Greer employers eager to see more affordable care options

By Nan Lundeen, Greenville News

Published October 7, 2006

GREER — Next to a paycheck, health care is the most important job benefit employees look for, business leaders say.

“If I don’t provide any type of health insurance, then a lot of prospective employees will not look at me as an alternative,” said Ben Waldrop, co-owner of Greer-based Century Printing & Packaging Inc.

Affordable health care is the No. 1 concern of Greer area small business owners, according to John Kimbrell, president and CEO of the Greater Greer Chamber of Commerce.

Kimbrell said 85 percent of the chamber’s 565 members are small businesses.

The South Carolina Small Business Chamber launched an initiative to interest businesses in buying custom-made health-care plans from private, nonprofit community health-care agencies. The plans aren’t insurance.

Frank Knapp, the small business chamber’s president, estimated 60 percent of the state’s 96,000 businesses of fewer than 100 employees don’t offer health insurance.

New Horizon Family Health Services Inc., which has facilities in Greer, offers “an affordable health service plan that provides preventive and primary care services,” according to the firm’s literature.

The plans don’t cover hospitalization or specialists, according to Knapp. Plans vary, but, for instance, a company might agree to cover doctor visits and lab work at a fee agreed upon with the health facility, and the employee might be responsible for a co-pay.

Kimbrell said, “We endorse it as a viable option for some businesses in regards to health care.”

Nineteen community health centers at 134 sites are located in the state, according to Knapp.

Waldrop said his firm’s health insurance costs had been rising by double digits, and the firm decided it needed a “radical change.”

Century Printing opted to provide a high-deductible health insurance policy for its 15 employees and also to contribute to a pre-tax health savings plan employees can use to pay their deductible or non-covered items.

Tarra Godfrey, part owner of Chelsea’s Ladies Apparel & Accessories, said health coverage “hasn’t become an issue so far.” She said her employees are covered by their husbands’ policies, but she supports helping small businesses find options.

The Greer Chamber’s Board of Directors supports the formation of an Upstate blue-ribbon panel to determine opportunities to deal with small business health insurance costs legislatively, according to chamber spokesman Lynn Pascazio.

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