Cutting Health Insurance Costs
It’s no secret that rising healthcare costs are handcuffing small-business owners and their employees in this country, forcing many to forego health insurance coverage just to keep their businesses viable. In 2005, premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose to an average of $10,880 annually for family coverage ($907 per month) and $4,024 ($335 per month) for individual coverage, according to the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE). NASE wants micro-businesses – those with 10 or fewer employees – to know there are steps they can take to control healthcare costs. Here are a few:
• Self-employed business owners should consider a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA). With an HRA, medical expenses are fully deductible if a spouse works part-time or full-time in the business.
• Look for valuable free or low-cost programs at local pharmacies, government centers, etc. that can help cut costs and avoid trips to the doctor.
• Get healthy: quit smoking, exercise more and lose weight.
• Get informed: Check your health plan to see what’s covered before getting treatment. Know your health insurance plan’s rules and then follow them.
• Plan ahead: To avoid going to an out-of-plan hospital and having to pay emergency expenses, post your plan’s approved area hospitals near your telephone, along with any emergency phone numbers.
• Lower pharmacy costs by asking your doctor to prescribe only drugs in the bottom two, less expensive tiers of the three-tiered co-pay system for prescription drugs.
• Raise your deductible, co-pays or co-insurance, but be careful not to put out-of-pocket expenses beyond reach.
Productivity and Planning
Proudfoot Consulting recently released information from its “2006 Productivity Report,” in which top U.S. executives ranked issues related to management as key barriers to productivity in their organizations. An overwhelming 50 percent of U.S. executives – significantly more than the global average of executives surveyed – said the No. 1 barrier to productivity was inefficient management planning of work and organization structure. Forty-three percent of U.S. executives surveyed ranked poor leadership as the second greatest barrier to productivity, including failure to lead in making necessary changes. Yet ironically, more than one quarter of executives surveyed have no targets established for improving productivity in 2006.
Other findings of the report include:
• 28.8 percent of company time in America is unproductive.
• The estimated cost of poor productivity in the U.S. is $598 billion.
• U.S. companies lose the equivalent of 33.5 days per worker, per year, due to losses in productivity.
Best of Both Worlds
Meeting both business and personal demands has long been a juggling act for professionals. New surveys of employees and executives, however, show companies are responding. Fifty-three percent of workers said their employers are very supportive of their efforts to achieve work/life balance; 45 percent of executives echoed the sentiment. Only 10 percent of employees and 5 percent of managers said their companies are unsupportive of work/life balance concerns.
The surveys were developed by OfficeTeam, a staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals. They were conducted by an independent research firm and include responses from 150 senior executives at the nation’s 1,000 largest companies, and 539 full- or part-time workers 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments.
Executives and employees were asked, “How supportive is your company of its employees’ efforts to achieve work/life balance?”
Very supportive 53% 45%
Somewhat supportive 37% 50%
Somewhat unsupportive 5% 5%
Not supportive at all 5% 0%
“Companies today cannot afford to ignore the issue of work/life balance,” said Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Providing employees the flexibility to address personal commitments, without compromising the needs of the business, can make the difference between a good working environment and a great one.”