News

New county program to help with health care

Healthy Workers Program offers inexpensive coverage for small businesses

Some uninsured low-wage workers in Santa Clara County can now enroll in a new program offering inexpensive health care coverage for small businesses that otherwise can't afford health insurance for their employees.

The Healthy Workers Program, developed by Working Partnerships USA in partnership with the Santa Clara Family Health Plan and the Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System, has been nearly four years in the making. According to Working Partnerships USA spokesman Jody Meacham, the plan had to be approved by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, the state Legislature and the state Department of Managed Health Care.

Working Partnerships USA undertakes projects that benefit workers in Santa Clara County, Meacham said. Their first health care program, launched a few years ago, was a children's health initiative that aimed to ensure every child in the county had health coverage.

The Healthy Workers plan would be available to some of the approximately 90,000 uninsured workers who work in small businesses in the county, Meacham said.

"The health care crisis we hear about in the news today has been going on in the U.S. for several decades in Santa Clara County and one of the biggest needs is that we have tens of thousands of workers that hold down jobs where they cannot afford health insurance," Meacham said.

To be eligible for the program, a business must employ 50 or fewer workers, must not be currently providing health coverage to their employees, and pay a tax-deductible fee of $150 for every covered employee. Additionally, at least 50 percent of their eligible employees must enroll for the coverage to be offered.

Employees are required to work at least 20 hours per week, make $18 or less an hour and pay a premium of $75. Preexisting conditions do not affect eligibility.

Representatives from Working Partnerships USA, along with representatives from the Santa Clara Family Health Plan and the Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System, unveiled the program at a news conference in San Jose on Monday morning.

Steve Van Dorn, president and general manager of the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce and Convention-Visitors Bureau, said the chamber supports the program because it provides an affordable alternative to small business employers, which comprise 85 percent of their members.

"What I like most about it is that everybody shares the responsibility, no one is subsidizing it," Van Dorn said. "I'm glad to see it finally coming into fruition and hope members take advantage of it."

Van Dorn said he hopes the program can eventually expand to allow more than 500 employees, which is the current limit.

Meacham said the Valley Medical Center is required to take in patients whether or not they are insured and that this plan would create two streams of revenue for the county.

Under the coverage plan, care for employees would be provided by the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, as well as other community clinics.

To enroll in the program, businesses can call (408) 410-0811.

"This is Santa Clara County's answer to health care reform," Elizabeth Darrow, CEO of the Santa Clara Family Health Plan said. "I think that we have been waiting for something in Washington for years. This is a very good starting point to addressing the crisis of the uninsured."

— Bay City News Service

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lisa
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 2, 2010 at 2:30 pm

What a wonderful idea! Kudos to Santa Clara county for being ahead of Washington on the first steps to solving the health care crisis. I certainly hope lots of small businesses take advantage of it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by KD
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 3:13 pm

What is the premium (after the $150 one time employer paid fee)? $75 a week, a month, a year, a decade?

I assume that the coverage is for employees, not families.
Lots of missing details.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by kanank
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2010 at 3:45 pm

The devil is in the details. Read this.."To be eligible for the program, a business must employ 50 or fewer workers, must not be currently providing health coverage to their employees, and pay a tax-deductible fee of $150 for every covered employee. Additionally, at least 50 percent of their eligible employees must enroll for the coverage to be offered". This will make many people ineligible to enorll in this program. Once again, it comes with so many strings attached to avoid people enrolling in this kind of programs.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 3, 2010 at 12:05 pm

USA is a registered user.

Lisa -- Forcing someone else to pay your medical bills does not "solve" the problem any more than forcing you to pay my mortgage solves my mortgage problem.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Big Al
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 3, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Can anyone step up and pay my car bill?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lisa
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 4, 2010 at 10:31 am

"Lisa -- Forcing someone else to pay your medical bills does not "solve" the problem any more than forcing you to pay my mortgage solves my mortgage problem."

You are correct that it doesn't completely solve the problem, but it's a good first start in the right direction. Plus, the real value of having insurance is not that someone else pays your medical bills (that's only part of it!), but that the insurance companies have negotiated lower rates with the Doctors and hospitals. I have seen a $700 bill negotiated down to an "allowed" $300 or less and THEN paid by the insurance.

If more people were insured, we could go a long way to reducing and perhaps even reversing the rampant medical inflation that's been happening for decades. A big part of the problem is when uninsured people end up in the hospital with no way to pay. The hospital is required to treat them anyway and gets no money whatsoever from them; they then have to raise prices all around for everyone else to cover their care.

And of course, the other part of the problem is that the drug and medical device companies get away with charging WAY WAY too much money because they can.


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