Trish Nash of Signature Gallery of Homes in Henderson runs a small business of about 10 staffers. Whenever she hires a new worker, there’s a self-imposed pressure to land a strong employee who will make an impact on the company.
That means offering a competitive benefits package—salary, work environment and health benefits. But securing health insurance can be a tricky proposition for any small business—those of any size, actually—considering the high rate of premiums.
That’s where the Henderson Chamber of Commerce has come to the rescue, offering a group plan for small businesses that are chamber members to bring the cost down. There was such demand that during the sign-up window, from the start of the year through January 31, more than 340 businesses aligned in the association health plan.
“One of the things that always comes up when you interview potential employees is, ‘Do you offer health insurance?’ ” Nash said. “In the past we have had to say no. This gives us the opportunity to have more options in the employment pool.”
The group-buying power brings the rates down about 5% to 7% on average, although one company saved 20%, said Scott Muelrath, the chamber’s CEO. Companies from all industries—retail, manufacturing and business services, for instance—have used the group plan, which is hosted through United Healthcare. In total, 8,000 lives are covered.
The plan also includes a few businesses from the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce and Latin Chamber of Commerce. Most important, the rate is locked in for 18 months, and all of the plans are compliant with the Affordable Care Act to cover preexisting conditions.
“That’s a big deal, because health care is expensive,” Muelrath said of the locked-in rate. “There was a lot of businesses cutting back on expenses, and a lot of businesses that aren’t making it [because of the pandemic]. That makes it difficult for a small business to extend health care benefits.”
Nevada State High School is saving $12,000 a year by being part of the group plan, said John Hawk, the public charter school’s chief operations officer. Full-time workers qualify for Nevada’s PERS retirement plan, but they aren’t offered state health insurance.
That means the school must find the best rates for its staff of roughly 25. “This is a school, but we operate like a small business and leverage every resource in the building,” Hawk said.
He said employees only insuring themselves pay only $25 per paycheck for coverage.
There’s plenty of incentive to offer employees insurance. First, as many have learned during the pandemic, having access to quality health care and staying safe is paramount, Muelrath stressed. Workers worry about what happens if they need to be hospitalized, and those without insurance are less likely to seek care without coverage.
“This is a very effective and very in-demand service,” Muelrath said.
There are also financial reasons to extend health benefits. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees with an average employee salary of less than $50,000 qualify to receive a small-business health care tax credit if they share 50% of the cost of health insurance premiums, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The employer does not have to cover 50% of the dependent or family health insurance options to qualify.
For Nash, it’s about doing right by her real estate team. Like many small businesses, it’s a tight-knit family with everyone looking out for one another.
“It’s a game-changer for our business,” Nash said. “It’s very difficult to look an applicant in the eye and say, ‘We can’t offer you and your family health insurance.’ ”