By Bryan Orr

Company culture and employee morale have been important to me since the day my business opened, and one of the top concerns most employees have is health care benefits.

We started out as a three person company run by young, healthy people who generally only went to the doctor when a limb was partially detached (duct tape works, right?). When we looked at healthcare options the prices were OUTRAGEOUS! One month worth of premiums was easily more than we would spend on healthcare in a regular year.

We all found our own solutions from “saving money and hoping for the best” to doing what I did which was to join a healthcare sharing organization. This gave us some coverage for about the quarter of the cost of traditional insurance, but isn’t actually insurance (Samaritan Ministries in my case).

As we would interview new prospects I always felt bad saying that we didn’t offer insurance, but that we did have good pay and other benefits to help compensate. It was never a major hurdle for us early on, but it still bugged me. About five years ago, I decided to ask around to try and get some rates. I first called our existing auto and liability insurance agents and neither of them could help us. Our auto insurance agent did have someone he knew.

I called up the broker and he insisted on a “visit,” which I begrudgingly agreed to. When he arrived I asked him to give me some idea of price and how it all worked. He gave me a paternal look of disapproval and tapped his pinky ring on my desk before replying, “The only way I can give an accurate price is if I have information on who will participate.” To that I replied sheepishly, “I don’t know who will participate until I get prices.”

He made it very clear that unless he knew who was participating we couldn’t get accurate prices, but that to start we could get pricing assuming everyone would participate. I spent the next few days filling out a detailed questionnaire on each employee and returned it to him. A few days later I received a call back from Mr. Pinky Ring, and he said he was ready to sit down with me and my father (we are co-founders of the business) and review the plans and pricing.

I assured him that my father had no interest in this matter whatsoever as his response to everything from lacerations to femur breaks is “rub some dirt in it,” and couldn’t he just send me the pricing.

I heard a long wheezing sigh on the other end and Mr. Bling Finger exclaimed, “I have spent a lot of time working on this quote, and I don’t want to waste any more. When can your father meet with me?” I’m not exactly sure what my reply was, but I’m sure it was perfectly polite and didn’t involve any emotion or childish name calling (or not).

After that incident I made a few more feeble attempts at getting quotes and the result was similar (minus the brow beating from a jewel encrusted broker). Just eight months ago, I found the small business government exchange at, and it looked promising. It stated, “Just a few simple questions and get a quote, ” and the trap was baited. The first questions were simple, business data, number of employees, etc… Next screen — all of the employees names. Next screen — date of birth, then social security and then ages, names, genders and SOCIAL SECURITY of all the employees CHILDREN! Hold on just a minute while I get detailed family information from 40 people, no thanks.

Finally just a few months ago we began doing business with a local agency (LassiterWare) that offered liability, workers comp, auto and employee benefits like health, dental, life and 401k. When they offered to get us a health insurance quote I was skeptical, but since there were no pinky rings in sight, I played along.

We had to share some employee information, but they were willing to take a simple data export from our payroll software without us needing to fill out any complex forms. Thirty days later and we now offer complete health insurance as well as options for life, dental, disability and IRA.

The moral of the story is: Don’t be like me.

Offering health insurance is just a matter of finding a good company who is willing to do the leg work and make it happen.

Now I don’t feel sheepish when interviewing a new prospect, and when they say that their current employer does not offer health benefits I can scoff and say, “Why would you work for such a cracker jack outfit?” as I tap my new pinky ring on the desk.     

Do you offer health insurance to your staff? What works for you?