Let’s face it, one of the biggest costs of doing business in any industry is health care. And the mortgage industry is no exception. Mortgage companies large and small, as well as independent mortgage originators, need to factor health insurance into the bottom line and consider this benefit as a way to attract and retain talent. It’s a struggle to balance these needs.
Many individuals and businesses responsible for purchasing health insurance start to get anxious each year during open-enrollment season. This is because of the common belief that options are limited, confusing or expensive.
It’s time for a fresh perspective. There are plenty of options available. One that is being discussed right now is to allow small businesses, including self-employed workers, to band together by geography or industry to obtain health care coverage as if they were a single large employer.
Although this concept is currently being contested in court, it’s not the only alternative. Mortgage originators should make themselves familiar with a few other approaches to provide health care for themselves and their employees.
Many individuals purchase comprehensive health care coverage through an Affordable Care Act individual market plan in their region. These plans provide un-limited coverage, all of the essential health benefits and coverage for preexisting conditions. The premiums, however, are usually very high and the networks are limited. This has led individuals, insurers and startups to seek and develop other options.
Beginning this month, employers will have access to an expanded program known as the Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement. This new law provides businesses the opportunity to reimburse employees with tax-free dollars for individual health insurance. It is a great solution for both large and small employers. The option provides flexibility for the employer to set a budget that works for the business, while allowing employees to choose the health plans that work best for them.
Under this approach, each employee can pick an individual market plan that best fits their needs and budget. The employer doesn’t have to worry about shopping for, selecting or renewing plans. Each employee has access to technology and support teams to help them choose the appropriate plans using tax-friendly, employer-provided money.
Most employer groups of 10 or more employees now have access to a level-funded solution that can dramatically cut the fat from the overall costs of health plans. A level-funded program combines the advantages of traditional, fully insured programs with self-funded health coverage.
In traditional programs, or fully funded programs, a company contracts with an insurance carrier for health care coverage of its workforce at a guaranteed premium. A partially self-funded program that is properly designed and reinsured is one in which the employer takes on some of the financial risk of providing certain health care benefits. It provides for a lower cost for the company when claims are low.
A level-funded program is a third option. This provides the best of both worlds by allowing for premium caps and reductions in fixed premiums. This option, combined with stop-loss insurance, provides protection against catastrophic or unpredictable losses by either an individual or a group.
These plans also can provide access to low-cost, high-outcome providers and can use virtual medicine, telemedicine and reference-based pricing solutions. They also can offer access to technology for health care system navigation — such as apps that provide health care concierge service, including appointment booking and easy access to appropriate providers.
Finally, there is the next generation of corporate wellness programs, including evidence-based, precision corporate wellness. Lifestyle-driven disease requires a lifestyle-driven wellness solution and the next generation of corporate wellness programs will help accomplish this.
The cost of health care is a huge issue for many people in the mortgage industry. Individuals can find reasonably priced insurance plans, allowing them to move toward better health and better access to health care. The goal of each of these plans is to provide coverage that meets employers and employees where they are financially, rather than forcing them into a system that doesn’t work.
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For the informed consumer, there are a variety of attractive health care coverage options — ranging from very inexpensive with limited coverage to very expensive with comprehensive coverage. Depending on your coverage needs and financial situation, each one of these plans could be attractive for you or your business. Plans can be customized for individuals and groups, and they also can include additional benefits such as dental, vision, disability and life insurance.