According to HealthReform.gov, “nearly one-third of the uninsured -- 13 million people -- are employees of firms with fewer than 100 workers.” That would describe most remodeling companies, and many of them do not provide health insurance to their employees.
In Canada, Steve Barkhouse, president of Amsted Design Build, doesn’t have a choice: “Every Canadian is covered by the national health care as dictated by each individual province. This is basic health care. When we go to the doctor or hospital we don’t ‘pay anything’; payment is through our tax system.” And Barkhouse is okay with that. As a Canadian, he says, he feels it’s right that “everybody pays a little for the benefit of all.” When the Affordable Care Act truly gets underway next year, it may not look exactly like the Canadian system -- which is similar to the U.S.’s existing Medicare single-payer program – but there will be similarities in the concept of a public-private partnership. (More information on this topic at AARP.)
Here’s how it works for Barkhouse, who has a staff of 30: While everyone is covered for basic medical, they are not covered for dental or vision. But the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) covers any injury that might occur on a job, so if your carpenter’s teeth get knocked out when he falls off a ladder, he’s covered. It also covers therapies and lost wages. “The health care system pays the doctors, and the WSIB pays the lost wages and therapies and even retraining for a new job if you can’t do what you did before,” Barkhouse says.
He pays a separate tax every month for every employee dollar of wage, about 9.2 cents for every dollar, and spends $130,000 a year for the WSIB insurance that covers workers for injury. He also has long- and short-term disability for himself as company owner well as for his employees.
And if an employee gets hurt at home (not on the job) and can’t come to work? “You would have to have private insurance for that,” says Barkhouse who offers private coverage separately, for which employees pay 50%. This supplemental plan costs Amsted about $20,000. Depending on their family size, employees pay $800 to $1,200 per month for the private plan.
Employers are not required to offer the private plan, and employees are not required to get it, “but most do,” Barkhouse says. And Amsted’s private option insures the entire family.
Barkhouse offers it because it sets him apart from his competition – most of whom don’t offer private insurance. “I’ve been in business for 25 years. We’re about longevity and the good things that this is a part of representing.” --Stacey Freed is a senior editor at Remodeling.