Get Started: Health costs up this year and next, survey says

AP News
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Posted: Nov 16, 2015 4:16 PM

HEALTH CARE SURVEY

The vast majority of small businesses are paying more for health insurance for their employees under the health care law, and many expect their costs to keep going up next year, according to a survey by the advocacy group National Small Business Association.

Ninety percent of the 810 owners surveyed said their costs are up in 2015 over last year, and 84 percent expect to pay more in 2016.

The number of companies that offer health benefits to their employees fell 5 percent to 65 percent this year from 2014, the survey found. The largest decline came in companies with 10 to 20 staffers; 73 percent are offering benefits versus 86 percent last year.

But nearly half the owners provide health insurance to more than 80 percent of their workers. Almost all the owners — 94 percent — believe offering health insurance is important to recruit or retain top workers.

That belief may be discouraging owners from passing rising health care costs on to their employees — fewer owners are considering asking workers to contribute more toward their health benefits. Thirty-four percent said they're thinking of increasing employees' contributions, down from 42 percent in 2014. Fewer owners are thinking of switching to a plan with a higher deductible, which would also raise staffers' contributions, and fewer are thinking of reducing the benefits they offer.

The survey was conducted from mid-September to early October and included members of the NSBA as well as owners who don't belong to the organization.

YEAR-END TAX PLANNING

With just a little over six weeks left in 2015, tax professionals advise small business owners to look over their companies' finances and see if there are any last-minute things they can do to lower their tax bills. It's also a good idea to schedule a meeting with an accountant or other tax adviser.

Owners can also take an online seminar on taxes offered by SCORE, the organization that offers free counseling to small businesses. The seminar will be held Tuesday at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Learn more and register at http://tinyurl.com/ozhgyuf

SCORE is also offering mentoring for owners who need tax help. Find out more at www.score.org

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Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg