Meir Finish Is Just Starting

October 16, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Not that they are trying to speed up their lives, but Tom Kusmeirski and his employees wish today was the first of November.

That day is the first day that Kusmeirski’s company, Meir Finish and Woodworks, will have health care coverage under Plan C, a new program designed and offered by the Kent Health Plan Corp. for small firms with low-wage workers.

Meir Finish and Woodworks was the first business to enroll in the plan.

“I first read about this in the Business Journal, and thought, ‘No, this is too good to be true,’” said Kusmeirski at a press conference held at the First Friday Forum hosted by the Alliance for Health.

But Kusmeirski immediately made a phone call after reading the story last winter and found out it was true.

So in about two weeks, his nine production workers and their spouses will be covered for early intervention services and inpatient hospital services — coverage that Kusmeirski couldn’t have afforded without Plan C.

“This means a lot,” said Kusmeirski about the coverage. “Starting out a business is tough and right now is a tough time, especially in the wood industry — it’s so depressed right now.

“This really does help small companies get started. It would be nice if the government or someone could help these smaller guys get going and get their feet on the ground because all businesses start small. They all don’t walk in as giants.”

Meir Finish and Woodworks produces component parts for the furniture industry, mostly for schools and libraries, at 1642 Broadway Ave. NW. Kusmeirski only opened the doors to his plant eight months ago.

“Anytime you start a new business you don’t know what you’re going to run into. It’s a huge expense to get started, and being able to draw employees is extremely difficult,” he said.

“So when you’re starting up you can’t offer all the fringe benefits that companies can that have been in business for years and years. But yet you have to compete and you have to try to draw people.”

Kusmeirski said his employees are as excited about Plan C as he is.

“They are just thrilled to death,” he said.

The monthly premium for each employee will be $165, split three ways. Every month Kusmeirski will pay $55 for each of his nine covered workers, each worker will pay $55 per month, and Kent Health Plan will pay $55 for each worker. Coverage can last for up to six years.

“The fees are affordable. That’s the key. That is the key,” said Kusmeirski. “Affordable for their portion and for the company’s portion.”

For now, enrollment for Plan C is limited to small businesses in Kent County that have four to 15 employees, and Kent Health Plan hopes to have 300 employees in the plan by year’s end. But then the nonprofit organization, which gets its funding from local, state and federal sources, will announce another enrollment period early next year.

“Any help that we can give to small employers helps them become strong companies, enabling them to retain workers and attract new employees, and to eventually graduate out of Kent Health Plan C,” said the organization’s president, Chuck Zech.

For details on the plan, go to www.kenthealthplan.org or call (800) 221-1534. Coverage is through the PPOM Network and U.S. Health and Life Insurance Co. underwrites the plan.

Plan C is the fourth program offered by Kent Health Plan over the last 18 months, the second since early September, but the first for businesses.

“The benefits themselves within some of the categories are not as deep as can be found in a traditional health care plan,” said Zech. “But that is because we wanted to make Kent Health Plan C affordable for the employer, the employee and the Kent Health Plan Corp.” 

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