Like other growing companies, Synygy has felt the blow of rising health-care costs. The Philadelphia-based provider of performance software and solutions has expanded its workforce at a relatively rapid clip and now has 200 employees across the country. "That [growth] has not only changed our structural needs," says Ed Steinberg, vice president of human resources, "but also affected the bottom line. Once we reached a certain inertia, we had to have a health-care program to meet the needs of the entire company."
As large companies develop comprehensive solutions for health-care planning, small and midsize companies, which are already challenged to provide competitive benefits packages, have less room to maneuver. According to research, 70% of companies with fewer than 200 employees offer only one health-care plan. Average monthly contribution for family coverage was $389 at small firms versus $224 at large firms.
Synygy has passed along added health-care costs to its staff in the form of a higher payroll deduction, deductibles and co-pays, while at the same time adding plan flexibility. "It's about meeting the needs of employees and understanding them -- meeting their goals together," says Steinberg. The company has a comprehensive benefits plan that includes health care, prescriptions and dental.
"Once we reached a certain inertia,
we had to have a health-care program to meet the needs of the entire company."
The firm, says Steinberg, has been at the forefront of benefits management and keeps up with changes in health-care offerings. It has examined various provider options over the years, from "the Rolls-Royce to the Yugo." In its efforts to contain costs and provide a good benefits package to employees, it tried several different programs. At one point the company went to self-insurance, but has returned to a single-provider private insurer with levels of coverage that meet employees' different needs. Synygy has incorporated more choice into its benefits, such as establishing a cafeteria plan that includes a flexible spending option.
Synygy also tries to make benefits planning as easy as possible for its staff. An intranet page helps employees walk through the options to design their packages. This is especially useful for salespeople who work out in the field, Steinberg says.
He adds that health benefits are not so much a recruiting tool as a matter of employee satisfaction. "The program is designed to be comparable to those you would find in similar types of jobs," he says. "I'm looking to develop a culture and a meaningful work environment."
Synygy also has long had a domestic-partner option, to help serve the needs of its diverse workforce. "It falls in line with our culture," says Steinberg. "We want to provide benefits that make sense for all employees, and domestic partnership is a logical outbreak from our philosophy."
Americans spent nearly $1.7 trillion on health care last year, according to Mercer research. That reflects a slowed rate of increase.
However, the report forecasts that health-care spending will continue to rise faster than GDP growth for the next decade at least, and that health-care costs will rise faster than people's incomes. This means that companies large and small will be looking for programs to offset the costs.
The Kaiser report found that significant numbers of employers will increase cost-sharing and seek alternative approaches to health-care benefit design.
Read more about the Synygy's Optimas Award winning program at workforce.com/optimas/synygy