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The Healthcare QuandaryFebruary 1, 2007 By: Mackenzie Allison Home-Based Travel Agent
Insurance options for self-employed small business owners
The complicated issue of health insurance can cause a headache for even the most learned of people. If you're not covered under a spouse's plan, as a small business owner, what are your options for coverage for you, your family and your employees? Small business organizations and host agencies alike are doing their part to find solutions to help with the healthcare dilemma.
Agents in search of information can contact the National Small Business Association, which sends referrals to Assurant Health. Assurant Insurance Agent Gaurav Pokharel first of all recommends health savings accounts because of the tax benefits—they are tax write-offs. Regarding insurance plan options, he says their price depends on your health condition and the state where you live. Some states, such as Florida, California and Texas, can weigh on the expensive side. If you are in good health, a plan can range from $75 to $180 a month for a single person depending on your age and what coverage you require. For example, if you are looking for coverage for a family of four in Michigan, the cost can range from $200 a month to $350 for something with a mid-range deductible, which is usually $1,000 to $3,000.
If you live in Ohio, you're in luck. The Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE), the small business division of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, works with Medical Mutual of Ohio to offer healthcare for small business owners. Options include coverage for one-person companies, both start-ups and established businesses. There are at least 19 different health insurance plans, which include fully comprehensive options and those with a high deductible. And if you have employees, you can even offer them more than one plan option.
"People should have insurance to limit financial liability," COSE Senior Director Health Insurance Benefits Patty Starr says. "If you are in business for yourself, you are taking this on without a cushion." Starr says that COSE offers an array of competitively priced products, which range from plans with 100 percent benefit to a $5,000 deductible plan. You must be a member of COSE to take advantage of the healthcare options; a membership requirement is being based in the greater Cleveland area.
If you don't live in Ohio, Starr suggests contacting your state's Department of Insurance, which typically has a brochure that lists all the companies in the state that offer insurance options for one-person, home-based companies. She also recommends eHealthInsurance.com, where you can fill in criteria to get quotes, compare plans and apply online.
America's Vacation Center, based near San Diego, has recently made health insurance packages for its home-based independent contractors available in all 50 states. "We are facilitators here to offer options and buying power," AVC Co-President Van Anderson says. The biggest healthcare providers working with AVC are AIG Insurance, Assurant, Genworth, Humana, and Assurity. They are all rated A or A- and offer a wide range of options, including major medical, dental, accident insurance, medical prescription cards, term life insurance and disability. "When I announced the program, I was on a tour bus in Germany," Anderson says. "Many agents were on the call and mentioned how grateful they were. Some agents said now they have coverage they didn't have before and some said they are now paying less money than they were before."
Joyce Craddock, owner of California-based Incredible Journey, is a full-time, home-based agent who employs three people and also works as a host agent. She says her employees have their own healthcare through other avenues (a second job or a spouse). Craddock's sales are in the million-dollar range. "Drive is a huge factor in this business, and with the higher sales and more money comes more health coverage options." The money from her higher sales has allowed Craddock to opt for a PPO, which is a more expensive insurance, over an HMO. "I didn't want people to dictate which doctors I can go to," Craddock says. "As a kid, I remember you just went to the best doctor. The PPO broadens the network of doctors." The type of insurance she recommends for a part-time agent who is the sole supporter of their household is major medical, although it has a higher deductible. "It covers things that are catastrophic. If you get into a bad accident and your deductible is $1,000 and your bill is say $10,000, it is easier to pay $1,000."
Although having health insurance is critical, if you aren't currently insured, you still have options for healthcare. For example, Volunteers in Medicine Institute operates 50 clinics throughout the U.S. to provide healthcare for the working uninsured. The average cost of a visit is $65 per patient. Amy Hamlin, executive director, says the national organization is spreading cross-country due to requests for assistance from communities nationwide.
For information about other free and low-cost clinics in your town, contact the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
America's Vacation Center, 760-520-1915, www.joinavc.com
COSE, 216-621-3300, 888-304-4769, www.cose.org
Health Resources and Services Administration, www.hrsa.gov
National Small Business Association, www.nsba.biz
Volunteers in Medicine Institute, 802-651-0112, www.vimi.org