Riverside Health System is making $1 million in funding available to create incentives for small businesses in eastern Virginia to begin offering health insurance to their employees.
One million Virginians — 15 percent of the state's population — don't have health insurance. Two-thirds of uninsured Virginians are in working families; many are employed by small business that can’t afford to provide health insurance. Over the past year, Riverside has been seeking innovative solutions to decrease this number.
“Paying for health insurance is particularly difficult for small businesses that often employ lower income workers,” said Marilyn B. Tavenner, state Secretary of Health and Human Services. “That’s why Governor Kaine tasked his Health Reform Commission with providing recommendations to cover more Virginians.”
The 2007 Governor’s Health Reform Commission Final Report highlights the need to make insurance more affordable for low income workers, defined as those earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. It suggested a “Three-Sharing Financing Model,” in which employers, employees and the Commonwealth each contribute toward monthly health insurance premiums.
A pilot program was proposed in the Governor’s budget, but stalled in the General Assembly. When the Riverside Foundation found out the concept was stalling, it came forward with funding.
The pilot program, scheduled to begin this fall, is designed to provide premium assistance to low-income, uninsured workers employed by businesses of two to 50 employees. The program will target people at 200 percent of the poverty level or less who work for businesses that do not offer health insurance and have not offered it in the last six months.
Tavenner had hoped to reach 1,500 to 2,000 people and evaluate the program after two years.
"We are really excited that Riverside has stepped in and established this demonstration," she said.
Rick Pearce, president of the Riverside Health System offered this viewpoint from the nonprofit health care organization:
"We have developed a voluntary, market-based solution that does not cost the Commonwealth anything. The idea is to make available to those employees of small businesses earning less than the federal poverty level the same benefits as those who are fortunate to have health insurance," Pearce said.
"There are huge gaps with access to health care provided to different people, and the uninsured are often forgotten. We should be trying different approaches. I think it's very clear there are problems with what we're doing today and that there are opportunities to evaluate other solutions. I think the status quo is becoming less acceptable to more and more people," Pearce said.
Pearce added the hope that this project will demonstrate to the state that they should partner with businesses in the future to expand this program.
In an effort to develop unique solutions, the Riverside Health System Foundation will provide $1 million over two years to the program to be called Riverside Share. Funding was set based on the Foundation paying 1/3 of the monthly premium for an average Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield HMO contract. Anthem will partner with Riverside to provide the insurance plans for Riverside Share participants.
Eligible companies include businesses with 2-50 employees in the Riverside service area, which includes the cities of, Gloucester, Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Suffolk, Tappahannock, Smithfield, West Point, Williamsburg, Yorktown and portions of Chesapeake and Suffolk, along with the counties of Essex, Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, King and Queen, King William, Lancaster, Mathews, Middlesex, New Kent, Northumberland, Richmond and Surry.
Eligible businesses must not have offered health insurance to employees in the last six months and 75 percent of eligible employees must enroll. For example, employees of those eligible businesses who have a household income of less than $42,400 a year (2008 FPL level, family of four) are eligible to apply for the incentive.
Employee Eligibility Guidelines
Your income for your family size must not exceed the following maximum household income to be considered eligible for the Riverside Share Program:
Size of Family
Business owners may learn more about the program and its eligibility criteria by calling the Anthem Small Group Information Line Toll Free at 1-800-248-4158 and referencing Riverside Share program or by contacting their Anthem broker.
Published: September 24, 2008