Blue Cross Supports Michigan Small Businesses Through Pandemic

Sandy Fester is vice president of Middle and Small G...

Workers at a small business trucking company gather for a meeting
Small businesses in Michigan make a big impact. Yet often, their budgets force owners to make difficult choices during economic storms: when costs pile up quickly, owners may have to choose between offering their workers health insurance benefits or hiring a needed employee. We know Michigan’s small businesses have been making those tough choices throughout the pandemic. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is continuously monitoring rate trends for the small business customers who offer our health insurance to their employees. Helping small businesses effectively plan for their future costs is important for their long-term success. We know small businesses want to be able to provide health benefits for their employees. Health insurance is a key factor in employee retention and recruitment: 46% of U.S. adults said health insurance was either a deciding factor or positive influence in choosing their current job. And as we face a critical labor shortage across all industries, employee satisfaction is more important than ever before.

Moderating rates

Since 2015, Blue Cross has lowered rates for our small group customers nine times. From 2015 to 2021, rates have increased overall of 1.2% -- far below the national average, and below the rate of inflation. This trend of rate moderation by Blue Cross continued even during the uncertainty of the pandemic, as small businesses in Michigan and across the country faced unprecedented decisions. Blue Cross continued moderate rate increases on health care premiums for small group customers during 2021, keeping statewide average rate increases below 2%. This is outside the norm: nationally, smaller employers saw 9.6% increases in the average total health benefit cost per employee in 2021.

Our role in stabilizing prices

The ability of Blue Cross to stabilize pricing for small business customers is due in part to its role in improving health care accessibility and quality in Michigan. For more than a decade, Blue Cross has worked hand in hand with physician and hospital partners to improve the delivery of care. This has resulted in higher-quality health care with fewer unnecessary tests and procedures, and an emphasis on preventative care to avoid costly emergency situations. Blue Cross helped small group customers in other ways during the pandemic, including returning $37 million for their medical plans to help employers maintain health benefits for their employees and ensure their workers could easily access care. Many individuals delayed care in 2020 and 2021 due to surges of COVID-19 in their communities. Now, we’re beginning to see signs Michigan and the nation are rounding the corner of the pandemic. People are scheduling elective procedures again and putting doctor’s visits back on their calendars. Throughout this continued season of change, Blue Cross is committed to supporting Michigan’s small business community. More from MIBluesPerspectives:
Photo credit: Getty Images
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association