPOs (preferred provider organizations).

Of course, not all PPO plans are the same. You can have a large network (which is much more expensive), or a narrow network (which is cheaper, but provides less coverage). Making a choice between the two networks can be difficult—but not always. In Illinois, Blue Cross Blue Shield offers a hybrid plan called the Blue Options Plan, which gives you the ability to take advantage of the large PPO network with costs similar to a narrow network plan.

It is worth considering changing to a new health plan type upon assessing the kind of access to care that your employees need. If you need help in finding the best plan, you can also contact a consultant from IXSolutions who can help show you all the plan options available.

2. Educate your employees on the different health insurance options, how to pick a plan, and how to properly use their plans

Education can lead to better healthcare spending, such as visiting a walk-in clinic or urgent care, instead of the ER. A walk-in clinic or urgent care is usually a good option to consider for non-life threatening symptoms, such as a sore throat, a headache, rashes, or allergies. The ER is best equipped to see people with unexpected and intense symptoms or injuries, such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding. As many as one in four ER visits can be handled at an urgent care center. Knowing where to go can save you time and money.

3. Give your employees a chance to save with HSAs or FSAs

HSAs (Health Savings Account) and FSAs (Flexible Spending Account) are pre-tax accounts you can use to pay for healthcare related expenses. With HSAs and FSAs, you can pay for things like co-pays, medical bills, and vision expenses. Both HSA and FSA accounts offer tax benefits and have annual contribution limits. The key differences between them lie in their allowed usage.

If employees opted for a non-HSA eligible health plan (typically lower deductible plans), they can set aside money to pay for health care through a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), where they can put in money pre-tax from their paycheck, and decide what health care bills to pay from their account throughout the year. FSAs also work like a line of credit to cover eligible health care expenses early in the year, as long as you're on track to make your contribution by the year's end. However, FSA funds expire by the end of every year, so remind your staff to use their FSA dollars before they expire!

If employees chose an HSA eligible high-deductible health plan, they are eligible for an HSA. An HSA works like a savings account, where the money saved can be rolled year after year. Some HSA plans also give the option of investing funds, which earn profits tax-free.

HSA holders can also contribute to a type of FSA called a Limited Purpose FSA (LPFSA), which work like regular FSAs, but funds can only be used for vision and dental expenses.

4. Look for virtual care solutions (chances are, your carrier offers them!)

Many health plans now include virtual care solutions like telemedicine/telehealth options that are low-cost or even offered at no additional cost to you, and let you talk to a doctor by phone or video instead of visiting a clinic in person.

For routine medical issues such as colds, rashes, UTIs, and pink eye, telemedicine is a great way to get treatment from a medical professional while saving time and money.

5. Consider level-funded plans to save up to 35% in premiums

Level-funded plans give you the opportunity to save money on premiums and a chance to receive a return of premium following a good claims year.

How it works: you pay a fixed monthly premium based on estimated claims for the year. If your employees don’t meet their expected claim amount, the unused funds go back in your pocket. If your employees do exceed the claim amount, you continue to pay the same fixed monthly premium amount thanks to stop-loss insurance.

Level-funded plans are medically underwritten so it's a great option for healthy groups. Savings can exceed to over 30%.

6. Add voluntary coverage at no cost

Another way to add value to your employees' benefits plan is through adding voluntary coverage (this includes legal services, worksite benefits, disability insurance, and life insurance), which would otherwise be unavailable or more expensive outside of a group plan.

Offering these is at no cost to you, but adds more products to create better value for your employee benefits plan.

7. Promote good health and wellness

The last practical way to save money? When everyone in the company stays healthy.

By promoting good health and wellness, both employers and employees win. Wellness programs encompass everything from quitting smoking to losing weight to staying active to managing stress. You can even incentivize employee participation—just figure out what works best for your business!