Affordable health insurance seems like an oxymoron when it comes to small business coverage. Costs have skyrocketed, and over the last few years, double-digit rate hikes have been the norm. In 2004 alone, rates increased by 11.5%, making providing health insurance coverage for employees cost prohibitive for many small companies.

In the April 2005 Inc. story, "Cut Your Health Care Costs Now" on page 104, writer Jennifer Gill shares a number of strategies business owners are using to help rein in health insurance costs. Here, shares several online resources to help you find affordable coverage.

Comparison Shopping Resources

The Internet makes it ridiculously easy to shop for and compare rates from various health insurance carriers. A business owner logs on, shares some information, and in most cases, receives quotes or detailed information on health insurance providers that can meet their needs. prompts users to offer a few bits of information, in order to receive custom quotes from small business insurance providers. On, you provide details about the type of plan you'd like to receive, and then input zip code, date company started, date you'd like insurance to start, and employee birthdates and family coverage information, and presto, you receive instant quotes from providers in your area. provides customized quotes via e-mail; however, both and are most useful in highly competitive markets, such as New York. A recent inquiry on New Hampshire via did not provide any results.

State Insurance Departments

Your state insurance department should have information on small business health insurance providers in your area. If it's not readily available on the website, most departments will have a list available when you call, and also can provide insider tips for shopping for insurance in your state. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners' website offers links to the nation's insurance departments. Many states, like Texas, provide very detailed information on its insurance website, including relevant regulations, small business insurance shopping tips and information on how premiums are calculated. Additionally, provides information on group health insurance regulations by state, and the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute offers a number of consumer guides, which address retaining individual and small business health insurance in all 50 states via its site,

Purchasing Group Information

Some states offer health insurance purchasing cooperatives, in which small businesses can join together to help push down the cost of purchasing insurance. California's Pacific Health Advantage, for instance, provides health insurance coverage to employers with two to 50 employees. The Institute for Health Policy Solutions provides a short listing of states that host purchasing groups for small business and general information on the topic.

Trade and Business Associations

Many trade and professional associations provide health care purchasing power to their members. Professional associations like the National Association for the Self Employed (NASE) and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) both offer access to health benefits via group membership. Besides national professional associations, investigate joining business groups in your area or national trade associations that provide access to affordable health insurance. The Small Business Administration offers links to a number of trade associations across the U.S.

Insurance Brokers

Putting a broker to work for you can help you determine the benefits your company needs as well as uncover the most affordable options. A good broker will take the time to know your business as well as your financial limitations and goals. (Writer Jennifer Gill offers a few good pointers on choosing a broker in "Cut Your Health Care Costs Now.") The following resources can help you uncover insurance brokers, but be sure to do due diligence before choosing one.