By Dr. Jay Parkinson

Small business owners have to make a lot of really tough decisions on a daily basis ranging from hiring the right employees to how much of which product to stock and everything in between. One of the most important decisions is about health insurance for your employees. This can be a really confusing, frustrating and mysterious process. Expensive too!

Figuring out the right time to get a health care plan started for your company, picking a plan that works for all employees, and knowing which provider has the most coverage are just some of the questions that come up. One mistake can cost tens of thousands of dollars for the company and the employees. Here are four tips to streamline the process and make the best decision for your company.

  1. Know your competition. Find out what benefits your competitors are offering their employees. You should also take a look at companies you admire to see what benefits packages they are offering.  Google, Whole Foods, Zappos – these companies are consistently listed as the best places to work for because they offer innovative benefits, even in healthcare. Find unique offerings to keep you one step ahead of your competitors.
  2. Become engaged! The more involved you can get in your team’s health, the healthier they will be.  Ask your employees what is or is not working for them on your current healthcare plan.  Maybe the prescription plan is not as complete as it could be, or perhaps claims take a long time to get paid.  Listening to your employees about what they wish were better in their benefits package can really help narrow the field both in terms of carrier and plan options.
  3. Take stock of the big picture. A very common mistake small businesses make is to only look at the premium costs of a healthcare plan.  It’s important to take a holistic, big picture view of what is being offered.   Ask your provider or broker for specific examples of how an insurance company has helped businesses similar to yours.  It’s important to fully understand exactly what they can bring to the table.
  4. Make it personal. Smaller businesses without an HR department may require more support than larger companies.  Know if your plan can provide this and find someone in your company who can act as the liaison. Building a strong relationship with your healthcare provider will benefit you greatly in the long run and make sure you are maximizing the opportunity to get great care.

Dr. Jay Parkinson is CEO of Sherpaa, a healthcare consultancy in New York City. Sherpaa not only gives companies and their employees 24/7 access to a network of quality healthcare professionals but also brings healthcare into the 21st century, optimizing care and spending for each individual company. Learn more at