The Affordable Care Act affects many veterinary practice owners and it’s vitally important to stay abreast of new laws. In particular, mandates for insurance coverage and the advent of the health insurance exchanges have muddied the waters of understanding. Below a guest columnist, Monica Maxwell, SPHR, discusses the appropriate steps in navigating the ACA mandates.
Overcoming the uncertainty: Implementing a health care plan in a veterinary clinic
By Monica Maxwell, SPHR
Many veterinary practice managers, like managers in other industries, are looking at the changes brought about by health care reform and are uncertain about how best to implement a health plan for their employees. You probably didn’t enter the veterinary business because you are particularly interested in learning about health insurance, but you do care about your employees’ well-being, and you no doubt also know that health benefits are a great recruiting and retention tool.
So how do you go about finding a plan that meets the needs of both your employees and your business?
First, talk to your staff members and find out what is important to them. What if they don’t want healthcare? Or they prefer an option that will allow them to gain access to alternative care (like acupuncture). You cannot please everyone, but at least you’ll get an idea of people’s actual priorities rather than simply making assumptions. Also, if you have fewer than 50 employees, note that sometimes individuals can find less expensive or better-value plans on a health insurance exchange than a small clinic can offer its employees. The Affordable Care Act allows for companies with fewer than 50 employees to offer insurance on the health insurance exchange without penalty. It is a viable option for many, so you might want to consider referring them to an exchange if that makes the most sense.
After you have a clear idea of your employees’ needs, you’ll want to find a good health insurance broker. Chances are you don’t have the time or expertise to dig into the details of all the plan options and keep track of changing regulations. Choosing a broker is an important decision, so take the time to conduct a thorough search and interview process. Trust and rapport are critical. Ask potential brokers about trends they’re seeing in the industry and how those trends might affect a business of your size. Talk about the renewal process, communication styles, what you need from each other and how you see each other’s roles. Make sure your broker understands your needs and is willing to have a strategic discussion when it’s time to change your plan. They should be knowledgeable and flexible with you on the changing trends.
Once you choose a health care plan, make sure the company provides the service you require and expect. The network of health care providers (and the quality of care, of course) is important, but don’t underestimate the value of customer service. Quick answers to questions and timely payment of claims reduce administrative headaches and save everyone time and money. Benefits are important and ensuring your staff feels good about the quality and service they receive is absolutely critical.
Choosing a health care plan may feel daunting, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming, and it’s not just a bureaucratic chore. A health benefit that helps keep your employees healthy and happy will contribute to your ability to attract and retain the best staff members, thus furthering your practice’s goal of providing exceptional care and service.
Monica Maxwell is the program director for On the Floor @Dove, DoveLewis’s online, on-demand training website for veterinary professionals. Maxwell graduated from Sam Houston State University with a Bachelor of Science in psychology, and she has nearly 15 years of experience at both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. She shares her expertise with other veterinary practices through On the Floor @Dove.