How Insurance Is Changing Again & Oregon Businesses Are Being Affected
Health insurance is quite literally on everyone’s minds these days, especially if you’re in the business world. With the mandate to have every American insured for health coverage, businesses who aren’t offering those benefits are suffering the consequences, in more ways than one.
While companies with less than 100 employees are not currently required to provide healthcare benefits, in 2016 that will change and businesses with 50 employees will be required to provide health insurance options to their employees.
If that doesn’t jolt you, we have a few things you should consider before dismissing offering health insurance to your crew.
Our long-time and high-esteemed colleague, JR Hinds of Hinds and Associates is an insurance veteran. Since 1994 JR has spent his time investing in our Oregon businesses and insurance requirements to help you stay informed and compliant. Now, he is wrangling the ever-changing rules of healthcare for individuals and employers in new ways.
Here are a few key questions we asked during our recent interview with JR:
Thanks for chatting with me today, JR. First of all, please share with our readers what you do and who you serve.
Since 1999, I’ve been providing insurance to individuals and businesses with under 50 employees anywhere in Oregon with white-gloved service that larger agencies don’t offer. My clients have one contact – me.
I do work with another broker to support my individual clients and am now offering more streamlined and valuable services like sending out informational emails for employers to offer to their clients to help them stay current and efficient.
Over the last few years, with the help of Obama’s Healthcare Act, Oregon businesses have been impacted by new rules and laws. There is a lot that businesses need to know and stay informed on. Can you please give us an update on current/2015 Oregon state business requirements for insuring employees and what businesses should be expecting or preparing for in the next year or two?
In Oregon, businesses are not required to provide insurance to their employees unless they have 100 full-time employees. In 2016 that number will move down to 50 employees. Past that, we’re not sure what to expect.
That said, one additional rule is that ANY business offering benefits must contribute at least 50% of the employee’s portion of the premiums.
There is also a “Cadillac Tax” expected in 2018, but there’s tremendous push-back, so no one is sure it’ll actually happen.
Lastly, small businesses now have to have one non-spousal employee to qualify for a group insurance policy.
So, with these new changes in health care, many businesses are also needing to change how they operate. What would you say are the top 2-3 challenges Oregon businesses are now facing?
1st. Attracting quality employees, especially with unemployment rates dropping.
2nd. Retaining quality employees because bigger companies are recruiting and enticing applicants with big benefit packages.
3rd. Staying on top of federal and Oregon HR laws.
Based on those challenges, what are the top 2-3 changes you see businesses making?
- More businesses who never had brokers, now need brokers and are contacting me for guidance.
- Brokers have been bailing of the industry due to frustrations with the systems, new rules and the amount of work required to stay on top of the changes.
- More businesses are outsourcing positions and expertise, like HR, or payroll and bookkeeping, instead of hiring at employee to fill that position.
As a broker, what is your suggestion for ways businesses can address the top challenge they face?
My top recommendation is to use a broker. Brokers do not come with any additional costs and they are a dedicated resource and contact for businesses and individuals.
I also suggest that companies consider contributing a fixed dollar amount instead of a percentage of the premiums and that they offer their employees 2-3 health care choices, such as:
- High Deductible
- Mid-range deductible
- Low deductible
- Voluntary Supplemental Benefits: Carriers are now offering benefits that the employees can use to tailor their plan to specifically match their needs. The employee pays for this benefit out of their paycheck.
- At least one of the choices should be an HSA (Health Saving Account). This option is smart for most because for many of us, our deductible really is lower than we need.
All insurance is risk-management. If you don’t use your insurance, a higher deductible is fine. 82% of Americans have less than $1000 in medical bills each year. It doesn’t make sense for me to pay an insurance company to take on a risk that I am capable and comfortable taking on myself.
How has YOUR business changed because of the Healthcare Act?
Dramatically. I have to use technology more frequently and often. Besides the new systems, I am calling and Skyping with my clients more due to not having the time I used to have or ability to drive to meet them all in person. I email spreadsheets, and forms and communicate electronically a lot more.
And, on the group side I’m offering more added value like our HR portal and employer enrollment portal. This allows the company to provide a dashboard login where employees can access employee documents, view sick pay and time off policies, offer documentation and information on employee benefits and allow their employees to choose their insurance plan. It also helps my clients stay on top of federal and Oregon HR laws, all at no cost to them. This portal offers the company a place to learn and a library of information right at their finger tips.
Recently, you shared a few articles from Portland Business Journal with updates about the rate increase requests by Oregon insurance carriers like Moda, Regence, Providence, and Kaiser. With the state’s demand that carriers raise their rates even higher than carriers were asking, what additional business challenges (if any) do you anticipate?
- Increased deductibles
- Carriers will continue to narrow their networks. Be aware that your doctor or your prescription might not be covered on your new plan.
- Do as much due diligence as you can before your plan changes.
The increases, of course, don’t just stop at the employer level, it trickles down to employees as well. What can individuals expect as a result of the rate increase? And, do you have any advice for individuals?
Consider increasing your deductibles. Think about how much you have spent in the last 5 years on health care. Why pay for a low deductible if you only use it every now and then? Also, if you prefer to only go to one hospital system, then you can choose a plan that only covers that system instead of a larger plan that allows you to visit multiple providers.
Thank you for the valuable and helpful information, JR. I know that this information isn’t where you leave off though. What resources do you offer for businesses and/or individuals to learn, stay informed or make better decisions for them and their businesses?
Besides the previously mentioned HR Resource Portal I offer as a resource to my clients, my monthly e-newsletter is a great source of updates and information (sign-up is available on JR’s website here: http://www.hindsandassociates.net/)
Also, my website has a blog and a Frequently Asked Questions area that is a helpful place to start and I also post regularly on Linkedin and JR on Facebook with helpful articles that keep my community informed and current on what’s happening in the insurance world