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Frequently Asked Questions


Why should we work with an insurance broker?

Because it's always better to talk to a human being! Brokers are insurance and benefits experts (so you don’t have to be!). It’s our job to learn about your business, evaluate plan options for you, recommend the best approach and help you manage those benefits throughout the entire year. Best of all, there’s no cost to employers to work with an insurance broker.

What does it cost to work with an insurance broker?

$0. It's always free to work with a qualified insurance broker. Why? Because we are paid by the insurance companies. If you call the companies directly, they pay their internal employees to assist you. If you sign up for a plan through us then they pay us for our time! Either way the coverage will cost to you is the same. 

Which plans do you offer?

Slate Small Business Solutions has access to all major health, life, dental, disability, and accident insurance providers. We are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin, & Illinois, and specialize in small business plans for 1 to 50 employees.

How can we compare plans?

Without an insurance broker, comparing plans is complicated; it requires employers to contact each insurance company directly, then wade through sales and policy information from each company. At Slate Small Business Services, we have access to dozens of health, disability, life, dental, and vision insurance plans. We can quickly show you differences in benefits and pricing across multiple plans, so you can make the best choice for your business.


Is our small business required to offer a group health insurance plan?

No. Small businesses with 50 or fewer employees are not required to provide employer-sponsored health insurance. However, companies that do provide health insurance often find those benefits help attract better candidates and retain valued employees.

Can we offer other group benefits without offering a health insurance plan?

Yes! Small businesses with 50 or fewer employees can offer ancillary coverage with or without a corresponding health insurance plan—and with or without an employer contribution. Popular offerings include dental insurance, life insurance and disability insurance.

Group Vs. Individual Health

Can I save money on my premiums if I start a group plan through my business?

This answer can be more complicated than just a yes or a no because when we compare the coverage it's not always apples to apples. Sometimes because of networks and richness of benefits, group plans actually cost a little bit more than individual plans. If you currently receive subsidies from MNsure to help you pay for your premiums, this could also be a factor to consider. However, there can be some tax benefits to forming a group, not to mention the hiring and retention power it can give you with employees. Employees also benefit when their portion of their premiums are paid with pre-tax dollars. We can always help you evaluate the differences! And, if you decide to continue with individual coverage- we can still help with that too!

What are the advantages of a group health insurance plan?

One of the most important benefits is the size of the provider network. Group plans typically have much broader networks of physicians, hospitals, clinics and specialty providers compared to individual plans. In-network access can help covered employees and their families reduce their medical expenses and maintain relationships with their current doctors. Group plans also greatly simplify the process of obtaining health insurance; your company makes the decisions, rather than each employee having to shop for coverage on their own.

Can I just offer a stipend for individual coverage instead of a group plan?

You can choose to offer a stipend for employees to spend on individual plan coverage rather than offering a traditional group health plan. Keep in mind that employees must pay taxes on employer stipends for individual insurance. In addition, each employee has to do the legwork on their own to identify the right plan, enroll, and manage their coverage—or work directly with an insurance broker for help. If you want us to help you evaluate your situation and help you understand what would be best for your group, feel free to give us a call! 612-354-2917.

Group Rates, Eligibility & Contributions

How much does small group health insurance cost?

Small group insurance is rated based on age. Therefore, we would need to talk to you about your group and get some basic information from you to provide you with detailed numbers. We are not a computerized quoting tool- we are human beings who can talk to you about all the factors that will affect the costs. Feel free to reach out to us when you’re ready and we will gladly provide you with numbers that are tailored specifically to your teams needs as well as your bottom line.

What’s the minimum number of employees required for group insurance?

It only takes two! If you own a business and have at least one employee, your business can qualify for a group rate. If you co-own a business, with each partner having a 50 percent stake (a bona fide partnership), you can also qualify for group health insurance.

Which employees can receive benefits?

That’s up to the business owner! 20 hours is the minimum that the insurance companies usually suggest, but you could go all the way up to a 40 hour minimum to qualify for the group benefits.

When can we start a group plan?

Any time of year.

