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How to Choose an Employee Health Insurance Plan for Your Pharmacy 

March 25, 2021

As a pharmacist, you’re used to wrangling with health insurance companies. But when it comes to your own employees, deciding on a health insurance plan can be a little dizzying.

With all sorts of inscrutable acronyms and coverage conditions, picking the right plan can be intimidating. In the end, you want to provide plan options that you and your employees can afford that will allow them to get the healthcare they need.

Here are the factors you should consider when choosing a health insurance plan to ensure employees have complete, affordable coverage.

Comprehensive coverage options

At a minimum, the health insurance option you choose could cover the 10 essential healthcare benefits as laid out by These include:


In addition to ensuring that your insurance plan is going to cover your employees’ health needs, you should consider which providers your employees can go to in order to receive care that is covered by the insurance plan.

Call around to providers in your area to make sure they accept your insurance. If you pick a plan that seems to have good features but isn’t accepted by a wide range of providers in your area, your employees could end up spending a lot out-of-pocket, defeating the purpose of having a health insurance plan.

Also check if your chosen insurance plan covers things like telemedicine and urgent care, which can make seeking care more convenient for employees.

PPOs vs. HMOs

You also want to consider how your employees get connected with providers like specialists. Do they have to be referred, or can they make an appointment directly?

For this, you will likely have to decide between a PPO health insurance plan or an HMO health insurance plan.

A PPO, or a preferred provider organization, will generally offer a wide range of hospitals, doctors, and specialists enrolled in the network, and employees don’t have to get referred by a primary care provider in order to see a specialist.

On the other hand, an HMO, or health maintenance organization, tends to have a smaller network of providers, and employees have to see a primary care provider before they see a specialist.

Cost breakdown

In addition to coverage, you’ll also want to think about the cost of plans, both for you and your employees. According to Kaiser, employers can expect to cover about 83 percent of the cost of premiums for an employee, and 73 percent of the cost of premiums for the family of an employee.

When choosing a plan, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of having a plan with lower premiums but a high deductible, or higher premiums with a lower deductible.

PPO plans tend to have a range of premium and deductible options available, but lower deductible plans that help you entice quality employees tend to be costlier for employers.

If you’re very sensitive to price, and HMO might be the right choice for you. These plans typically have lower premiums and deductibles. Even though coverage is more restricted, affordability makes these plans appealing.

HSAs and FSAs

After the cost of premiums and deductibles, you will also want to consider features of health insurance plans that make paying for care easier and more convenient for employees.

If you choose a high deductible plan — which is an individual plan with a deductible of $1,400 or more or a family plan with a deductible of $2,800 or more — your employees will have the opportunity to contribute to a health savings account, or HSA.

These are pre-tax contributions that can be used to pay for medical expenses. If they don’t use the money they set aside, it will grow as an investment and can be used as additional retirement income after the employee turns 65.

If you don’t choose a high deductible plan, employees can choose to contribute pre-tax funds to a flexible spending account, or FSA, to help cover medical expenses. These funds don’t grow from year to year, but they can be allocated for dependent care, which makes them appealing to employees who are caring for children or other relatives.

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In-demand extras

After you have the 10 essential healthcare benefits covered, there are a few extras that you may decide to add to your employee health insurance plan to make sure they have the healthcare options they want and need. Consider these additional options before you commit to a health insurance plan.

Dental and vision insurance

Neither dental insurance nor vision insurance is required by law, but you should consider adding them to your insurance options anyway. If an employee puts off visiting the dentist for a toothache because they aren’t insured and then it turns into a more urgent health issue, that affects productivity in your pharmacy.

Also, dental and vision are becoming standard offerings for many employers, so if you don’t offer them, you may lose a great potential employee to another company with more comprehensive benefits.

Dental and vision plans can often be added to the general health insurance plan you’ve chosen for a nominal cost. If your health insurance plan doesn’t give you the option to add on those perks, you can purchase dental and vision plans individually.

Employee assistance program

Another extra your health insurance plan might offer is an employee assistance program, or EAP.

EAPs can help employees get comprehensive care, even when it comes to issues beyond physical health. They can use an EAP to get connected to professionals who can help with things like marital problems, addiction, elder care, adoption assistance, and more.

If you want to show your employees that you care about their mental well-being as well as their physical health, consider the availability of an EAP when looking at health insurance options.

Consider hiring a broker

If you aren’t confident navigating all the different health insurance options, hiring a benefits broker can help you get connected with the right plan for you.

Since they are experts, they’ll be able to break down what every plan has to offer and help you stay compliant with relevant laws like the Affordable Care Act.

They will ask you questions about your employees and their needs to find the plan that works best for your pharmacy, and negotiate so you can get an optimal contract. When it’s time for enrollment, a broker can help employees understand their options so you don’t have to field questions about the intricacies of the plan.


An Independently Owned Organization Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The member-owned company serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, distribution services, and more.

An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited (formerly VAWD) warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.

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