Monday, March 28, 2005

The Uninsured: An Interesting (Partial) Solution…

“Beating government to the punch in thinning the ranks of the uninsured, a coalition of 60 large companies plans to offer voluntary health benefits to workers ineligible for employer-based coverage.”
One of our industry journals, in a recent article (click here to read the whole thing), explores how a group of large employers is addressing one of the key demographics of the uninsured: workers who are ineligible for “regular group” coverage because they’re part-time, or seasonal, or even temporary (think Christmas in retail). This group also includes 1099 (contract) workers, as well. It’s estimated that there are some 3 million folks who would fall into this category, representing a pretty decent chunk of the uninsured.
What’s most interesting about this plan is that the product has actually been designed to appeal to folks in this group. Instead of the typical insurance company method of just throwing in benefit after benefit, driving up the cost, and then heavily underwriting the final product, thus effectively rendering it either unaffordable or unattainable by those for whom it was designed, this group actually thought it through.
For example, there would be six different plan configurations available, including a catastrophic, “safety net” design with a high deductible. The first four levels of benefit would be guaranteed issue, which would make it attractive to those who want the least hassle in buying coverage, as well as those with current medical problems. The article doesn’t mention how, or even if, pre-existing conditions would be covered, but one presumes that this has been considered, and resolved.
Another factor is that the plan will (at least initially) be available only through companies with at least 5,000 employees. But, if the idea takes root, I don’t see why this couldn’t be expanded.
And there’s also this: synergy. If (when) this idea takes off, then why couldn’t smaller groups -- Chambers of Commerce, for example -- offer similar plans? Employer purchasing alliances are being talked up; what’s hardly ever mentioned is what product they would offer. This idea seems to answer that question.
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