health care

Health coverage declines at small businesses

A new University of Minnesota report shows the nationwide decline in small businesses offering health insurance continued in 2015. The national offer rate among businesses with fewer than 50 workers was 29.4 percent in 2015, down from 32.2 percent in 2014 and 35.7 percent in 2011, according to the report.

Health insurance offers have been steady for the five-year period among large employers, so the nationwide decline in insurance offers across all firms has been more moderate.

“The findings may be partly explained by large employers adding coverage benefits to meet the rules of the Affordable Care Act, while small employers may have shed some employees or reduced hours to remain under the threshold where offering health insurance benefits is required,” the U researchers said in a news release.

For years, there have been concerns that many small businesses just can’t afford to offer coverage given increases in the overall cost of health care.

The new report was compiled by the university’s State Health Access Data Assistance Center, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Minnesota bucked the trend in terms of the share of small employers offering health insurance in 2015, with the state’s rate increasing from 2014.

In Minnesota during 2015, the average annual premium for family coverage in employer plans was $16,925. Employees, on average, covered 30 percent of the premium costs.

Nationally in 2015, the average premium for family coverage was higher at $17,322. Workers in those employer-sponsored plans contributed, on average, 27 percent of the premium costs.

Lower premiums in Minnesota fit with higher deductibles. More than 51 percent of state residents in employer plans during 2015 had high-deductible coverage; the national share was just 39 percent.

Christopher Snowbeck

Day-care business

WomenVenture developing day-care co-ops

WomenVenture, which counsels and loans money to fledgling female-owned businesses, was awarded a $375,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation to establish a pilot program to help establish cooperatively owned 24-hour day-care businesses in low-income areas.

The Twin Cities has high demand for reliable, affordable day care, especially for night-shift workers, and there are skilled day-care workers who would like to own their own business but lack the means, according to WomenVenture. The day-care program allows day-care professionals to pool resources and jointly run a sustainable business.

CEO Elaine Wyatt of WomenVenture said: “This grant allows us to take that knowledge and expertise to create an entrepreneurial pathway for women who are interested in starting cooperatively owned day cares and, in the process, serve the needs of low-income working families.”

Wages for co-op workers typically are higher than for the same work at private businesses. Co-ops also provide employee benefits such as medical insurance, a 401(k) match, and paid time off, Wyatt said.

WomenVenture, which long has worked with private day-care owners, will form cohorts of 12 to 15 experienced day-care professionals in low-income neighborhoods. The graduates will study everything from accounting to governance, and develop a business plan. They will also be eligible to apply for a loan from WomenVenture. Last year it served 1,000 clients, 60 percent of whom were low-to-moderate income, and helped start, improve or expand 615 business.

Neal St. Anthony

family finance

Women are playing a bigger financial role

Women increasingly are taking over household finances, according to an Allianz Life survey.

The Allianz study of 1,400-plus women found more than 50 percent claim they run or have great responsibility for family finances, including long-term savings and investments, including retirement plans.

Additionally, 37 percent of women say they are the primary breadwinner of the family compared to 31 percent the last time the study was done, in 2013.

Despite having a large impact on household finances, the number of women who say they “have more earning power than they have ever had” has decreased to 50 percent from 57 percent in 2013. Only 44 percent claim they have asked for a raise or promotion they thought they deserved.

The survey also found the majority of women feel they are more financially savvy than their spouse or partner, and nearly seven out of 10 respondents report that becoming more knowledgeable and involved in managing finances made a difference in their quality of life. However, many women still report uncertainty about their financial decisions.

Sixty-one percent of women wish they had more confidence in their financial decisionmaking and 63 percent wish they knew more about financial planning and investing. Allianz recommended working with a financial professional and financial education to empower women.

Neal St. Anthony