Every American is painfully aware of the impact of skyrocketing health insurance costs. Rising premiums, higher deductibles, larger co-pays, reduced benefits – both employers and employees are feeling the pinch as they look for plans that are affordable for everyone.

That’s why HRAs – Health Reimbursement Arrangements – are a welcome addition to the range of options that employers can offer their workforce. HRAs allow employers to give tax-free dollars to their employees, who then can use the money to purchase their own health insurance as well as pay for other eligible medical expenses. While HRA plans may not be the panacea for all the “ills” of the health insurance dilemma, they represent significant progress from the point where we were even just a few years ago when I first began to tackle this problem.

Then, in January 2002, fresh out of college, I was hired to administer a group health plan for my parents’ company. Though I knew little about health insurance, I learned quickly that the premiums we were paying were too expensive for both the company and our employees. After doing extensive research and reading numerous Internal Revenue Service (IRS) publications relating to health care, I uncovered one solution for the family business: a High Deductible Health Care (HDHC) plan. The high deductible encourages employees to make healthier lifestyle choices and spend their medical dollars more prudently while also allowing them to save for future medical expenses in their Health Savings Account (HSA), funds that they can take with them if they change jobs. The HDHC is good for employers also: Under the plan, our premiums were reduced by about half.

Not stopping there, we also began to offer HRAs as an alternative to our HDHC Group plan. Our hybrid benefits package gave employees a choice: Those who felt more comfortable remaining on the traditional HDHC group plan did so, while employees who wanted greater economy, portability, and freedom of choice opted for the HRA. We structured the packages so that employees choosing either plan received the same amount in benefits. The plans’ common denominator is that both increase employees’ awareness of how they spend their health dollars, thus encouraging them to live a healthier lifestyle because, quite simply, it saves them money to do so.

In 2007 The Wall Street Journal took note of our success and wrote a cover story on our creative benefits packages. Increasingly, employers asked me to assist them in designing an HRA or a hybrid plan for their businesses, even though I was not then an insurance agent. But after years of administering (and participating in) an HRA/Group Plan hybrid, I decided to change my career path and obtained a health insurance license, allowing me to use what I had learned to assist other small businesses.

However, finding an agency that provided both group and individual health insurance and that was sufficiently forward-thinking to consider these newer options was more difficult than I had anticipated. Surprisingly, I found that many agents in the mainstream insurance industry know little about HRAs, particularly those plans in which employees can access a broad range of products from different providers.

After pitching dozens of insurance agencies on employer-based hybrid health care plans, I finally found an agency willing and able to offer these cutting-edge health insurance solutions: Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk, which recognized the advantages of hybrid plans and was excited about offering their clients and prospects an even fuller range of cost-saving options.

Setnor Byer, with almost 30 years of experience in the insurance industry, can help employers expand their benefits offerings, promote wellness in their workforce, and reduce health insurance costs for both the company and its employees. With dozens of plan structures available, Setnor Byer’s insurance professionals will help you choose the right one so that your employees – and your business – remain healthy.

Here’s to wellness.

For more information about these and other types of healthcare insurance policies, contact the professionals at Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk or visit the Employee Benefits page.