Personal business consultant.

Author:Ralph, James
Position:Health Care - Health insurance

Providing health-care insurance is an expensive proposition, especially for small businesses. But the only way to attract and retain quality employees is to offer good benefits--and sometimes this means biting the bullet and bearing the costs.

The first step is to pick the right insurance agent. Good agents will educate your employees, stay on top of changes in the industry and be able to recommend a variety of suitable options from year to year.

Agents also should also be able to administer Section 125 plans and COBRA plans for ex-employees who pay their own premiums, but remain in the plan for a year. In some cases, agents don't handle the administrative details but can recommend companies that specialize in such services.

Here are five more ways to control your insurance costs: (1) Add vision and dental coverage, which are less expensive than health coverage, while asking employees to pay a greater share in their health-care premiums. (2) Implement a "Section 125" program in which employee contributions to premiums can be made with pre-tax dollars, much like retirement plan contributions. (3) Use agents who specialize in health benefits, not those who sell a variety of insurance products and "dabble" in health care. (4) Check out the programs offered through associations, such as the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Health Underwriters Association. (5) Encourage employees to lead healthy lifestyles by sponsoring wellness programs.

Clip and save: Online wellness links Michigan Health Association. Detroit-area administrator for the Michigan Department of Public Health's Worksite and Community Health Promotion program. Click on WCHP. background on the Worksite and Community Health Promotion program, including eligibility requirements.

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