In search for savings, companies zero in on health care

SqueezeOne more note about health care coverage. It's not the only area in which companies are looking to save money in a down economy, but it's certainly the most popular.

That's the gist of this National Public Radio program, anyway. CFO magazine senior writer Kate O'Sullivan told "Morning Edition's" Steve Inskeep that more than half of the CFOs interviewed by the magazine say their companies are planning to lay off workers, and more than 80 percent are experimenting with changes to their health benefits.

"That doesn't mean they will be eliminating health benefits," O'Sullivan said, "but it means they will potentially be asking for more employee contributions or reducing the number of options available and possibly changing the eligibility requirements of their plans."

According to O'Sullivan, one CFO told the magazine his company is looking to save money by asking the employed spouses of its workforce to seek coverage through their own employers, rather than signing up for the company's plan.

Interesting concept. In essence, the companies that employ married couples would share the cost of providing the couple with health care. It doesn't seem particularly family-friendly, though. Spouses could end up losing valuable flex-spending benefits and instead have to pony up more money to remain covered.

Regardless, the program continues the conversation we started in this "CPA Spotlight" podcast, with Rick Princinsky offering up ways in which small businesses can reduce the cost of providing health benefits. That conversation will continue as long as the economy remains in turmoil.

Listen to the NPR program in its entirety, then tell us: Is your organization trying anything creative to cut health care costs?


Bill Sheridan