SOURCE: HealthPass

April 29, 2008 12:16 ET

HealthPass Offers Small Employers Tips for Providing Health Insurance

Non-Profit Agency Applauds "Cover the Uninsured Week"

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - April 29, 2008) - With 47 million Americans living each day without health insurance, "Cover the Uninsured Week" is the perfect time for small business owners to evaluate the feasibility of offering health insurance to their workers and themselves, according to HealthPass, a New York City-based non profit group dedicated to improving access to health coverage for small employers.

Now in its sixth year, "Cover the Uninsured," a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is a national effort to highlight the fact that millions and millions of Americans are living without health insurance and to demand solutions from the nation's leaders.

"It's no secret that tens of thousands of small businesses have not been able to provide health coverage, either because the cost has been prohibitive or access has been limited," said Vince Ashton, executive director of HealthPass. "However, in the past couple of years, the small employer insurance marketplace has changed dramatically. As a result, small businesses and sole proprietors can find a wide arrangement of high quality, affordable health plans."

Ashton strongly embraces "Cover the Uninsured Week," which takes place April 27 - May 3, and offers the following tips to small businesses thinking about providing health insurance:

1. Find a good broker

Working with a broker or consultant who can cut through the maze of health insurance options, networks, rules, and guidelines and who is up to date on the latest offerings is essential. In New York, broker fees are included in the premium when purchasing small group healthcare and, therefore, does not change the rate paid for a plan. Make sure to ask if a broker's fees are included in the premium and non-negotiable, or if they have built their fees on top of the rate.

2. Share the costs

When it comes to paying, requiring employees to pick up part of the insurance cost is a fact of life. When offering only one plan, even a nominal contribution amount required from employees will help control costs and set the tone for the future. This may also deter those employees who have spousal coverage and are only looking to "double" insure themselves from doing so because it now costs them something to enroll.

3. Provide Options

Offering various health plan options can help ensure employees and their families get the right level of care and benefits based on personal needs. Employee-choice models, which give employees various insurers and plan designs from which to choose, are becoming more popular. These plans allow employees to choose their plans based on their own provider and risk preferences. Some forward-thinking small employers are also beginning to offer Health Savings Accounts to workers as an option.

4. Offer "Extras"

Plans that offer "extras" can go a long way toward helping employees get the most out of their healthcare. These extras may be in the form of wellness plans, personalized account or member services, insurance advocates, and other value-added programs. Often for free or at a discounted rate, these extras can help employees save money and live healthier lifestyles. Employers should look for these and encourage their employees to understand and take part in the programs as these additional benefits can directly help increase productivity and reduce absenteeism.

Along with small business owners, Ashton is also encouraging sole proprietors who are not insured to use this opportunity and evaluate health insurance options for themselves.

"Unfortunately, too many small employers and sole proprietors just look at the price of health insurance and automatically rule it out. With the number and types of health insurance options available to these groups growing, affordable, high quality health insurance is well within the reach of many, many more organizations and individuals," said Ashton. "And employers will find that offering health insurance will make it far easier to attract and retain good workers."

About HealthPass

HealthPass is an innovative partnership between the New York Business Group on Health, the City of New York and the health insurance industry, bringing small businesses, and now sole proprietors, healthcare choices worthy of Fortune 500 companies.

HealthPass allows eligible employees of small businesses to individually choose a healthcare plan that fits their medical needs and budgets from an ever-growing range of choices. There are more than 30 different coverage options from four leading carriers -- GHI, Health Net, HIP Health Plan of New York and PerfectHealth -- as well as two dental plans and a bundled security product offered through Guardian. In addition, HealthPass offers five plans for sole proprietors. With over 200,000 providers, HealthPass affords greater network access than any single plan. For more information, please visit www.healthpass.com

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