"Benefits Don't Have To Cost A Latte"
As I near the completion of my 20th year as an Employee Benefits Specialist, I have been asked if I regret that I haven't made a career change. I love what I do, but if I am being honest, I hate what I have witnessed over the past several years. Hard-working Americans cannot afford basic healthcare. Health insurance is only one piece of the complex healthcare puzzle. With deductibles increasing along with premiums, many insured Americans are avoiding healthcare due to out-of-pocket costs.
So first, my why. I love helping small business owners. I love learning their stories about how they began their businesses. I love that I have worked with many clients for so many years that I now insure their adult children and grandchildren. I love that I have sat at their kitchen tables, watched their families grow, and been invited to their birthday and anniversary parties.
I have cried with clients when their child has been diagnosed with cancer. I have silently listened to more than one teary-eyed business owner express their fears because the weight of a medical diagnosis and associated costs are too much to bear. I have personally completed daunting disability paperwork alongside those who went to work one day and were physically unable to hold a pen the next. These are tough days but are also the days that drive me to do more, give more, and learn more.
In the past two decades, I have seen many changes in the healthcare industry. It is no surprise that the biggest change has undoubtedly been the cost. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), annual group health insurance premiums average around $7,739 for single coverage and $22,221 for family coverage. As a small business owner, I fully understand the challenges of offering a rich benefits package with a limited budget.
After years of researching benefits offered by larger corporations, I was driven to find cost-effective solutions for smaller employers who lack the volume needed to keep the per-employee-per-month premiums at a minimum. I wanted to offer something from which employees could benefit whether they are enrolled in individual health insurance, have insurance through a spouse or parent, or have no health insurance coverage. Insured or uninsured, healthcare is expensive. A trip to the ER or one prescription could cost thousands even with good health insurance coverage.
Indigo's exclusive small business benefits plans include: free therapy to employees and their spouses, an advocate to assist them with navigating the complex healthcare system should a healthcare challenge arise, a medical bill negotiator to help reduce the cost of a hospital bill, prescription savings, and much more. As part of our program, a licensed agent from the Indigo Health Insurance Team will assist each employee in selecting the health insurance policy that best fits their needs. Should employees qualify for subsidized plans, our team will guide them through each step of the Marketplace process.
While many industries must offer medical health insurance to remain competitive and recruit talent, small businesses are not required to do so. Many of these businesses do not have the budget to contribute to the ever-increasing premiums. Even without medical insurance, a comprehensive benefits package offering crucial programs and services to the modern healthcare landscape is available.
For $3 and some change per day, I can offer each of my employees $50,000 of life insurance, long-term and short-term disability, access to mental health professionals with a $0 copay, telehealth, healthcare advocates, a wellness program, free legal services, and more. For less than a short-size latte (that's the 8 oz cup for those of you, like me, who can never keep track of odd coffee cup sizing) per day, my employee with cancer who has a young family has paycheck insurance should treatments keep him away from work. He and his spouse have access to free counseling and a healthcare advocate. Another employee with pre-existing conditions has life insurance that would not be underwritten as an individual policy.
As a bonus, because business owners and their families are eligible for all group benefits, I also have life insurance and disability for a fraction of the price it would cost for my individual business owner policies. Our son got poison ivy playing in the creek this summer. I requested a Teladoc visit and in less than 12 minutes he had seen a doctor and we had received notification that his prescription was ready for pickup. I paid $0 out of pocket for the visit and never left our home.
I hear many small business owners say, "I don't think my people will use that" or "I am going to just give them a raise and they can go get insurance on their own." Sending employees to research health insurance and attempt to navigate the Marketplace independently is incredibly time-consuming, confusing, and frustrating. If they do manage to find a plan on their own, they may not be aware of limited networks or lack of prescription coverage and may still be unable to afford care due to high deductibles. Unless employees are offered additional healthcare benefits, they typically aren't aware this type of help exists; unless offered by an employer, many of these services are not available. It has been reported that medical bills are the number one cause of bankruptcy. An employee may not share such information with an employer; however, a simple, private phone call with their healthcare advocate could save them thousands of dollars, assist with payment arrangements, and avoid collections.
While each of my employees has medical health insurance coverage through a spouse, parent, or the Marketplace, each one is well worth a Tall Chai Tea Latte with almond milk and half sugar any day of the week.