Lathran Woodard (Executive Director of the SC Primary Health Care Association) and I made a presentation at the Northwest Regional Primary Care Association yesterday in Seattle. We were asked to talk about an innovative partnership our two organizations had formed 6 years ago to help small businesses find affordable healthcare (not health insurance) for their employees.
Essentially, community health centers (Federally Qualified Health Centers) provide excellent primary healthcare at affordable prices (primarily due to federal subsidies) and small businesses have uninsured workers who need good access to healthcare. Matching small businesses with community health centers isn’t insurance and it does not cover hospital or specialist costs, but it does address about 80% of the healthcare needs of the workers.
Lathran and I told the session attendees of our successful pilot project started in 2005 between Midlands Steel and Recycling in Columbia and the Eau Claire and Richland Community Health Centers.
Today that business-to-business effort is still going strong. The workers have access to quality healthcare paid for by employer after a $10 co-pay, the employer is pleased at the low-cost and worker satisfaction and the healthcare centers appreciate the paying clients. It’s a win-win-win for Midlands Steel, the employees and the health centers. Other South Carolina businesses (but not enough) have entered into the same agreements with their community health centers.
The question iswill this kind of creative approach be necessary or even allowed in 2014 when all citizens will be required to have health insurance (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t find the individual mandate to be unconstitutional)?
I think that some variation of this approach can still work. The country’s community health centers will be needed more than ever come 2014 because of the need for more primary care physicians especially in rural areas. These centers will still offer more affordable services and this time it can be the health insurance companies that can lower premiums by tapping into this network of providers.
Let’s see, that would make it a win-win-win-win. 
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