Q: What should I do about health care for the employees of my new company?

A: Starting a new company is exciting for entrepreneurs, and your primary focus needs to be on the new product or service. However, as the firm begins to grow you will need to attract and retain talented employees. The health of your employees is key to creating an engaged and productive workforce.

To meet this objective, you need to develop a plan for both the provision of health insurance and the development of a healthy workplace. While health insurance can be purchased for a small group, two government programs can be less expensive to your company. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) established health insurance exchanges to allow individuals and families to purchase health insurance without regard to pre-existing health conditions. If you cannot afford to provide funding for your employees' health insurance, they can purchase it through the Minnesota ACA health insurance exchange, MNsure.

A new federal policy in 2020 also provides a useful option for small business — the Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA). This program can be used to reimburse employee premiums for an individual health insurance plan that the employee chooses. The employer can contribute any amount and this contribution is not considered taxable income to the employee. You should contact MNsure or an individual insurance broker to get more details about the options.

To develop a healthy workplace, first assure that your workplace is free from any health and safety threats. Next, make sure that your equipment is ergonomic, identifying places for quiet time, and offering a place to exercise or take a walk. If you have an open kitchen, make healthy snack options available.

Finally, look at the work itself. Encourage productivity while at the office but encourage your employees to disconnect from work after they leave. Set an example by leaving at a reasonable time and limiting your communications in the evenings and weekends.

With a focus on the health of your employees you can improve the chances for the success of your new business.

Daniel McLaughlin is the director of the Center for Innovation in the Business of Health Care in the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas.