While many small businesses are concentrated in one location, some operate out of multiple offices or workplaces. You may need to have a physical office location in another state to take advantage of a business opportunity. Additionally, the ever-increasing trend toward telecommuting means most smaller companies have at least one employee who lives far from the core staff.
When you are selecting a health insurance plan for your employees, you have to take these geographic issues into consideration. Even if the employees operate inside the same state, you may need to communicate with your health insurance provider to ensure that you don’t drive up costs unintentionally by only offering a local plan.
Make some realistic projections about where your employees will be working over the next year. If you have any employees who are approved to work from home, gauge their likelihood of moving to a new state. While you can always adjust a health plan, doing so midyear can be costly if it means adding an entirely new state to your coverage.
Consult with your broker or health plan representative if you’re in doubt. Some health plans are very restrictive about their geographic scope, working with a limited number of local health care providers to reduce administrative costs. If you decide to open an office just 90 miles away, for example, you could be unknowingly strapped with significant restrictions for covering those employees under your current plan.
Communicate Frequently and Consistently
Businesses with multiple offices are sometimes guilty of treating employees based at company headquarters differently than how they treat remote workers. While this might be wholly unintentional, the implications are significant, especially when it comes to distributing health care information. It might be that employees at company headquarters have more access to information than the remote employees. Conversations about health plan details frequently happen in the lunchroom or in between meetings — don’t underestimate the impact of those face-to-face exchanges.
Utilize a regular company email or internal message board to act as a place for people to ask questions. Refrain from answering a casual, offhand question without sharing the information in a broader way; if one person has a health coverage question, more employees will likely want to hear the answer.
Kids graduate from college; spouses separate; lives change. At one time, you may have had the need-to-know plan status details about your employees at your fingertips. But as your company grows, you can’t easily keep track of all those changes, especially with offices in multiple cities. Those life changes have an impact on your health care costs, so you need to perform an annual review of who is on your group plan and ensure that they all qualify to be on the plan.
Running a small business with multiple locations is complicated. Keep your health care costs in line by properly planning, communicating and evaluating on a regular basis.
Dylan Murray has an MBA from San Diego State University and a bachelor’s degree in communication from Boston University. He is a licensed insurance agent in California, but he works as a professional researcher and writer reporting on business trends in estate law, insurance and private security. Dylan has worked as a script analyst with the Sundance Institute and the Scriptwriters Network in Los Angeles. He lives in San Diego, California, and Marseille, France.