By Matt Reese
Becky Worley was a single parent in search of the right job for her skill set and her situation. She saw Nachurs Alpine Solutions in Marion had a position open at their corporate office in Marion.
“I inquired about the benefits at Nachurs. I knew a couple of people who worked there. They told me the benefits were top notch, better than most employers. It made employment there more desirable,” Worley said. “That was a real positive for me coming in the door. It made me feel a lot more comfortable and more at ease. I have since had other people ask me and that is something I tell them — the benefits at Nachurs are just amazing.”
Worley has now been with Nachurs for seven years and serves as the marketing coordinator for the company. She said the great benefits the job provides for her and her daughter have been extremely valuable for her situation.
“It played a large role for me. I know how quickly medical costs can escalate. I had a twin brother who was unfortunately paralyzed and I know how quickly that debt racked up. It can take you from the top of the world to bankrupt in just a matter of a few weeks,” Worley said. “Being competitive as an employer is important and the benefits make Nachurs stand apart from everyone. When you hire on here you are not just an employee or a number, you are part of a family. There is a reason we have multiple employees in our Marion office who have worked at this company for 40 years plus. We have multiple employees in that 30-year bracket. You know you are not just a number here because they go above and beyond.”
Of course, the top benefit of concern for many employees and employers is health insurance coverage, particularly as costs have escalated in recent years. James Smith with Association Benefit Planners in Dublin outlined some of the changing options available.
“In the small employer market things have changed a lot with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in March of 2010. Many small employers, especially with less than 50 full time employees, have seen fewer or more restrictive plan options and are seeing continued increases in cost. Some employers have also benefitted from the law,” Smith said. “Prior to the ACA, group health plans used location, age, gender and medical conditions to determine the premium rate that was charged to an employer. They also had the ability to impose pre-existing condition clauses to avoid coverage for previously diagnosed health conditions. The ACA removed the ability for insurance carriers to use pre-existing exclusions and rating factors for ongoing medical conditions to develop the group’s premium rate.”
Now insurance carriers must provide a community rate for ACA compliant plans. “Because of this change, employers that had employees with high cost medical conditions and may have been paying very high insurance premiums were able to reduce their costs as those conditions were no longer considered in the rating process,” Smith said. “On the other hand, employers that have employees with little to no medical conditions and had lower health insurance premiums are seeing the potential for significant increases in their insurance costs. The law has not yet been fully implemented due to government delays and employers are still seeing significant changes in their insurance costs and the options that are available.“
As costs for the lower risk population rose sharply, it changed the dynamics of health insurance. Employers and Healthcare providers began looking for alternatives to the ACA marketplace to control and potentially reduce costs.
“There are fully insured options available that are ACA compliant that employers can seek out with the major insurance carriers like Medical Mutual, United Health Care, and Anthem to name a few. Another option for a small employer to consider that may reduce healthcare costs is a MEWA. A MEWA is a Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement that offers a self-funded plan option to small employers with one to 50 and sometimes up to 100 full time employees,” Smith said. “It allows small employers to have their medical risk considered in their premium rating, which could offer a more affordable option than the ACA marketplace. MEWAs are association or chamber sponsored plans that allow employers to band together to obtain more flexible health plan options, and also leverage cost reductions and network access for its participating employers. A MEWA is not insurance, but a health benefits plan. It is fully compliant with the self-funded requirements of the ACA and has strict oversight by the Ohio Department of Insurance to protect the participating employers.”
The Ohio Farm Bureau, for example, recognized the need for small employers in the Agriculture Industry to have additional health coverage options and has sponsored their own MEWA called the Ohio Farm Bureau Health Benefits Plan.
“MEWAs have provided a great alternative to employers that recognize the value in offering health coverage to their employees but have been struggling with the cost. There is not a one size fits all when it comes to group healthcare, so we recommend that employers work with a licensed benefit consultant to determine the best fit for their specific employee benefit needs,” Smith said. “Our agency works with small employers on a daily basis to assist in developing a quality employee benefits package to obtain and retain valuable employees.”
At Nachurs, there are more than 50 employees in the corporate office and at the several manufacturing facilities around North America. Worley really appreciates the health coverage options she has as a single parent employed there.
“Nachurs offers a variety of health care packages. We offer a traditional 80-20 HMO-type coverage where you have a little more per paycheck that comes out but you know when you go to the doctor you only have to pay that $15 to $20 co-pay. They also offer a high deductible health savings account where the cost is much less per paycheck. For people who are lower risk like myself it is an option. I have not hit my deductible of $3,500 but I have had zero money that has had to come out of my pocket for claims. For the plan I have, it is less than $100 a month for the medical plan and Nachurs puts over $200 a month into my health savings account for me to offset the money I pay for it and offset my deductible. Their goal is for you to not have to pay out of pocket but to use the money you are accumulating in your account to pay all of those co-pays and deductibles. It really is fantastic. You also have the option of contributing additional money because it is a pre-tax savings,” Worley said. “Then, after you retire, that money is yours to keep for medical expenses. And it rolls over if you were to change jobs. I also can use that money for other expenses that are not covered by our insurance. For example, I was able to pay for LASIK for my daughter with the money left in my health savings account. She just finished her undergraduate work and is going to medical school. All she does is study and work with microscopes and that is hard to do with glasses. It has changed her life. If it wasn’t for Nachurs and what they offer, that wouldn’t have been possible.”
Health care is certainly important, but there are other valuable benefits to consider as well.
“One thing that helps Nachurs benefits stand apart from the competition is that No. 1 you don’t have to wait for benefits. When I started, it was important to me that I didn’t have to wait the traditional 90-day waiting period. At Nachurs your insurance starts on your very first full day of your first full month with the company. That is something that definitely stands apart from many employers today,” she said. “Another thing is paid vacation. It is next to impossible to get two weeks paid vacation with some jobs. We just changed our policy earlier this year at Nachurs and now you start earning three weeks of paid vacation a year from day one. If you are an over-worker like me you tend to have a lot of vacation time left over and you can carry over up to four weeks into the upcoming year. That is wonderful if you know you have an event coming up where you are going to take a lot of time off. We actually earn vacation time every paycheck verses a lot of people who get so much per year.”
A good retirement plan and additional insurance options are also increasingly important.
“Pensions have mostly gone to the wayside but we have a 401(k). Most all retirement plans are self funded these days and unlike most companies, at Nachurs you are fully vested day one,” she said. “Short-term disability is also 100% paid at Nachurs. I have not had to deal with that, but I do know from other co-workers how important this can be. They also offer a whole portfolio of different policies and supplemental insurances. They pay for a term life insurance policy for all employees as well, 100% paid, automatic.”
Small things too including direct deposit of checks so employees do not have to take paychecks to the bank and holiday flexibility can also make life easier for employees.
“They make it a point to bring someone in every year to go over the options we have with our benefits to make sure questions are answered. I could just go on and on about the benefits they offer that go beyond what other employers offer,” Worley said. “Benefits are really important for me. It is hard to walk away from a job that gives you so much. Another employer may offer you a carrot saying they are going to pay more. But if the benefits don’t add up, what are you really gaining? That is a really big reason so many people stay put for such a long time here. It is a way of life and not just a job. Employees here know Nachurs is going to have their back in the end and the people who work here go above and beyond because of that.”
This is the fourth of a series of five stories in cooperation with the Ohio AgriBusiness Association highlighting human resource management solutions in Ohio agribusinesses.