Summer is just about over at the time of this writing. That means fall is right around the corner and, with it, companies have to start looking forward to open enrollment. Many will go into the open enrollment period with the mindset that expensive health plans are a foregone conclusion. But they aren’t.

Employee health plans are essentially insurance products. And just like consumers are encouraged to shop around for car and homeowners’ policies, companies can shop around for health plans. They do not have to accept a single plan offered by their insurance brokers or the local group health insurer.

There Are Options

BenefitMall, a nationwide general agency that represents more than 100 carriers, recently published a blog post explaining how employers could contain their health insurance costs. The post mentioned a number of options:

  • SHOP Program – The federal government operates the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) under provisions created by the ACA. Qualifying employees can usually access cheaper health plans through SHOP along with a significant tax credit.

  • Alternative Plans – Another option is to look around for point-of-service (POS) and other alternative health plans. Employers don’t have to settle for an HMO or PPO plan.

  • High Deductible Plans – The high deductible health plan (HDHP) is a type of health insurance plan that trades higher deductibles for lower premiums. Employers who opt for them can also offer their workers health savings accounts (HSAs).

BenefitMall links all of these options to the principle of shopping around. They recommend looking at different options every year. It takes time and effort but shopping around can save companies quite a bit of money at enrollment time.

Find a New Broker

Employers may feel like they are locked into an expensive employee health plan because their brokers do not give them a whole lot of options. If that’s the case, it’s time to find a new broker. Insurance brokers affiliated with BenefitMall have access to hundreds of carriers, most of which offer multiple plans.

It is in the independent broker’s best interest to offer employees as many options as possible. Options mean choices, and choices equal happier clients. That being said, it is mind-boggling that some insurance brokers limit themselves to just one or two carriers.

Find Out What Employees Want

Yet another tip offered by BenefitMall is making the effort to find out what employees want. It is not enough just to assume that they want platinum level coverage at any cost. Many don’t. In fact, recent studies have shown that employees are willing to trade health insurance for other benefits.

For example, 39% of surveyed adults would give up their health insurance benefits in order to continue working from home. The numbers are similar for vision insurance (50%), dental plans (44%), and disability benefits (45%).

That being the case, employees might be willing to embrace health plans with less coverage in exchange for lower premiums. Paying less for health insurance means more money in their paychecks every month.

The Self-Insurance Option

There are companies that choose to save money on health plans by self-insuring. They take the money they would otherwise pay into health insurance and put it into a fund managed by a third party. When employees have medical bills, they submit the bills to the plan for payment.

The point of all of this is to say that employers are not necessarily locked into an expensive HMO or PPO. They do not have to accept the default plan offered by their brokers. There are options out there. Employers just have to put in the work to find them.