Group Health Newbies: Don’t Be Caught Off-Guard When Shopping for Your Business’ Plan

If you’re a newbie shopping for group health insurance for your small business, how are you feeling about the whole process? Confident? Nervous? Confused? We get it, there’s a lot of feelings to feel when it comes to picking a plan. But we’re here to guide you, and steer you past some of the common surprises and pitfalls that may come your way.

You Might Need More Info Than You Thought

caucasian hand holding a pen filling out a survey
Conduct an anonymous employee health survey prior to shopping, so that you know what your employees want in a plan.

We’ll start you off with an easy one. When it comes to getting accurate quotes, you used to be able to simply provide the age ranges of employees. Now you need to have their exact date of birth, as well as the dates of birth of any spouses or dependents they want to cover. Don’t be caught fumbling around for info, make sure you’ve collected all of your data before even looking for a plan. We would suggest conducting an anonymous employee health survey prior to shopping, so that you have all of the facts at your fingertips, as well as a good idea of what your employees are looking for in a plan.

A Provider You Thought Was Covered Isn’t

A lot of people are attached to a certain doctor or healthcare provider. When choosing a plan, you need to pay close attention to the network that is offered, especially since many plans are reducing the size of their networks to cut insurance costs. You could end up with unhappy employees who are unwilling to enroll in your plan if the network is too small or if their doctor isn’t included. And if this is your second time offering insurance, pay extra close attention to any changes made to the network; plans can change from year to year, so the providers that you were sure were covered, may not be. 

Your Employee Isn’t Eligible

time sheet
Employees are usually required to work at least 30 hours to be eligible for certain plans.

This one might really come as a surprise. You’ve decided to offer healthcare to all of your employees, but that doesn’t mean that all of your employees are eligible. The state your business is in, your insurance company’s rules, or even the policy you choose can dictate the number of hours an employee must work to be eligible for your plan. Employees are usually required to work at least 30 hours to be eligible for certain plans; they must also satisfy a waiting period before they are covered. It could be disastrous to extend coverage to an employee who signs up, only to find out later that they were ineligible for the plan. They could end up saddled with a giant medical bill even though they thought that they had insurance.

You Need to Communicate with Your Employees – A LOT

Keeping your employees informed about their health coverage is not a courtesy, it’s an absolute must. You need to provide a Summary of Benefits Coverage (SBC) to participants and beneficiaries prior to enrollment in the plan, at renewal of the plan, within 90 days of a special enrollment period, and within 7 business days of a written request. 

You also need to give each employee covered under the plan a Summary of Material Modification (SMM) when there are changes made to their health benefits. We know, that sounds like a lot of paperwork, but it’s important that you familiarize yourself with all of these notices. Remember, EZ’s agents can help you manage all of the crazy insurance admin that you have to deal with! 

Prescription Drug Pricing Is Complicated!

If your employees are counting on prescription drug coverage in their group health plan, then you’re going to want to take a closer look at how your chosen plan covers medications. All drugs are priced differently, and generics cost less than brand name medications, but what you might not know is that the same drug may be priced differently by different insurance companies. The same drug might even have a different copay on different plans with the same company. Familiarizing yourself with different plans’ drug formularies can help to cut down on prescription price surprises.prescription drug bottles

One more thing that you might not have realized in regards to prescription drug coverage is that some plans now actually have a separate drug deductible. Just as with a general deductible, your employees would have to meet a set amount of drug expenses out-of-pocket before their plan would begin covering the cost of prescription medications. Again, this is where an employee health survey would help to give you an idea of what your employees need, and what you need to avoid when looking at healthcare plans.

A High Deductible Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

Yes, a high deductible can sometimes be a burden to employees, especially those with lower incomes, and you might think that if you’re providing healthcare you should avoid any plans that might pile high out-of-pocket costs onto your employees. But you might be surprised to find that some employees actually prefer these lower premium plans, especially if they rarely use medical services and are just looking for a safety net in case of emergency. This is especially true if you pay a higher percentage of their (low) premiums (meaning you’ll still be saving money), choose a plan that is HSA-eligible, and then contribute to those health savings accounts. HSAs have tax advantages for both you and your employees, and having that money put aside means that employees will be able to cover a surprise medical expense. 

The list of things you need to know about healthcare plans as an employer can seem endless, and it may feel like you are constantly being surprised by some new rule or protocol. But we promise, you’ve got this! And we’re here to support you, simply contact one of EZ’s knowledgeable agents and you’ll have all the answers to your insurance questions at your fingertips. We can also sort through all of the plans on offer and get you instant, accurate quotes so you can find the best plan for your business and your employees – and we’ll do it all for free! No hassle, no obligation, and no surprises! To get started with us, enter your zip code in the bar above, or to speak to an agent, call 888-350-1890.