Small-Business Health Care: City, organizations and insurers to the rescue

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Small-business owners too often make too much money to qualify for state-sponsored health-care programs, or too little to pay the high cost of private insurance plans.

The U.S. Small Business Admin-istration puts the number of small businesses in New York state in 2007 at 1,925,100. Employees of such businesses comprised the bulk of the 1,193,900 uninsured adults aged 19 to 64 in New York City that the state?s Department of Health identified in 2006. So dismal are affordable health insurance prospects for New York City small businesses that local business organizations, the city government and at least one insurance company have come to the rescue. Below are some of their programs:

Aetna Inc. In December, this national insurer launched a ?NYC Community Plan? for small businesses whose employees live or work in the five boroughs of New York City and access health care within those boroughs. ?We knew that if we?re going to focus on New York City, we had to take into account the cultural and linguistic diversity of the city and offer the right product at the right price,? says Miguel Centeno, Aetna?s vice president for strategic market development in the Northeast.

Members of the NYC Community Plan have access to a culturally diverse network of 14,300 providers and four plan options, ranging from basic medical coverage with monthly rates of $260 for singles and $762 for families to a more comprehensive package with monthly rates of $305 for singles and $894 for families. For more information, call 888-277-1053, or go to www.aetnaNYCplan.com.

Brooklyn HealthWorks. Joining a local business or trade association that offers affordable health-care coverage as a member benefit is one way to offset high health-care premiums. In 2004, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce created Brooklyn HealthWorks for member and nonmember small-business owners. ?It has made it easier for businesses in Brooklyn to attract and retain key employees,? says Dean Mohs, the plan?s executive director.

The plan, for which the chamber partnered with New York State?s Department of Insurance and Group Health Inc., has evolved into Brooklyn HealthWorks Total and Brooklyn HealthWorks Max to enable plan members to access GHI?s network of 72,000 physicians throughout New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Rates begin at $234 a month for individuals and $691 a month for families.

The plan also offers coverage for part-time and independent contractors. For further information, contact 718-596-4550, ext. 5, or visit www.brooklynhealthworks.com.

Atlantis Health Plan. Formed in 1995 by 12 New York physicians who practice in New York City?s five boroughs, Atlantis Health Plan puts into practice the idea of doctors taking control of how medical care is administered to their patients. ?Atlantis? is the only physician-owned and managed health plan in the metropolitan area,? says Jennifer E. Brady, Atlantis? corporate communications manager.

Plan members receive care at any of five Atlantis Medical Group facilities (one in each borough) that handle routine visits, lab work and essential tests. The plan offers point-of-service (POS) and HMO options, with rates of $276.15 per month for singles and $880.62 for families. For more information, contact 212-747-8280, or visit www.atlantishp.com.

Office of Citywide Health In-surance Access (OCHIA). Estab-lished during the administration of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, OCHIA remains a darling of the current administration. Mayor Michael Bloomberg?s goal is to increase the number of insured New Yorkers to 100,000 by the end of his second term in 2009. ?We?re making substantial progress toward that goal,? says Melissa Seeley, OCHIA?s director of private health insurance initiatives.

Placed under the jurisdiction of the city?s Human Resources Administration in 2006, OCHIA lists six programs that include a mix of public health insurance plans (Healthy New York), private plans for business owners (HealthPass) and plans for solo practitioners (Freelancers Union). For general information on these programs, download the brochure ?A Guide to Health Insurance Options for New York City?s Small Businesses and Working Individuals,? at www.nyc.gov/healthstat, or call 212-331-4247.