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Small Business Digest


When, How Companies Offer Healthcare Benefits Subject To Different Interpretations, Circumstances

Company's offer healthcare benefits when they are able to afford them, regardless of who runs the firm.

That is the conclusion of a survey completed by Information Strategies, Inc., (ISI) this newsletter's parent.

The survey was part of a broader sounding on benefits and plans launched early in September and scheduled for completion in October.

Questions about differences in offering healthcare benefits by gender were raised by a recent American Express survey.

ISI's study of 620 initial respondents showed no statistical difference in outlook based on the gender of management.

The differences in offering healthcare benefits really centered on affordability and company size.

ISI's studies over the past five years shows that healthcare benefits usually start to appear after a firm passes 10 employees.

Prior to that point, healthcare benefits are a "catcher's catch can" based on employee make up and management/ownership needs.

According to USA Today, a new survey says men — more than women — put greater emphasis on offering health insurance to employees at small businesses.

The newspaper reported that an American Express survey of 627 small-company owners and managers found that 67% of men vs. 59% of women feel such coverage is important. The results are surprising to authorities on female-owned firms who believe women put more emphasis on health benefits.

ISI's surveys indicate that women are usually the final decision maker amongst employee families as to when and what type of healthcare insurance is purchased.

USA Today quoted Sharon Hadary, executive director of the non-profit Center for Women's Business Research as saying "I would have expected it to be the other way."

The survey comes as women take a growing leadership role in business, and as corporations struggle with health costs.

Small businesses employ nearly half of U.S. workers. Amid rising premiums, more are dropping medical benefits: Just 59% of companies with three to 199 workers now offer the benefit vs. 68% in 2001, the Kaiser Family Foundation says. At those with 200 or more workers, 99% offer coverage, unchanged from 2001.

The American Express survey doesn't surprise Alice Bredin, a consultant to the financial services giant. Companies owned by men are more likely to have employees, Census data show, and to emphasize growth. Female-owned firms are more likely to have few or no workers while aiming for slower growth.

So, Bredin says, men are more attuned to providing benefits to better compete. "If I'm going to hire," she says, "I'm going to need to offer healthcare."

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