In an article published today on CNN.com, the National Federation of Independent Business’ reports that the monthly index of Small Business Optimism fell one point to 88.2, which shows a continued decline. One particular cost concern area was the increasing costs of health care. This is consistent with other articles I have read about the concerns small businesses have with providing benefits to employees. Of course I have also read a variety of articles and surveys about employees and their concerns over dwindling benefits and wages, so there is uniform frustration on the topic.
Recently I have written about the importance of auditing 401(k) fees, but the same holds true for other benefits offered. Too often I see employers overlook the importance of developing a welfare benefits package tailored to their employee base, and they overlook the wide variety of cost control options that can be used to provide benefits. There is an assumption that the old standards, like premium purchased insurance, is the best way to go and the only thing employees are interested in. Potential long term savings are forfeited in favor of avoiding the short term costs of a benefit plan review and audit.
Take high deductible health plans. Depending on who you speak to, they are either a boon or a bust. But an HDHP can certainly reduce health care costs. There are more retirement plan options then an off-the-shelf 401(k) plan purchased from an institution. Life insurance and disability insurance can be structured in increasing more cost-effective ways. But employers AND employee have to buy into the options. In this economy, I think it is even more important for employer to undertake a critical analysis of the benefits packages they offer and find ways to not only control costs, but also to tailor those packages to their employee base.