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Group Health Insurance May Be Best for Your Business … Even If You’re an Individual

Even if you’re an individual, group health insurance may be best for your business.

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RECENTLY, I HEARD A business owner tell a frustrating story about how she was forced to spend a surprisingly large sum for the treatment of a health condition. She was angry because her individual health insurance plan, bought through the Marketplace in 2014, had just increased in premium for the fourth time. She expected more from her insurance!

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There has been a growing rift between group and individual insurance since 2015 — most owners have not been able to keep up with all of the details. I have heard, erroneously, from many business owners that they believe:

  • They couldn’t do group insurance.
  • They would have to pay for all of their employees.
  • Individual insurance would be cheaper.

Not true.

Individual insurance contracts (aka Obamacare plans) are no longer the same as group plans. Differences include deductibles, max out-of-pocket financial exposures, and pricing. In most cases, individual insurance is less advantageous for the consumer.

Many small business owners are not aware of the increased availability of group insurance.

In 2014, the Affordable Care Act changed many of the regulations affecting small businesses and insurance. States have also been tweaking rules applicable to groups employing between two and 50 people (small groups). It is very possible that a small business would be better off with group insurance — and the employees as well.

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Here is the basic situation: In most states businesses with two or more people are eligible to purchase group insurance. Why is this important?

Because, in many states, group insurance may be less expensive per person, have lower financial exposures and have access to larger PPO networks.

How does it work? There is a little-known aspect of the Affordable Care Act that makes group insurance very accessible for small businesses. If you have an inception/renewal date of Jan. 1, then the business is not required to contribute to the employees’ premiums. Further, there are no participation requirements (i.e. how many people must participate of the employed population), so the business owner could be the only one participating — a “group” of one. Some states do not allow groups of one. In these states, you must have two participants. And note that husband-wife groups are treated differently and may not be eligible.

If the group insurance plan renews on any other date of the year, then the group is subject to contribution and participation requirements. These requirements are set by the insurance companies and are typically less stringent than most business owners believe.

Typical participation requirement: 70 percent of eligible full-time staff after qualified waivers. A qualified waiver is someone who has an insurance plan from a spouse, the government or an individual plan. Let’s say we have a group of 10 full time employees, four of whom have coverage through their spouse and one who is on Medicare. Here is how we determine the participation requirement: 10 eligible – 5 qualified waivers = 5 employees. In this case, to attain 70 percent participation, only four people must participate!

In regard to employer cost for groups that do not start/renew on Jan. 1, requirements may not be as high you think. In most cases, the employer is asked to contribute 25 percent of the cost of individual coverage on the lowest cost plan.

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Here’s how this plays out in the real world: Most small businesses offer two or three plans for the employees to choose from, one of which will be the “lowest cost.” The employer then calculates 25 percent of what it costs for that single person and the employee is responsible for the remaining premium. How much money are we talking about? Typically an employer is asked to contribute $75 to $225 per month per person depending on the age of the employee — only for those who choose to contribute.

Marcus Newman is Vice President — Small Business Sales with GCG, a full-service financial, employee benefits and risk management firm. A regular public speaker and educator, he can be contacted at marcus.newman@gcgfinancial.com

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Danielle Richardson

How to Be Healthier Now

4 easy tips you can implement today to start living a healthier lifestyle.

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BEING HEALTHY” IS ONE of those oversized goals we often leave to next week, next month, or next year. In celebration of this issue’s “How To” theme, I want to share easy swaps you can make to center your health now.

Most Americans live a sedentary lifestyle, with six in 10 adults suffering from a chronic disease like heart disease or diabetes. Beyond the physical, we know healthcare workers experience above-average rates of anxiety, depression and burnout. As busy clinicians and optical professionals, it can be challenging to find the time to think about our health and wellbeing in practical terms because we don’t always make the best patients.

We’re largely marketed an image of health that is a two-hour morning routine complete with a workout, meditation and balanced breakfast. But real health is not about how complicated you can make your mornings, it’s about creating habits and behaviors that help you feel well.

Below are some easy tips you can implement to start living a healthier lifestyle now.

Clearly Define Health Goals

Health, when left as an abstract concept, can be difficult to define. Instead, focus on your health goals and the intention behind them. Stress reduction? Lose weight? Gain muscle? Lower blood pressure? Spending some time clearly defining your health goals allows you to better focus your limited energy on the activities that will help you achieve them.

Track Key Metrics

Taking the stairs is the oldest health advice in the book, but have you thought about tracking the steps using your smartphone? Using technology as a tool to track your health metrics can help keep you on track. Goal setting is key, but tracking your progress is equally important and provides a positive psychological impact to keep you motivated. You can use pre-installed health applications on your smartphone or download apps specific to tracking your movement. No matter what metric you use, monitoring progress through a health app can encourage you to make better choices throughout the day.

Choose the Healthier Side Item

When eating out, aim to order the healthier side 80 percent of the time. Think sautéed vegetables instead of fries, salad instead of garlic bread, grilled shrimp instead of fried. These small changes accumulate over time to create a new habit. Choosing a healthier option isn’t about deprivation, it’s about creating a strong foundation that allows you to indulge occasionally without hindering progress towards your goals.

Focus on Nutrition

While there are agreed upon vitamins and minerals that every person needs, the amount and types vary based on the individual. Consult with your primary care doctor or nutritionist to explore the resources available to help you learn about optimal nutritional requirements based on your specific health goals. Nutritional testing can provide insight and information about deficiencies you may have and what supplementation is most effective. In addition to personal consultations, many new health tech companies offer in-home nutritional testing and coaching. Individualized nutrition is the future of health and wellness because nutrition is the missing component for many in their journey to creating a healthier life.

