Independent Health Becomes More User Friendly
Offering a health care plan that is user friendly and promotes the health and well being of its members may benefit small businesses. Independent Health has made an effort to become more user friendly in order to benefit employees and employers. They offer a full range of plan options including low premium plans with ways for employees to lower their out of pocket costs and earn money back. Independent Health offers a range of plans for small and large employers.
Additionally, Independent Health offers tools to help employees better manage their own health leading to healthier lives. Some of these tools include Fit Works, a 24 hour medical help line, a treatment cost advisor and an Independent Health Application for smart phones. The Independent Health “App” allows members to search Independent Health’s local network for participating doctors, allows them to access their member ID card and provides a summary of their health care information.
Furthermore, Independent Health has partnered with local businesses to offer programs that help individuals and families improve their health. These organizations include the Buffalo Bills, the Biggest Loser Resort Niagara and Fitness in the Parks at the YMCA Buffalo/Niagara. Many of these organizations offer different exercise classes, nutrition classes and education on living a healthy life style. Offering tools to a healthy lifestyle can lead to a more productive workforce.
Health Insurance for “Small” Groups
Legislation under the Affordable Health Care Act that takes effect January 1, 2016 could affect small businesses. As of January 1, 2016, Federal Law will impact how health plans are financed for employers with 51 to 100 employees, also known as “small” groups. Specific requirements for insurers covering “small” groups currently include employers with 50 or fewer employees in New York State. However, starting January 1, 2016, “small” groups will be defined at 100 or less.
This will affect the type of policies available to employers of this size. Currently, the law requires that policies for “small” groups be “community rated policies” and include certain benefits and underwriting requirements. Additionally, insurance carriers are not permitted to use “stop loss” policies. Stop loss policies are typically found in self-funded plans. The federal deadline which New York will have to comply with will change the small groups to cover 100 or fewer employees. For small groups, the most common insurance policy will be the community rated products which typically have higher premiums.
However, legislation is being proposed which will change these requirements and allow for variation in dealing with small group policies.
Combating a Negative Internet Review
First impressions and opinions of a business can develop long before a consumer comes into contact with the business’ products or services. Internet reviews have become highly influential in a consumer’s choice of product or service. Unfortunately, not all reviews found online are accurate and many negative reviews have a damaging effect on businesses. One unhappy customer, an ex-employee or even competitors can easily tarnish a good reputation by posting negative reviews. However, there are several ways to combat negative comments and reviews.
In order to protect your online reputation, there are online programs that help monitor your reviews. Google Alerts is a program that sends alerts when new reviews are posted so you can easily track what is being posted. Responses to negative or fraudulent comments should be public and polite. Back and forth comments will only make the negative comment more noticeable. Therefore, the response should be kept to one short post. However, having a few negative reviews provides customers with a more credible view of the company.
Small Businesses Eligible for Health Insurance Tax Credit
In previous years, small businesses were eligible for a tax credit for providing health care for their employees. Small businesses were eligible for a maximum of 35 percent credit for health insurance premiums paid for employees. Tax exempt employers were eligible for a maximum of 25 percent of premiums paid. However, starting in 2014, the maximum credit will increase to 50 percent and 35 percent, respectively.
In order to qualify for the credit, an employer must pay 50 percent of their employees’ healthcare. This does not include families or dependants. Additionally, the business must employ fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees, with an average wage of less than $50,000.00 per year.
The tax credit is relatively flexible as well. If a business does not owe any tax during a specific year, but would be eligible for the credit, the credit can be carried forward to other tax years. A business expense deduction may be available for small businesses that paid more in health insurance premiums than their eligible credit. Small tax exempt employers may be eligible for a refund if the employer has no taxable income and the refunded credit does not exceed the income tax withholding or Medicare tax liability. These refunds are subject to sequestration. Refund payments processed on or before October 1, 2014 and on or before September 30, 2015 are reduced by the sequestration rate of 7.3 percent.
The credit can be obtained by filing IRS Form 8941. The IRS website has additional information on claiming the tax credit.
Prepared by Rebecca R. Josefiak