When Lynn Frost started vetting potential health plans to offer employees at Ghost Armor International she wanted a plan that was “flexible and affordable and didn’t limit the employees’ ability to choose their own provider too much.”

Frost, president of the Phoenix-based company that produces protection for hand-held devices and electronic gadgets, was hoping to install a health benefit where none had previously existed, as it had grown dramatically since it was founded in 2007 and now has 100 corporate employees. Ghost Armor International was formed by three young entrepreneurs in their 20s, and by 2009 was a multi-million dollar business. Its employee population is active and relatively young with an average age of 44, so Frost wanted a product conducive to their needs.

Foremost, Frost would like to transform the company into a place with robust benefits, especially health coverage. Her second concern is to ensure the benefit is affordable to the company, employees and their dependents.

To compare plans side by side, she compiled everything from cost of care to benefit details along a spreadsheet to make her decision.

She settled on Aetna Whole Health plan, an accountable care organization (ACO) through the Banner Health Network. Unlike a typical HMO or PPO plan, ACOs provide members with a care team that includes doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals who work collaboratively to support the employee and their dependents. Members must stay within the care team network to take advantage of their benefits and receive this level of coordinated care.

Aetna tries to keep the pricing of their ACO plan at 8-15% below the prevailing rate in the marketplace as it focuses on coordinated care and is centered around a network system.

“Cost was obviously a factor,” says Frost. But in choosing the best plan for her population, “we also wanted something that would be flexible,” she adds.

While the average cost to purchase employee health coverage only grew a modest 4% last year, health-related expenses still represent a significant portion of an employer’s overall spending. In fact, the average employer contribution to cover one employee’s family reached $11,786 in 2012. To help control today’s costs as well as slow the trend for the future as the U.S. population ages, many employers are turning to health management programs and collaborative care models that encourage preventive care and wellness.

“I thought it was advantageous to find an affordable package that could grow with us,” says Frost. She says she expects the company’s employee population to grow even more in the next two years.

After one open enrollment, she had 60 employees sign up. And already many other employees have expressed interest in the second enrollment beginning this spring.

“One of the most important aspects when choosing the plan was ensuring that I could choose items piece by piece and have the opportunity to add new facets to the program at open enrollment time,” she says.

For their second open enrollment, they plan to add in-vitro health coverage and weight-loss surgery based on employee feedback.

“The plan gives us the flexibility to change as our needs change,” she explains.

As part of their overall focus on wellbeing, Frost will bring in a nutritionist to advise employees about healthy eating habits and they have spurred marathon and other challenges to engage employees in physical activity. The company’s gym also hosts exercise classes three times a week.

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