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The healthcare debate continues to rage in Washington, and where things will end up is anyone’s guess. Not long ago, the media was saying that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was here to stay. Then it appeared that it would be replaced by a new law created by House Republicans. But now the Senate seems to have other ideas. That’s created a lot of uncertainty for franchise operators, and it may be quite some time before we know exactly what the federal government will expect you to do.

However, there are benefits to getting ahead of the curve and making health care coverage available to employees. Yes, it can be costly, but handled in the right way, it can help you attract and keep good employees. Having health care coverage is a key concern for many workers today, especially given the constant increases in medical costs. Knowing that their current employer provides access to a plan is a powerful incentive for staying, rather than trying to find another job and risk losing that coverage.

Many franchise operators would like to offer insurance, but feel that they can’t afford a group plan (and under the ACA, that may mean paying a penalty). Others who have been offering coverage face higher premiums or stiffer participation requirements that make it difficult to continue that benefit. Still others would like to find an affordable way to offer coverage only to members of their management team.

The key is finding a creative partner who can identify solutions you may not know about. Some insurance agents and HR consultants focus on helping franchisees offer their staff health plans without breaking the budget. There are many options that exist in today’s market, from plans built around Health Savings Accounts to bill-sharing membership programs that offer many of the same advantages of insurance at a lower cost. It may take some extra effort to find a partner who has the knowledge and resources you need to offer coverage, but in today’s tight employee market, that effort can have a significant payoff. A great resource to find a partner that best meets your company needs is the Franchise Times Vendor Directory at http://www.franchisetimes.com/Vendor-Directory/.