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3 Hiring Strategies for Optometry Practices

With the war for talent showing no signs of letting up, it’s a great time to revisit your recruiting efforts.

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WHEN IT COMES TO hiring, optometry practices have their work cut out for them. As if the current job market wasn’t competitive enough, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts optometrist and optician jobs will grow at 18 and 15 percent, respectively, through 2026 — faster than other industries. Couple this with a widening skills gap and it is easy to see that optometry practices must turn a closer eye to hiring strategies. As you grow your practice, set your sights on these three strategies for winning the war for talent.

Focus on Your Job Ad

Your job ad is exactly that­—an ad. It must be easy to read and compelling enough to capture the attention of candidates scrolling through pages and pages of openings.
Here are a few tips for creating an effective ad:

Hook your reader. Make your ad stand out with an enticing lead-in and include something unique about the position or practice in the headline (e.g., “Optometrist — Growing Practice, Sign-On Bonus”).

Embrace SEO. Ensure your ad is found by the right candidates by following search engine optimization (SEO) best practices and incorporating keywords in the job description. Keywords comprise industry terms, desired skills, location information, and other elements that applicants may include in their queries.

Be specific. Describe what the open position entails, emphasize growth opportunities, and provide a glimpse of what it’s like to work at your practice.

Close with clarity. Without a clear call to action and instructions for applying, you may lose out on a great hire; note when interviews will be scheduled or when the applicant can expect to hear from you.

A Marketer’s Lens

Take a cue from marketing and treat your candidates as if they were a sales lead by keeping them engaged throughout the hiring process. Share information about your practice and emphasize your unique company culture. Are hours flexible? Do you provide paid time off (PTO)? Do you offer a wellness program?

A recent survey of optometry professionals revealed health/medical insurance, compensation/bonuses, and flexible scheduling as the top three most desired workplace benefits. If you offer these, incorporate them into your ad.

Build Your Talent Pipeline

How many times have you had a “silver medalist” candidate — that one who was not quite the right fit? Or, maybe the silver medalist narrowly missed out to someone just slightly more qualified. Odds are you politely turned them down and they moved on.

Keep a short list of silver medalists and other potential hires on the backburner. By building this talent pipeline, you can quickly fill future positions without having to start from scratch. As you build your pipeline, maintain communication with your runners-up. For example, include these applications in your email marketing database so they receive occasional updates from your practice, or simply add them as a connection on LinkedIn.

With the war for talent showing no signs of letting up, it’s a great time to revisit your recruiting efforts — even if you aren’t actively hiring. These strategies will equip your practice with qualified personnel who will help keep your patients happy and healthy.

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John Marvin

Leading with Honesty and Authenticity Even When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

It is okay not to know everything, but it is not okay to remain ignorant.

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OWNING AN OPTOMETRY practice with retail is a multi-faceted responsibility. First, you have a full-time job as a clinician and generator of revenue. Second, you have a full-time responsibility to manage the business and lead your employees. It’s easy to avoid any responsibility you don’t enjoy, and most doctors don’t enjoy managing a business. So, what are you supposed to do?

Running a business takes leadership. There’s a myth that leaders know all the answers. In John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership, Law #2 is The Law of Influence: “The true measure of leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”

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As the owner, people look to you for leadership. They expect you to know what you’re doing. What happens when you don’t? “Fake it until you make it?” Terrible advice. People don’t react well when they believe you are dishonest and inauthentic. If you are dishonest, it tells your staff that dishonesty is okay in your business. Here are some ways to maintain your influence, even when you don’t know what to do or have all the answers:

Relax and Investigate

It’s OK not to know everything. No one does. It’s not OK to remain ignorant. In today’s connected world, you can learn anything you need to know. Think of your practice as a DYI project. There are YouTube channels, chat boards and forums on management and small business ownership, and countless articles on personnel, inventory, sales, accounting, management, and leadership. Write out a development plan using your calendar. Growing business and leadership skills takes constant education. You didn’t learn optometry in your first semester.

Network with Others

I often say others have done some of my best thinking. Seek out people who can teach you the skills to run your business. There are hundreds of networking opportunities for small business owners. There are organizations you can join, like Small Business Administration Community Groups. You can learn about all of the resources the SBA offers through a local office. One of their most valuable resources is SCORE, a completely free, country-wide network of business mentors. Experience is not the best teacher; other peoples’ experience is the best teacher.

Learn from Yourself

Experience is a good teacher if you learn from it. When a decision goes well, think about why it was successful. I strongly suggest keeping a journal of your ideas, experiences and decisions. Sue Forrest has written a great article on Journaling for Small Business Owners. You can read it in her blog at sueforrestagency.com.

Make Time to Learn

The most important step you can take in becoming a successful manager and leader is to plan. You wouldn’t try to see patients without a schedule, why are you running your business without one? Set aside at least eight hours a week dedicated to the business of your business: No patients, just the operational aspects. You can break it into two four-hour sessions or dedicate a full day. This is when you should plan meetings with vendors, interview applicants, review financials, read business articles, network in your community. Eight hours out of a 50-hour week is only about 15 percent of your time. And if you’re not willing to commit at least 50 hours a week to your practice, chances are, you shouldn’t be an owner. That could be a valuable thing to learn.

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