There are certain inherent differentiators in working for a large company vice a small company. By working for a large company, an employee is in an environment where job security and corporate name recognition is at a premium. In an economy such as ours, that is a tough hurdle for a small business to climb. As such, small business must offer incentives to prospective employees that large companies just cannot afford.
For years, integrateIT’s most attractive feature to potential employees has been our comprehensive benefits package, most notably our ability to cover 100 percent of health insurance costs for our employees and their families. This benefit was appreciated by our staff, as it provided them a huge financial savings while still covering them with a premium health insurance plan.
And in honesty, it is something that Geoff and I were extremely proud of. It always made me smile when an employee would come back from maternity leave and tells us how amazing it was that they didn’t pay a dollar out of pocket to deliver their baby. It was just one less thing for them to worry about. And it was something that made them appreciative of their employer.
Over the last few years, it has proven extremely difficult for us to maintain this benefit. integrateIT’s healthcare costs have increased by an average of 25 percent a year over the last five years. Geoff and I have done whatever we could do to not pass these increases onto our employees. We have cut costs where possible. Geoff and I haven’t taken a raise in five years, for example. We have tried to raise profits to compensate for the increased costs, and thus invested in a full-time recruiter. Each year we have continued to sneak by without passing some cost onto our employees. Until now.
The Affordable Healthcare Act has proven anything but, well, affordable. According to our insurance provider, the current plan that we offer our employees is too good….so good that when new ACA requirements were added to it, it became too expensive for the carrier to continue to offer it. In its place, our insurance provider offered us an alternative plan, the “closest plan” to what we offer, which has new fees, higher co-pays, and….another 30 percent price increase. In addition, because of changes within the ACA, certain employee’s rates have increased by as much as 120 percent. Now, lower coverage with a higher price? That to me doesn’t seem too affordable.
The point of the Affordable Healthcare Act was to allow every American the opportunity to purchase insurance at an affordable cost. The problem is, however, that not every American can even afford the cost of what these plans would entail. As such, the insurance companies passed the cost increases onto the middle and upper tier health plans. The thought was that by raising the costs of these plans, and passing the costs onto the people that could “afford” them, the insurance companies would recoup some of their losses. Problem is…the health care plans now became unaffordable for the middle class, and in some cases, it became more cost effective for the average American to pay the fine and not obtain health insurance. And when that person gets sick and has to go to the hospital? We are in the same mess that we are in now, only worse.
And how about for businesses? Well, business that don’t participate in the Affordable Healthcare Act and do not offer their employees insurance would have to pay a fine. That fine is to be a deterrent. But let me tell you, from purely a business perspective, it would make much more sense financially for us to pay the fine and not offer insurance. From speaking to my peers that own other companies, they are in the same boat. So now it makes more sense for me to not offer insurance to my employees? I’m guessing that is not the intent of the Affordable Healthcare Act either.
The purpose of this post is not to bring any political opinions to the table. Fact is, the current iteration of the ACA went through something like 50 iterations. Which means that Democrats and Republicans both had a say as to the final content of the bill. What I do know is the current bill is not working. Healthcare is still not affordable, as the burden of the cost just switched from one demographic to another. Businesses have great incentive financially to not offer employees insurance. And insurance companies? They are going to continue to play the shell game with costs to stay viable.
As for me? Well, I’m sad.
I’m sad I can no longer offer employees the same benefits that I have in the past. Although we will still be able to offer a generous stipend to employees- approximately 95 percent of our staff will still be fully covered by integrateIT- the plan just isn’t as good as it used to be. I’m sad that other people are in way worse shape than I am. I’m sad that the state of the industry is such that doctors are turning away patients. I’m sad that my wife and her nursing colleagues may not have the means to treat patients as effectively as the patients deserve.
What do I want? I want our leaders to fix it. All of them.
PS- If the intent of the Affordable Healthcare Act is to keep health care costs under control, I’m fairly certain we shouldn’t be so accommodating in allowing people who are at risk of passing on Ebola to enter the country.