Alan Mills, chief executive officer of the Beaverton architectural software firm Axium, sees health care reform from two different viewpoints.
“If I look at it from the company’s perspective, it’s an added cost that gives us zero benefit,” he says. “But as a business person and from the community and the U.S. standpoint, I can certainly see the benefit of having more people covered.”
Axium currently provides its 60 employees with 100% coverage through Providence Health Plans. The company also covers 45% of the cost of family members, and it contributes $75 a month into Health Reimbursement Accounts for employees to help with deductibles and co-pays.
Mills says Axium has faced sharp increases in health care costs over the past few years but has taken some steps to help minimize or at least control them. A large bump four years ago led Axium to up its plan deductible, and when another 12% increase loomed for July 2009, the company tweaked co-pays, prescription coverage and out-of-network services payments. The result: an increase of just 3.5%.
This year, however, the company was hit with an increase of nearly 21%. But rather than try to wring out even more savings, Axium absorbed the increase — about the cost of one full-time employee, Mills says — and even upped the family coverage from 35% to 45%.
Mills says federal reform probably won’t impact how the company provides insurance to employees. However, higher personal income taxes that will pay for some of the new reforms might have a more tangible effect.
“Some of those changes to personal income taxes are going to push up for business owners,” he says, “and anytime you take dollars out of any type of business, it’s going to impact the number of employees you have on staff.”
Under federal reform, businesses with 50 employees or more that don’t offer insurance face a per-employee penalty of $2,000 or more. While that may sound steep — and may send many more people to the insurance exchanges with federal subsidies — it may be a more affordable option for some employers.
“We wouldn’t foresee going that route unless the care was much better than we currently offer,” Mills says. “Whatever the case, if [reform] ends up costing us a lot more money, then we’re going to have to look at our entire cost structure.”