The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce will serve on a Health Insurance Policy Advisory Committee and will play a role in the data collection for a $1.1 million grant to the SC Department of Insurance. The formal announcement of this US Department of Health and Human Services grant, which will be used to analyze small group health insurance in South Carolina, was announced at a press conference yesterday. The Small Business Chamber assisted in the preparation of the grant application.
The Small Business Chamber first identified health insurance as a number one priority for small business in July of 2000 while holding small business forums around the state. Governor Hodges attended the first forum and heard about the problem first hand. Since then the Small Business Chamber has worked to educate state government and the public about the crisis in small group health insurance and to press for action.
Today there are only 27 companies offering small group health insurance in the state, a drop of 63% since 1997. However, two of these companies write over 50% of the small group business in South Carolina. As a result of lack of competition, the rising cost of health care and other important factors, health insurance affordability and availability is at a crisis level in the state.
Small businesses want to provide health insurance to their employees because it’s the right thing to do. They also need to provide these benefits to compete with big business for good employees. Unfortunately, today many small businesses simply cannot afford health coverage for their employees.
This 12-month project will include the development and formulation of a Health Insurance Policy Advisory Committee to work with the grant team on data analysis and policy formulation. The project also involves the examination of existing data and the collection of state-specific health insurance data through interviews, focus groups and surveys. The project will culminate in May of 2003 with a Health Insurance Forum and a Final Report that will be forwarded to the South Carolina General Assembly.
The Small Business Chamber is very proud to have played an important role in moving the issue of small group health insurance to the forefront of the state’s agenda. Plans are already underway to have significant legislation ready for January to promote more State House debate on the issue.