A Matter Of Opinion

May 5, 2008
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The state Senate voted Thursday on the individual health insurance market bills that have caused intense consternation in the past few months. The substitute bills that skittered quickly out of Sen. Tom George’s Health Policy Committee and onto the Senate floor met a 23-13 vote. The bills give insurance commissioner Ken Ross one year to produce a report on the feasibility of a high-risk pool, funded by all insurers and administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield, that would cover Michigan’s sickest people.

The pool proposal is what most rankled Priority Health, the Grand Rapids-headquartered health plan owned by Spectrum Health. Priority Health Vice President of Business Development Leon Lamoreaux was satisfied with the substitutes. “I think we would not be placed in as adverse a position as we could have been otherwise,” he said during his return trip from Lansing. “We do intend to enter the individual market more so than we already are. This makes it so we could actually survive in the marketplace. We ought to be able to at least compete.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan spokeswoman Helen Stojic shot across an e-mail saying the state’s health insurance giant “is disappointed with the bills as now structured. We don’t believe they bring about the meaningful change and protections that Michigan consumers deserve and expect. As the bills go back to the House, we are hopeful that there will be meaningful solutions on this important issue.”

Bob Hughes runs Grand Rapids’ Advantage Benefits Group and since January has been chairman of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s health care committee, which met with George a few weeks ago. Hughes said he was happy to see the ideas they discussed reflected in the Senate bills. “Politics is not a spectator sport,” Hughes told the Business Journal.

BCBSM’s push for individual market reform caused angst in the local chamber earlier this year, when its health care committee, torn by loyalties to both the Blues and Priority Health, decided to remain neutral. Members apparently were stunned when Chamber President & CEO Jeanne Englehardt released a statement in support of the House bills. Some even considered resigning from the committee, said Hughes, who does business with both the Blues and Priority Health.

“After all the debate and heat the chamber went though over individual market reform legislation position, the newly passed Senate bills contain all of the key changes and features the health care and human resource committee pushed for in the end,” he said.

The Senate did not address two House bills that would allow BCBSM’s for-profit The Accident Fund to expand its lines of non-health-care insurance.

  • Of the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in West Michigan, 11 were named Elite winners last week, one in each category in the annual human resources awards competition. The 11 companies were announced Thursday by the Michigan Business and Professional Association at its awards luncheon.

The Elite Award winners were: The Rehman Group, Communication; OMNI Community Credit Union, Community Initiatives; Blue Care Network, Compensation and Benefits; Deloitte & Touche USA, Diversity and Multiculturalism; Ernst & Young, Employee Education and Development; Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber Inc., Employee Engagement and Commitment; Consumers Credit Union, Recognition and Retention; Saint Mary’s Health Care, Recruitment and Selection; Progressive AE, Work-Life Balance; CSM Group, Small Business; and Mill Steel Co., "Best of the Best" Award.

“These companies represent superior, innovative and progressive human resources in West Michigan,” said Jennifer Kluge, the association’s chief operating officer and a veteran human resources manager. “The Elite winners are selected based on their overall high scores and are then named an Elite winner in their highest performing category.

“Elite Award recipients’ main concern is to treat their work force as an imperative part of the company. They recognize the value of their employees and emphasize company initiatives that recognize employee satisfaction both within the working environment and at home,” Kluge said.

Mill Steel Co. topped all of the competing companies by “demonstrating company values that promote open communication, competitive benefits, employee enrichment and a culture of employee empowerment. The company’s dedication to cultivating human resource strategies that empowers employees to reach their full potential is well documented.”

Mill Steel CEO Andrew Samrick accepted the award, acknowledging that the manufacturing world has become different today and put the focus “on our team. They have shown that it comes from the heart.”

Sponsors of the event include WOOD Radio, Davenport University, Grand Rapids Business Journal, WOOD TV8, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, The Employers’ Association, AT&T Michigan, Davenport University, DTE Energy, Spectrum Health, Corporate Express, Chrysler LLC, McGraw Wentworth, The Rehmann Group and Progressive AE.

  • Michigan 50 Companies to Watch recognizes firms with six to 99 full-time employees and $750,000 to $50 million in annual revenue — so-called second-stage businesses — which are eligible for the competition if they are privately held and headquartered in the state.

The winners were chosen by the Michigan Certified Development Corp., Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center, Small Business Association of Michigan, Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the Edward Lowe Foundation, a Cassopolis-based nonprofit that supports entrepreneurship.

Winners from West Michigan include D&D Logistics in Muskegon Heights; Pro Services Inc. in Portage; Decc Co. Inc. in Grand Rapids; and Kalamazoo-based Workforce Strategies Inc.

  • Now is the time to nominate someone for the 2008 ATHENA Award or ATHENA Young Professional Award. All nominations must be received by June 1, 2008.

Contact the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce for a nomination form at events@grandrapids.org.

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