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Benefit or Burden - Non Profits Feel the Pinch

Nowhere is the insurance crisis more keenly felt than among small non-profit organizations. While commercial businesses may pass along increased costs to their customers, non-profits cannot.

The Godman Guild, one the oldest non-profits in Columbus is facing a sharp and unexpected increase. That means the guild and its low-paid workers will have to share the cost of the increase

It's the final part of our series - Benefit or Burden - The Rising Cost of Health Insurance.

The Godman Guild will have to pay the higher premium to keep its employees insured. The employees, in turn, will be digging deeper into their own pockets to help their employer pay for the more expensive coverage. WOSU's Sam Hendren reports

Named for 19th century Columbus shoe manufacturer and benefactor Henry Godman, the guild started as a settlement house that aided poor immigrant families. The focus may have changed but for more than a century it's been helping men, women and children in need make better lives for themselves.

The guild provides a number of services, including head-start classes

The guild has 26 full-time employees whose salaries average about 30-thousand dollars a year. The guild covers about 90 percent of their health insurance premiums. The total outlay for health benefits for the just completed fiscal year is, as always, a significant part of the agency's 3 million dollar budget.

Our bills are $144,000 a year for all of our employees. We do have them pay a portion of that , said Marci Ryan, Godman's human resources director

How much they pay depends on whether they chose the $250 or $750 deductible. All but a few chose the higher amount. It means a single person with no dependents this past year paid a modest $37 a month. It's a manageable amount which employees say they appreciate.

As with most insurance plans, rates increase for each additional family member added to the policy. But Godman was hit with a new form of higher health care pricing a few years back. Ryan says carriers began adjusting rates according to age

They never used to do that before. It used to be that if you're an employee you pay this much no matter if you're 19 or 50. Now it's based on your age and the age of your dependents so every single person's premium is different.

That forces the Guild to require each employee to complete a new application every year. To get the best deal, Godman hires an independent insurance broker who shops around and makes recommendations to the guild's administrators.

But in a scene becoming all too familiar in board rooms across the country Ryan recently had the uncomfortable task of telling her boss, director Randall Morrison, that their insurance rates have skyrocketed for the new fiscal year .

The Guild usually budgets for a 12-15% in their yearly insurance rates. This year's increase jumped to 23 percent higher for fiscal year 2008, raising Godman's health care premium to $203,000.

To fund programs like Job Readiness courses The Godman Guild relies heavily on The United Way of Central Ohio. Itcontributes nearly a third of Godman's budget. But that money, according to Columbus United Way spokesman Kermit Whitfield, goes to fund individual programs, not member agencies.

When it comes to insurance premiums rising and that sort of thing it would almost be impossible for United Way or other funders to take that into account as we look at long term funding cycles. We can't make special factoring in just for that, said Whitfield.

As the Godman Guild teaches adults how to get a job

Its employees will learn another lesson they will soon see a 5% increase in their contribution to their health insurance plans.

When I started here, employees with single coverage didn't pay anything. And that was years ago, said human resources director Marci Ryan. So we have tried really hard to minimize what that contribution is but they have to help us carry the cost. It's a burden for all of us.