Bigger Firms Eligible For Plan C

January 28, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Those who analyze health benefits for a living have predicted that state governments and manufacturing firms will have to raise the employee share of a plan’s cost more than other sectors this year, as states are wallowing in red ink and many product makers are short of orders.

Analysts also said the strike by General Electric workers over their portion of health-care costs will bring the issue of double-digit increases in a non-inflationary economy back on the front page and back in front of lawmakers who have been preoccupied with re-election bids and war.

Kent Health Plan Corp., however, hasn’t waited for the health-cost crisis to surface again or even for legislators to act. The nonprofit organization took it upon itself to begin offering coverage last fall.

KHPC can’t help state employees, as they earn too much and the government is too big for it to insure. But it can help low-income earners at smaller manufacturing firms, or any small company, that can’t afford to provide coverage.

Coverage enrollment in Plan C opened on Nov.1, but was limited to firms that had four to 15 workers. That, however, has changed. KHPC has now opened enrollment for Plan C to firms with up to 50 employees.

Kent Health President Chuck Zech told the Business Journal that KHPC will accept four firms with 21 to 50 employees for enrollment this period. He said enrollment was also open for companies that have four to 20 workers, and no limit was assigned to firms of that size.

“We want to keep our budgeted membership available to as many small employers as we can. We’ve raised the limit from four to 15 (to) four to 20, without any particular limit other than the number of budgeted membership slots,” said Zech.

“To protect that somewhat, and yet respond to employers with higher numbers of employees, we will enroll up to four employers groups in the near term that have employees numbering 21 to as many as 50,” he explained.

Coverage under Plan C costs $165 a month for each insured worker. But the monthly premium is shared equally, as the employer, employee and KHPC each pay $55 a month. KHPC funds its share from available state and federal sources and from local contributions.

Plan C offers an array of in-network services from the Preferred Provider Organization of Michigan, including inpatient stays, outpatient procedures and emergency visits for an employee and spouse. The co-payments run from $15 for a trip to the doctor’s office to $100 for a hospital admission. Prescription drug coverage is also offered under Plan C.

U.S. Health and Life Insurance Co. underwrites the plan.

To qualify for Plan C, a company’s primary business location must be in Kent County and at least 80 percent of its employees must reside in the county. The hourly wage of the firm’s employees must average $10 or less for the first year of the plan, and an employer cannot have had health care coverage for two consecutive years.

Zech reported that about 50 employees were enrolled in Plan C during the initial 60-day sign-up period.

“It’s just amazing what has happened in 14 months. It’s just great to think that the community has this asset called Kent Health Plan that so many people helped to bring to fruition,” said Zech.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, the Alliance for Health, the Grand Rapids Employers Association and other local organizations helped Kent Health put Plan C together. KHPC hopes to have 600 employees enrolled in the program by September, the end of its fiscal year.

Contact KHPC at (800) 211-1534 for more information.           

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