If you're not providing health coverage for your employees because of the high cost, consider a health-care savings program as an affordable alternative to traditional insurance. These programs use the same types of provider networks that insurance companies do, negotiating prices and passing on the savings to their clients. Some also maintain escrow accounts to pay participants' medical bills.
"When people have to pay for their own medical care, this is a way to get it at a much better rate," says Judith Henkels, president and CEO of Care Entrée, a Grand Prairie, Texas, company that offers noninsurance solutions to health-care costs.
Health-care savings programs can be used as a stand-alone benefit or in conjunction with traditional medical insurance in a way that can reduce premiums. A key element of such programs is teaching participants how to be savvy health-care consumers and get the best rate for the services they need.
Henkels says recent legislative changes have made it easier for companies like hers to offer a variety of options for small and midsize businesses that want to offer some sort of health-care benefit to employees. New products are hitting the market regularly; a good way to educate yourself on what's available is to start by doing an Internet search on "health-care savings programs." Talk to several providers as well as your insurance agent before making a final decision.
Jacquelin Lynn is a freelance business writer in Orlando, Florida.