Sonoma, Napa wineries cover employee health costs at high level, report finds

When it comes to recruiting and retaining talent, one thing employers want to know is what their competition is offering employees by way of benefits.

A recent survey of wineries in Sonoma and Napa counties reveals details about what kind of health benefits wineries are offering their employees.

“It comes down to ‘what are other people doing?’” said Andrew McNeil, principal at Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma, which conducted the benchmark report. “When we go out and meet with winery clients or prospective clients, they want to know what other wineries are doing. This report shows them where most people are and what they offer so they can compete for talent in a tight labor market, to recruit and retain talent. Then they can figure out if they need to kick it up a notch.”

Arrow conducted a survey of wineries with two to 400 employees, asking what kind of benefits employers provided their employees in 2017.

Of those providing health benefits, the majority of wineries (69 percent) provided employees with a health-maintenance organization (HMO) plan, followed by those offering a preferred-provider organization (PPO) plan at 49 percent.

The majority (60 percent) also contracted with a single provider, versus 40 percent who contracted with two or more carriers.

Medical carriers included Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, California Choice, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health Plus, United Healthcare, Western Health Advantage and Western Growers.

The benchmark study also found that 83 percent of winery employers contribute a percentage to the cost of health benefits. Of those, the average contribution is 87 percent per employee.

As for ancillary benefits, 49 percent of wineries surveyed provided dental benefits, and 34 percent offered vision coverage. Twenty-nine percent offered life and after death insurance.

Some winery employers also offered employees a health savings account (HSA) option, at 26 percent, 14 percent offered a health reimbursement account, and 9 percent offered flexible spending accounts.

The study also tracked health insurance rate increases, which averaged almost 9 percent over 2017. The highest increase was for PPOs at an almost 11 percent rise. HMOs saw the least increase, at 7.5 percent.

Also, health plans in force on or before March, 2010 had the ability to be grandfathered in and forgo some of the rights and protections under the Affordable Care Act. As of 2017, however, 94 percent of winery employers reported they did not offer a grandfathered health plan.

Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at or call 707-521-4259.

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