Studies have consistently shown that small businesses are much less likely to provide health insurance to their employees than larger companies. Indeed, the smaller the business, the less likely it is to offer health insurance benefits. As recently as 2003, about 50% of the uninsured in the United States were either self-employed or worked for companies with less than 26 employees.
The main reason for this disparity is cost. Health insurance for small businesses is typically more expensive than for larger companies (on a per employee basis) because it is more difficult for insurance companies to accurately predict the average cost of medical care for a small group. That is, risk is greater for insurance companies for small businesses since small businesses have fewer employees to spread the risk of health claims. It only takes one employee with significant health claims to have a significant impact on the overall costs for the group insurance. This is also the reason why small businesses do not self-insure; the financial risk is simply too great for the majority of small businesses.
So what can a small business do if it wants to offer health insurance to its employees? Often they have no choice but to pay the premiums. More often than not they will split the cost of premiums with their employees, typically 50/50. Unfortunately, these small business health insurance plans are not only quite expensive, but also include significant deductibles and co-payments for the employees.
Small businesses can sometimes reduce their health insurance costs by either joining or forming a purchasing cooperative to negotiate better rates and benefits from companies offering small business health insurance. Depending on the type of business, professional organizations can also offer better health insurance rates to small businesses.
In their search for affordable health insurance, small businesses should obtain multiple quotes before deciding on any one small group plan. One of the best places to start the process is online. By using the Internet, within a very short period of time, small business owners can access dozens of quotes from several insurance companies, making comparison of various plans much easier.
Of course, as a small business owner, if you are not comfortable shopping for your small business health insurance on the Internet, look for a good health insurance broker. If possible, interview more than one broker, and ask your peers for recommendations.
In order to remain competitive in the labor market, small businesses need to be able to offer health insurance benefits for their employees. This is not always easy as cost can be a limiting factor. With some effort, however, small business owners can find affordable small business health insurance. Joining buying cooperatives or professional organizations, using the Internet (probably the most convenient), or contacting a health insurance broker can be effective ways to begin the challenging process of securing affordable small business health insurance.