When seasoned attorney Artie McLaughlin started his law firm in 2016, he found that robust employee benefits were a must for retaining legal support talent, especially in a recovering job market.

But at the same time, expensive benefits could cripple the new practice of the founder of McLaughlin Law Office LLC based in Louisville and Shepherdsville, Ky., if he chose a disappointing benefit package and adviser.

Enter The Benefits Firm, a brokerage based in Louisville that built the St. Matthews Trade Association, a consortium of small businesses that partners with Anthem to provide medical insurance and employee benefits coverage to firms with two to 100 employees.

By signing with The Benefits Firm, McLaughlin says he not only cut his medical coverage expenses by two-thirds compared to his previous company, he was also able to hire two office staffers for his two-office practice, thanks to the savings. He plans to add a new staffer this month and possibly hire an additional paralegal or office support worker in the first quarter of 2018.

“When you incentivize someone with money, they will work for the money,” he says. “If you incentivize someone with money and security they will be loyal to you forever. That is what the guiding principle was — it was not just a function of adding a few more dollars per hour. It was being able to appeal to their innate sense of security, especially for the families.”

A sign of the plan’s popularity, one staffer was already covered by her husband’s insurance plan but she joined The Benefits Firm plan because it offered richer benefits for less money.

Employee turnover is a key area of difficulty for small businesses such as McLaughlin’s, says Heather Sons, sales and operations manager of The Benefits Firm.

Leverage
With that in mind, the St. Matthews Trade Association, which is affiliated with the St. Matthews Area Chamber of Commerce, a collection of businesses based in the Louisville area, allows small companies “to gain leverage in the insurance market by joining them with other companies in similar businesses and industries to secure volume pricing,” according to The Benefits Firm. Anthem provides the medical coverage for employees in Louisville and nearby areas.

The St. Matthew’s plan offers a range of medical plan designs from a $250 PPO up to a $5,000 HSA medical plan. There are 13 PPO plans with $250 to $2,500 deductibles and five HDHPs with HSAs that offer $2,600 to $5,000 deductibles.

The plan offers Dental Care Plus for dental and Avesis for vision coverage. There is no stand-alone wellness plan but there are some wellbeing incentives provided by Anthem, such as a smoking cessation program. Every hospital in the state of Kentucky is part of the plan.

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It covers 300 businesses in the Louisville area with an estimated 5,000 lives under coverage.

Members of the plan must be members of the St. Matthews Chamber of commerce and have their corporate offices located in the state of Kentucky.

“We added close to 100 business close this quarter,” says Billy Fowler, CEO of The Benefits Firm. Business is booming because Anthem will drop out of the individual market Jan. 1, 2018 but will remain in the group market. Also, increasing medical prices and Affordable Care Act rates have driven small businesses to group plans like St. Matthews Trade Association.

Fowler says McLaughlin was able to achieve his savings because he was previously buying insurance on the individual market where the rates are much higher than those of a group plan.

“That is why with the group plan, you are grouped on 5,000 people instead of a plan that is based on your own health,” says Fowler.

According to McLaughlin, one staffer is so satisfied with her new employee benefits that she is starting a family and pursuing a college degree.

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