Congress’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act has created uncertainty about the future of health insurance in corporate America. But, until details emerge about what the replacement will look like, it’s business as usual. The advantages of offering employer-sponsored health benefits to America’s 60 million-plus small business workers and their families have never been stronger or more important.

After salary, healthcare benefits are one of the most powerful tools for attracting and retaining employees. A 2016 Harris Poll commissioned by jobs and recruiting site Glassdoor hammers home this point. It found that workers rank health insurance as the No. 1 most wanted benefit. Vacation time, retirement plans or even bonus programs typically rate much lower.

For the nation’s small businesses, however, providing employer-sponsored health plans is often easier said than done. It typically comes down to a key question that a broker is often asked: Can an employer access better insurance options at a more affordable price?

In today’s highly competitive job market, many experts continue to say yes. Small business-sponsored plans provide a number of advantages and remain a driving force beyond the retention and recruitment of employees. They typically offer more choice and options to affordably mix and match benefit packages. Another is the ability to use pre-tax dollars to help offset plan costs. Not to mention access to flexible spending accounts that enable employees to save money to pay for certain out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

The broker’s essential role

So how do small businesses deliver these valuable benefits yet manage the costs all while navigating a complex industry immersed in an era of healthcare reform? And how do employees take best advantage of offered benefits?

This is where a good broker or benefit adviser enters the picture. They play an essential role in helping employers navigate their options to provide employees with hands-on help to design and select plans that work best for their health needs and wallet.

Also see:11 top workplace stressors.”

Teaming with a professional is more important than ever for small employers to help traverse the vast variety and array of group benefit plans. Brokers with a robust and diverse portfolio can help a client who needs additional HR, personnel and/or payroll support programs.

Ultimately, offering robust health benefits in a cost-effective manner is one of the strongest incentives for attracting and retaining the best workers. Cost pressures and compliance requirements must be addressed, but the smartest small businesses will recognize that choices and options are available through the valuable guidance of a broker to provide their workers with the benefit they want most.

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Ron Goldstein

Ron Goldstein

Goldstein, CLU, is president and CEO of CHOICE Administrators, which provides health and ancillary insurance options and provider access to small businesses and their employees.