The global pandemic has accelerated the adoption of remote work, with many businesses embracing the flexibility and efficiency that remote work offers. A significant portion of the workforce is now working remotely, either full-time or part-time, which has raised several important considerations for business owners, one of which is health insurance for remote employees.
Health insurance for remote employees
Providing health benefits has always been a crucial element of an employee's compensation package. However, with the rise of remote work, employers face new hurdles in offering health insurance to their team. Remote employees may live in various states or even countries, each with its own regulations and health insurance options. Additionally, the diverse needs and preferences of remote workers necessitate employers to offer more flexible and customizable health insurance options.
Navigating Health Coverage for a Multi-State Remote Workforce
In an era where remote work is becoming increasingly common, employers have the flexibility to hire talent from all over the U.S. While approach is excellent for recruitment and business growth, it presents challenges in offering health coverage to employees in different states.
Health insurance companies don’t always have uniform network coverage across all states, and even if they do, medical care providers may not offer the most cost-effective networks for out-of-state employees. Let’s review different options to provide health benefits for remote workers.
National Group Health Insurance Plans
These plans are available to employees throughout the U.S., eliminating the need to manage different health insurance regulations in each state. All employees receive the same group health insurance, ensuring no one misses out on quality coverage. However, only a few health insurance companies offer multi-state plans, limiting the selection of plan types and potentially leading to higher premium prices.
State Health Insurance Plans
Another option is to offer separate state plans to employees in various locations. This approach allows employees to receive essential coverage tailored to their area, needs, and preferences. However, healthcare providers available within a particular plan network may vary. The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace is a good starting point for small businesses. If your business meets all the state's SHOP requirements, you can offer comprehensive coverage even if you have only one employee in a location. Keep in mind though, managing multiple policies can be complicated and time-consuming for many employers.
Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs)
HRAs allow businesses to set a fixed monthly allowance for all eligible employees to get reimbursed for qualified out-of-pocket costs, including individual health insurance premiums, regardless of their U.S. location. More on HRAs below.
For now, let’s look at the two main types of HRAs:
- Qualified Small Employer HRA (QSEHRA): Suitable for small businesses with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs). This HRA has annual maximum contribution limits but no minimum allowance requirements. It can coordinate with an employee’s premium tax credits and is flexible enough to meet every employee’s needs.
- Individual Coverage HRA (ICHRA): Suitable for businesses of any size, this HRA can cover individual premium costs and other out-of-pocket expenses. Unlike QSEHRAs, ICHRAs have no contribution limits, and employees must choose between the benefit and premium tax credits based on affordability.
HRAs eliminate the administrative headaches of traditional health insurance while offering comprehensive health benefits. For a multi-state workforce, QSEHRA or ICHRA allows employees access to the best local network providers and policy options in their area.
Health stipends are fixed amounts of money paid to an employee in addition to their basic salary. This allowance can cover various additional costs, such as health insurance, wellness programs, and remote work expenses. Stipends are flexible, simple to administer, and not subject to compliance considerations that impact other employee health benefits.
However, businesses must pay payroll tax on the reimbursements, and employees must claim the stipend as part of their taxable household income.
Strategies for Managing Health Insurance for a Diverse Remote Workforce
Managing health insurance for a diverse remote workforce spread across multiple locations can be challenging but is essential for attracting and retaining top talent. Here are some key considerations and strategies to manage health insurance for your remote workforce effectively:
- Understand Your Employees’ Needs: Before providing health insurance, it is crucial to understand your remote workforce's needs. Consider conducting a survey to gather information on:
- Location: Where are your remote employees located? This will affect the cost and options for health insurance plans.
- Family Status: Do your remote employees need coverage just for themselves or for their families too?
- Preferred Providers: Do your remote employees have favorite healthcare providers or facilities?
- Special Needs: Do any of your remote employees have special needs, like chronic conditions or regular medications?
- Assess Employees’ Location: If considering a group plan, assess the policy's geography and ensure it covers all employees' healthcare needs.
- Understand the Premium: Know the monthly premium costs and how much employees will be responsible for paying.
- Evaluate Coverage Variations: Assess how coverage changes from place to place, especially if you must comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s employer mandate.
By considering these key points and strategizing accordingly, you can manage health insurance for your diverse remote workforce effectively.
Take Command can help you navigate these options and set up a multi-state benefits package tailored to your needs. Contact us today to maximize your health benefits for remote employees.
The Role of HRAs in Simplifying Health Insurance for Remote Workers
Providing health insurance to remote employees scattered across various locations can be incredibly daunting for any employer due to the diverse state regulations and the necessity for flexible benefits. Fortunately, HRAs can significantly simplify this process.
