Chamber hopes to add health care alternatives

by Peter Hull, The Island Packet

January 21, 2005

The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce is inviting small businesses interested in securing affordable health care for their workers to a meeting in Bluffton next month.
The chamber is partnering with the South Carolina Primary Health Care Association to develop an employee health care program for small businesses without traditional group health insurance.

The meeting will be held at noon Feb. 1 to provide information to businesses with 100 or fewer employees that want to learn more about the plan. The meetings are free and include lunch, but businesses must register with the chamber to obtain venue information.
“We’re looking for small businesses that are interested in affordable health care that don’t offer health insurance,” Knapp said.

The program — affordable health care, not health insurance — will team a small business with a primary health care provider for medical services that would be available to the business’s employees at that health care provider only.

While services vary from one health center to another — from obstetrics to dental care to discounted prescription drugs — a business and the health center will negotiate a package of health care services, and how they are paid for, based on the needs of the business and what the center is able to provide.

Under the pilot program, businesses will negotiate with one health care provider in each of the six counties participating in the program: Beaufort, Darlington, Greenville, Greenwood, Horry and Sumter. After the meeting in Bluffton, interested companies will attend private meetings with health care providers, coordinated by the chamber, to formulate a specific plan.

As the program grows, and more providers are added, businesses may be able to negotiate with multiple providers to address more of their health care needs, Knapp said. The goal is to enable small businesses that can’t afford health insurance to provide primary health care to their employees at a cost that’s less than health insurance, he said.

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