Health plan grabs businesses’ attention, Answer to soaring health insurance premiums

By Liv Osby, The Greenville News

Published August 11, 2006

Small businesses in Greenville are already calling about a new plan that teams them up with community health centers to provide primary care for their employees at a discount.

Faced with soaring health insurance premiums, many small businesses can’t afford coverage for their employees. The new plan offers an alternative for primary care, although hospitalization and specialists aren’t included, said Frank Knapp Jr., president of the state’s Small Business Chamber.

In a pilot project, Mid-Carolina Steel and Recycling of Columbia enrolled 25 of its 50 employees in the plan. The company pays the cost of doctor visits and lab work after a $10 employee co-pay, up to a maximum amount. And since last September, five employees have used the health center services, at a cost to the company of $1,700, Knapp said. By comparison, family coverage costs about $1,500 a month per employee through the company, a price not everyone can afford.

Knapp said three companies expressed interest in the plan after reading about it Thursday in The Greenville News.

“Two of them didn’t have any health coverage, and the other party had a very high deductible plan, and they were all looking for alternatives,” he said. “They were very much interested in finding out more about it, and we’ll be hooking them up with New Horizon Family Health Services.”

Around the state, there are 19 community health centers with 134 locations that could participate in such a plan, Knapp said.

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