Do the insurance carriers allow me to cover domestic partners?

Yes! When you form a group, you will be able to decide if you want to allow domestic partners to enroll. You can change this each year at your renewal, or the annual enrollment season at the end of each calendar year.

As an employer, how much do we need to contribute to each employee’s health insurance premiums?

For group health insurance, a small business of 50 employees or fewer must contribute at least 50% toward employee-only coverage after their first year of offering group health insurance. If you offer multiple plans, you can base the contribution on any of the plans you offer, or you can do the same percentage on all plans. These contributions are pre-tax contributions (as are the employee deductions)!

If your business does not offer a group health plan, then you are not required to give employees money toward their health insurance. Some employers, however, choose to provide employees with a stipend toward their purchase of individual health insurance. These would be post/tax dollars out of their paycheck to use on any plan they choose.

Renewing or Changing Plans

When can we change the coverage that we offer?

With group health insurance, you can change your coverage when you renew each year, or during the annual enrollment season between October and December of every year. We recommend contacting a qualified insurance broker at least 90 days prior to your renewal date to start evaluating your options.

What if we don’t know our renewal date?

No problem! A qualified insurance broker can work with you and your insurance companies to identify your renewal dates. Your broker can even help you synchronize your renewal dates, so all your policies update at the same time. This streamlines the planning and enrollment process for you and your employees.

Do we need to review our coverage every year?

Your coverage will automatically renew each year if you don’t do anything. Many business owners and employees like to keep the same coverage from year to year- why wouldn’t everyone like that!. However, it’s a smart idea to review your options and evaluate the value you and your employees receive. Provider networks, wellness programs and prescription drug coverage often change each year, which will impact your benefits. In addition, your employee base and business needs may change, so it's always good to have an agent who can review this with you at your plan anniversary each year. If you want to work with us, we recommend reaching out at least 90 days prior to your renewal date- or earlier if you like planning ahead!

What if we no longer can afford the current contribution level?

In many cases, you can still offer group health insurance by replacing your plan with something less expensive, or by adding a less expensive plan to your menu of employee options. For example, a high deductible health plan (HDHP) with a health savings account (HSA) typically comes with lower monthly premiums. Depending on your group size, you can sometimes add this as a coverage option, then base your required 50 percent premium contribution on this less expensive plan; if employees choose a more expensive offering, the employee's contribution would be greater but the employer’s would remain the same.

Have more questions?

We’re here to help. Contact us for a one-on-one discussion about your insurance needs. 612-354-2917

HSA Qualified Plans

What is a high deductible health plan (HDHP) or a health savings account (HSA) plan? And how is an HSA funded?

A high deductible health plan is just like it sounds: each member must pay more out-of-pocket medical expenses before coinsurance coverage applies. In exchange, HDHP coverage is more affordable, as it offers lower insurance premiums. HDHPs also differ from traditional plans because there are no copays for doctor or hospital visits. HDHPs are a type of plan that’s often paired with a health savings account. The HSA lets employees set aside money to fund their share of medical expenses in a special account that offers tax advantages. Employers can also contribute to their employees’ HSAs as part of your benefits package. HDHPs cover all required care, and are a good option to improve employee accountability and reduce your employer-sponsored costs. Employees can use HSAs to pay for medical visits, as well as dental, vision and other covered expenses. Employees can also maintain their HSA even when their employer switches plans—or if the employee switches jobs.

Do You Lose Your Hsa Funds At The End Of The Year?

No! That’s the beauty of the HSA. It’s not a “use it or lose it” type of savings plan. It is a benefit that the employee can fund until they go onto Medicare and continue to use the funds for medical care for the rest of their lives. Many people think of it as a retirement account because when you are old enough to retire you will still need to cover medical expenses.

Can I Use Hsa Dollars To Pay For My Premiums?

As a general rule, no. There can be tax penalties for doing so. However, there are a couple of specific exceptions to this rule. Call us to discuss, and we can always refer you to an HSA specialist if need be!

Learn More

Have more questions? We're here to help. Contact us for a one-on-one discussion about your insurance needs.