Small business health-care plan debuts

Published September 27, 2011 in The Greenville News

Health insurance is something Reggie Bell has wanted to offer employees at his commercial real estate business since opening three years ago, but the cost has been out of reach.

Now he’s eyeing a plan debuting this week that’s designed for small businesses that could lower premiums for employees who have to buy insurance on the individual market.

“The problem up to now was qualifying for group insurance with such a limited number of employees — and pricing,” Bell, a partner with Colonial Commercial in Greer, told

Nationally and in the Palmetto State, only four of 10 businesses with fewer than 50 employees offer health insurance because of the cost, the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce says.

South Carolina has 105,000 small businesses, defined as having two to 100 employees, said Chamber CEO Frank Knapp. But they typically can’t get the group rates that large employers do.

Beginning Oct. 1, they’ll have a more affordable option through the Chamber because of a partnership with Carolina Care Plan, he said. Called the Small Business Health Plan, it works by pooling small businesses together to buy coverage at lower rates.

“Small business owners are desperate to find more affordable health insurance,” Knapp said.

“For over a decade, health insurance costs were the number one concern of small businesses.”

Under the new plan, Colonial’s six employees would pay 75 percent of the premium with the company picking up the rest, Bell said.

And the plan offers richer benefits at 10 percent less than what they now pay for individual insurance, he said.

Employees are excited about the prospect, Bell said.

“Providing a health- care option to our employees will naturally increase overhead,” he said, “but this provides us with a cost-effective way to improve our employee benefit package and continue to compete for talent across the region.”

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