Throughout my 15 years in the Professional Employer Organization (PEO) industry with BCN Services, one of the most common questions I am asked when it comes to attracting talent is “What is everyone else doing?” Employers look to BCN Services to help them stay competitive as they look to hire the best in their industry. Whether the client is established or a new business, the question inevitably comes up: How do I keep in pace with my competitor down the street?
When clients ask this, it is typically in relation to benefits, specifically health coverage. With medical costs skyrocketing, and coverage declining, job applicants are looking for companies that have a competitive health plan that will offer the security of comprehensive medical coverage. So here are my thoughts based on my experience with client companies over the years, Health care reform has helped to define the value of a plan more clearly. The Affordable Care Act defines the value of health plans based on their “metal band” status ranging from Bronze level as the minimum coverage deemed “affordable” for comprehensive coverage to Platinum offering the highest level of coverage, but in correlation, at the highest price.
We’re seeing a standard practice evolving of Gold plans, typically with $1,000 single, $2,000 family deductibles becoming the norm. Co-insurance of 20 percent may be applied, but typically with a cap of around an additional $2,500 for a single person or $5,000 family coverage. In my experience, this type of plan design is the “new normal.” Gone are the days when “deductibles” and “co-insurance” were not a part of the vocabulary in discussing health plan option.
The next question is “How much are other companies paying towards the plan?” The trend still seems to be holding strong that most employers are contributing heavily towards their employees’ coverage. Based on personal experience, I see employers contributing an average of 70 percent of the premium for their employees’ coverage. But we see a decline in dependent coverage. It is rare for an employer to cover dependents at the same level as employees. Typically, dependent coverage will drop to approximately 50 percent or less of the total monthly premium.
No contribution toward a dependent premium will make you uncompetitive. Some employers have cut out dependent coverage contributions, but that would not be advisable if you want to attract top talent. The best employees want to cover their entire family without seeing a substantial part of their paycheck reduced by medical plan premiums. Gold plan family premiums can average between $1,500 and $2,200 per month, depending on the carrier and company location. Employers covering at least 50 percent of this premium leave the employee with a manageable pre-tax deduction reducing their monthly net pay by $500-$700.
Some employers are opting not to offer any medical coverage at all, and directing employees to the federal Healthcare Marketplace at healthcare.gov. While this may be a viable solution for some industries, it is definitely not the norm. Since the ACA was implemented, I have yet to see a client drop group medical plans for the Marketplace solution. Marketplace plans tend to have higher deductibles and out-of-pocket limits, and tend to be more expensive than group health plans.
While some employees may benefit from a federal government subsidy, the majority will not qualify based on their earnings. One of the quickest ways to lose talent is to not offer a health plan. Understandably, start-up companies may not have a health plan in their budget. They may have made concessions with employees with the understanding that a health plan option would be coming in the future. But established companies typically will put themselves at a disadvantage by eliminating or not offering a group health plan.
As always, BCN Services is your partner in business making it our priority to help you gain and retain top talent. Our Partnership Management team is licensed by the State of Michigan to be able to explore all options with you, our client. We also partner with agents throughout the country for clients outside of Michigan, and will work hand-in-hand with them to offer the best options. No matter what your industry, or where you are located, we will be able to advise you to keep you competitive.