How Defined Contribution Health Benefits Help Employers Recruit and Retain Employees

It costs a typical employer the equivalent of 6-9 months in salary each time they have to replace a salaried employee—that’s $20,000 to $30,000 for a $40,000 manager in recruiting and training expenses, along with the potential lost revenue from customers.

Employers can save approximately half of these expenses, $10,000 or more per replaced employee, with a health benefits plan that helps them recruit new employees and retain existing employees.

Defined contribution health benefits provide many advantages over traditional employer-sponsored benefits. Rather than paying the costs to provide a specific group health plan (a “defined benefit”), employers can fix their costs on a monthly basis by establishing a defined contribution health plan that gives employers and employees full control over healthcare costs – the employer’s costs are predictable and controllable, while employees are given full control over their health care dollars and choose a portable plan that meets their exact personal needs.

How do defined contribution health benefits work?

An employer gives each employee a fixed dollar amount (a “defined contribution”) that the employee chooses how to spend. Typically, employees are allowed to use the defined contribution to reimburse themselves for personal health insurance costs or other medical expenses such as doctor visits and prescription drugs.

Under the traditional approach to health benefits, the company selects and funds the same insurance plan for all employees in a one-size-fits-all approach.

Alternatively, in a defined contribution approach, the employer designates a fixed amount of money, the “defined contribution”, and employees purchase personal health insurance directly from any insurance company they choose, selecting products that specifically meet their family’s needs and budget.

What is a personal health policy?

A personal health policy, sometimes called an “individual” or “family” health insurance policy, covers you and your designated family members. You purchase a personal health policy through a licensed health insurance agent who is appointed to represent the insurance companies in your state.

Personal health policies now cost 1/3 to 1/2 the price of similar-benefit employer-sponsored coverage in 45 states. This is primarily because insurance carriers in 45 states are allowed to: (1) price based on age bands and (2) reject or charge more to applicants for personal policies with pre-existing conditions.

If you or a member of your family are rejected or charged more for a personal health policy because of a pre-existing medical condition, you typically become eligible for state-guaranteed (“HIPAA-guaranteed”) or federally-guaranteed (“PCIP”) personal health insurance.

How do businesses determine the amount of money allocated to employees?

Providing different levels of benefits to classes of employees is at the core of benefits compensation and is routinely done by major corporations.   With salary and other types of compensation, employers routinely compensate groups of employees differently. Field sales people are compensated differently than sales managers. Some employees get company cars, while others earn quarterly bonuses. Because health benefits are such an important part of compensation, why not provide benefits that vary by class of employee?

With defined contribution health benefits, businesses can create employee classes that offer benefits tailored to the company’s objectives, transforming a health benefit plan into a tool to find and keep great people.

For example, consider an electrical contracting company who struggled to hire and keep journeymen electricians in a very tight labor market. Instead of offering the same health plan to all employees, the company created separate classes for apprentices and journeymen and gave journeyman $350 more per month in their HRA. This large increase helps the company reduce attrition among journeyman. Plus, it creates a visible incentive for apprentices to complete the education required to become journeymen.

As there are no minimum or maximum contribution requirements, a business can design their defined contribution health plan to fulfill its exact recruiting and retention needs.

Conclusion

Recruiting and retaining key employees is essential to every business, and a company’s health benefit program is a key part of the compensation they offer to their employees. Due to the rising costs of traditional employer-sponsored health insurance, defined contribution health benefits are gaining popularity in the U.S. Rather than paying the costs to provide a specific group health plan (a “defined benefit”); employers might want to consider fixing their costs on a monthly basis by establishing a defined contribution health plan.

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