Media Moves

Employee benefits

November 9, 2005

One of the stories that I like to see being written in business sections around this time of the year is an annual story about the rising cost of health care. Many companies that provide health coverage for their employees are now getting their bills from their health insurer detailing how much their cost will go up for next year.

Here are a couple of things for business reporters writing this story to consider:

1. When you’re writing this story, look at the monthly Consumer Price Index press release to see what is happening with medical inflation. Look at the annualized number as well. If a company that you’re quoting in your story is seeing an increase that is higher than medical inflation, then you need to ask them why, or maybe they need to be asking their health insurer why.

2. These stories scream for examples from small business. These companies typically struggle to provide health care for their workers. When I needed a small business, I always went to the state National Federation of Independent Business office and asked them for some names and phone numbers. They always had members more than willing to talk about this issue.

3. Find local benefits consultants and talk to them about what trends they are seeing locally. Are companies in your area taking strategies such as hiking deductibles to keep their cost down, or are they asking their employees to pay more for the coverage. Few employees still pay for 100 percent of an employer and his/her family’s coverage. These people can typically be found in the Yellow Pages. One I always looked for was Mercer, a unit of Marsh & McLennan.

4. Don’t forget about the workers. They’re the ones that this story affects the most, and they will likely be the most avid readers of this story as well. Leading with an anecdote from a worker whose health care benefits are going up is a great way to begin a story like this.

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