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."