With indipop, Franchise Business Owners Can Affordably Provide Health Care for Themselves and Their Employees
Like most Americans, franchise business owners want health care. But as small businesses, they can’t qualify for less expensive big-company group insurance plans. “Health care for franchise business owners typically costs three times as much because of the small size of their teams,” says indipop founder Melissa Blatt, whose company offers membership-based health care that can cost less than half as much as traditional health-care policies. Under these plans, members pay to join a community that shares the cost of medical needs.
“One-third of the U.S. workforce is on their own for health care,” Blatt says. Small-business owners and self-employed workers “pay the highest rates, and in the past several years their health care benefits are shrinking, but their out-of-pocket is increasing.” Indipop, named for the independent population seeking health care coverage, could be a viable alternative.
Health Care for Self-Employed
Blatt’s company began as a personal quest. Shifting to a career as an independent contractor in her late 40s, Blatt couldn’t afford the COBRA insurance she was eligible for. Health care for self-employed workers through Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, was a budget-buster for her. (Costs of those plans are rising, with a bump of about 4% this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.)
Membership-based (also called subscription-based) health care was the solution that Blatt found for herself. “I always had traditional health insurance. I was very skeptical at first, and just like my members, I said, ‘This is too good to be true.’ It wasn’t just the monthly cost that surprised me – it was my out-of-pocket and what was included.
Subscription-Based Health Care
“I was thinking, ‘Why isn’t everyone on these plans?’ That’s when I realized they all function differently. I did months of research before partnering only with health-care companies that provide affordable, high-value plans. Each plan was vetted with strict criteria, for example, no annual or lifetime caps, open networks, stellar reviews and simple, transparent pricing. If they did not check these boxes, they were out.” indipop winnowed to three membership-based health-share plans.
Blatt realized many business owners with fewer than 50 employees (the threshold for mandated coverage under the Affordable Care Act) and self-employed Americans faced the same choices she did. And she correctly assumed they would be thrilled to find health care for less than the $1,800-plus monthly average cost of a family’s benefits with traditional health insurance in 2022.
Her 3-year-old company, which earns commissions on enrollments, helps clients in all 50 states figure out if subscription-based health care will work for them, and enrollment is open year-round. “The plans work the same state-to-state and even vacationing outside the U.S.,” Blatt says.
Members Pay ‘One Flat Rate’
“There’s simple, transparent pricing for major medical or hospitalization, and people don’t need to worry whether the anesthesiologist on call the evening of their emergency surgery is in their network. The member is responsible for one flat rate. This eases stress when people seek medical care,” Blatt says. “indipop never wants to hear someone say, ‘I didn’t want to go to the ER because I was scared I wouldn’t be able to afford it.’ What’s the point of having health care if you can’t use it?”
Ninety-nine percent of professionals indipop speaks with are unaware that alternative health care options exist in the market.
She sounds a little like an evangelist when spreading the word about membership-based health care. “Ninety-nine percent of professionals indipop speaks with are unaware that alternative health care options exist in the market. They are surprised to learn they can offer and contribute to quality health care with 20% to 70% savings and a low annual out-of-pocket expense.”
Do Franchise Owners Get Health Care?
Franchise owners often need those types of savings. “We have found it isn’t that they don’t want to provide health care for their entire team, but it just is not affordable with traditional health insurance. They wind up enrolling their family and a key employee in a plan,” Blatt says. Others often go without and hope their good health (and their employees’ good health) will continue – a 2020 Kaiser Foundation study found that 44% of small businesses do not offer group health insurance.
But Blatt points out that nobody can predict appendicitis, which is a common medical emergency affecting most age groups; an appendectomy can cost up to $35,000. Or consider that a broken leg can run up a $7,500 tab and the average cost of a three-day hospital stay is roughly $30,000, according to Healthcare.gov.
Why Franchisees Should Offer Health Care
Health care for franchise owners and other small-business owners does pay for itself in some ways. With the current tight labor market, health care is a benefit that helps small-business owners attract and keep full- and part-time employees and even independent contractors who are crucial to their business. “Owners are always exploring ways to provide more value to retain talent,” Blatt says. “Workers have options, and they may take a position solely based on the benefits offered.”
The plans indipop curated all include 24/7 virtual care and mental health, two benefits that help keep their team mentally and physically healthy.
In addition, she and many business experts emphasize that comprehensive health care keeps workers on the job instead of on sick leave. “The plans indipop curated all include 24/7 virtual care and mental health, two benefits that help keep their team mentally and physically healthy.” Preventive care such as vaccines and maternity care are standard; some indipop plans offer vision, dental, and even doulas and chiropractic care.
Evaluating Membership-Based Health Care
So how can small-business owners decide about health care? “Small business owners need to look at the bottom line and ask whether they can afford to provide health care for their entire team or a select few,” Blatt says. “What percentage can they contribute? Does the selected plan offer health care that is also affordable for their employee if the business owner can’t pay 100% of the premiums?”
She describes one client’s journey: “We recently helped a company with five employees. The owner cared about his team’s health for everyday care needs like pink eye and wanted to have something in place for the what-if scenario of an unexpected surgery. He liked that there was an open network and that his employees could keep their providers. Three of his employees selected one option that featured a health savings account, and the two others opted for a plan that offered unlimited primary care. He will contribute $300 a month toward each team member’s health care and empowered them to choose whichever indipop option best fit their needs.”
An Alternative to Traditional Insurance
Workers with traditional insurance often reel when “they’re hit with high deductibles and limited networks,” Blatt says. indipop may be more flexible when it comes to getting the care you need and being treated by the providers you’d like to see. At indipop, all can join if they are 18-64 years old. “But for the first year, if they have been symptomatic or diagnosed at the time they enroll as a member, for the first year that particular medical condition is not shareable; the second year, it is shareable up to $25,000 and so on with tiers; at the 4th year being shared up to $125,000, there are exceptions to what is considered pre-existing,” Blatt says.
“High cholesterol, hypertension, and even type 2 diabetes are not considered pre-existing conditions if the person has not been hospitalized within one to two years, and the condition is medically managed.” Blatt gives an example: if you just had ACL surgery, you may want to wait 12 months to ensure you are 100% healed. That medical condition will be considered pre-existing for the first year of membership. If you did enroll and broke your arm, you would be eligible for the $1000 set rate for surgery and aftercare of the arm; the broken arm was after you became a member, the ACL was prior.
Navigating Health Care
Other indipop advantages are intangible. “We hear this daily, ‘I get nothing in my insurance plan. They are not there for me,’” Blatt says. (A recent study cited widespread dissatisfaction with health-insurance companies’ call centers.) “But we hear the opposite from our indipop members. We actually have people send us messages saying how they love their health-care plan.”
indipop offers another hand to hold and an extra resource to members of our plans.
One big reason, she says, is that when self-employed workers, small business owners, and franchise owners get health care through indipop, its staff “offers another hand to hold and an extra resource to members of our plans. When you contact a plan through indipop, there is a team to help you navigate your health needs. This can be from connecting you with a provider even in the wee hours of the night, finding specialists for you, and offering a second opinion and experts to confer with in medical advocacy. You are never alone trying to navigate a massive health-care system.”