What's a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA)?
A HRA is an account funded by the employer to reimburse employees for medical expenses, which may include insurance premiums. The employer determines the contribution amount for each employee's HRA account, and the employees can request reimbursement for qualified medical expenses. HRAs are tax-advantaged, meaning that reimbursements made through an HRA are exempt from federal income and payroll taxes.
The Advantages of Using HRA for Health Insurance of Remote Workers
Using an HRA for giving health insurance to remote workers has lots of perks:
- Flexibility: HRAs let employees choose the health insurance coverage that fits them best and get paid back for the premiums through the HRA.
- Cost Control: Employers can control costs better by setting a fixed amount to put in each employee's HRA account. This gets rid of the risk of rising premiums that come with traditional group health insurance plans.
- Tax Perks: Money put into an HRA is tax-deductible for the employer and tax-free for the employee, which equals big tax savings for all involved.
- Simplicity: HRAs simplify the administrative process of providing health insurance to remote workers. Employers are not burdened with managing multiple health insurance plans for employees in different states. Instead, they can allocate a fixed amount to each employee's HRA account and empower the employees to select their own insurance plan.
How to Set Up an HRA for Your Remote Workers
Navigating affordable health insurance for remote workers is crucial in the modern workforce, and setting up an HRA is a great way to provide health benefits for remote workers. Setting up an HRA for your remote workers involves these steps:
- Pick the Type of HRA: There are several types of HRAs, including the Qualified Small Employer HRA (QSEHRA), and the Individual Coverage HRA (ICHRA). Each type of HRA has its own set of rules and regulations, so it's important to choose the one that fits your business and your employees best. At Take Command, we work with our clients to assess their specific needs and help them determine the most suitable HRA for their business.
- Decide on the Contribution Amount: The amount of money you decide to put into each employee's HRA account can vary based on several factors, including the employee's job role, location, and family size. It's crucial to determine an amount that is fair and helpful for your employees while also being financially sustainable for your business. Take Command assists clients in determining the most appropriate contribution amounts for their employees, taking into account all relevant factors.
- Set Up the HRA: With Take Command, the process of setting up the HRA is streamlined. As both the software provider and HRA administrator, we manage all aspects of the HRA, including contributions, claims, and ensuring compliance with regulations.
- Tell Your Employees About the HRA: It's essential to communicate clearly to your employees about the HRA, including how it works, the contribution amount, and the process for requesting reimbursements. Effective communication will help your employees understand and make the most of their HRA benefits. Take Command provides communication templates and guidance to help clients effectively communicate all necessary information about the HRA to their employees.
Handling State-Specific Rules with an HRA
Using an HRA can help handle state-specific rules by letting employees choose a health insurance plan that follows the rules in their state. For example, an employee living in a state with specific coverage rules can choose a plan that meets those rules and get paid back for the premiums through the HRA.
Also, because the HRA is funded with pre-tax dollars, it can help handle the tax stuff that comes with giving health insurance to remote workers in different states. However, it's important to note that some states have specific rules about HRAs, so it's important to talk to a legal or tax pro to make sure you're following the rules.
Optimizing Health Benefits for Your Remote Team
The shift towards remote work has brought about new challenges for employers, one of the most crucial being managing health insurance for a diverse remote workforce. It's essential to understand the various options available, from national and state health insurance plans to Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) and health stipends.
Employers must consider their remote employees' needs and preferences, assess employees' locations, understand premium costs, and evaluate coverage variations. Additionally, it is vital to navigate legal and compliance considerations, prioritize mental health benefits, leverage telemedicine, and communicate effectively with remote employees.
Ultimately, the goal is to provide comprehensive, flexible, and customizable health insurance options that attract and retain top talent while being financially sustainable for the business. HRAs offer a flexible and cost-effective solution that can be tailored to suit the needs of both the employer and the employees.
Take Command is here to help you navigate these options and set up a multi-state benefits package tailored to your needs. Our team of experts will assist you in assessing your specific needs, determining the most suitable HRA for your business, deciding on contribution amounts, setting up the HRA, and effectively communicating with your employees.
Don't navigate the complexities of health insurance for remote employees alone. Contact Take Command today to maximize your health benefits for remote employees and ensure you are providing the best possible support for your team in these challenging times. Your employees are your most valuable asset; let's ensure they are well taken care of.
Susanne is a copywriter specializing in the health and wellness industry. Before starting her own business, she spent nearly a decade at a marketing agency doing all of the things – advisor, copywriter, SEO strategist, social media specialist, and project manager. That experience gives her a unique understanding of how the consumer-focused content she writes flows into each marketing piece. Susanne lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and two daughters. She loves being outdoors, exercising and reading.