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Ignorance is not Bliss

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There are options for businesses to provide affordable insurance

When is ignorance not bliss? When it concerns your health and health insurance!

Too many people are unaware of the many possibilities for insurance coverage available in Idaho for people of all ages and health conditions.  

Employers have the potential to make the greatest impact on the uninsured. There are many ways to do this without burdening the business. Sometimes it is a matter of reallocating expenses already incurred on benefits such as sick leave.

What if a business could offer a benefit that improved productivity, reduced absenteeism, reduced turnover, and attracted and retained the best employees in addition to reducing their worker’s compensation insurance costs and their tax liabilities? Who would turn this down? Yet many businesses don’t offer health insurance to their employees because they think it would be too expensive.

When Bill Clinton was elected as President and Hillary-Care loomed on the horizon, the Idaho legislature recognized the public’s desire for affordable health care and created individual and small group (under 50 employees) health reforms within a year.

 Progressive features of Idaho Health Reform included: the formation of a high risk pool for individuals who would have otherwise been declined for coverage; allowing group status (and therefore less expensive coverage) for as few as two employees; disallowing group coverage to decline anyone; requiring all group plan enrollees to be eligible for preferred coverage – including their dependents; and pre-existing conditions would only have a six month look back period.

In the spring of 2003, the Idaho Legislature passed House Bill 376. This bill directed the Department of Health and Welfare to design and implement programs to improve the health of Idahoans by decreasing the number of uninsured Idaho citizens.

The

Department of Health and Welfare implemented the Access to Health Insurance program in 2005.

The target is to reach uninsured children and adults living in families whose income is at or below 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. As an example, that could be as little as $1,603 for a single person household, up to $3,268 for a four-person household. This is gross income, and child support is excluded from the income amount. Sadly, there are a fair number of families that meet this threshold.

The state of Idaho offers two premium assistance programs to support the purchase of private health insurance: Access to Health Insurance and the Access Card. This article will focus on Access to Health Insurance. This is a premium assistance program that makes health insurance more affordable for employees of qualified small businesses, those employing anywhere from 2 to 50 employees. There is an annual application review.

Employers must meet the following guidelines to participate in this program:

Operate an Idaho small business (2-50 employees)

Currently not offer health insurance

Be willing to pay at least 50 percent of the employee’s premium

Have at least one employee who meets the income guidelines for premium assistance

It provides premium assistance of up to $100 per month per person to qualified employees, their spouses, and their minor children, with a maximum premium assistance of $500 per month, per family. This subsidy is not limited to annual enrollment. It can include future employees who qualify.

AHI is good for employees and good for business! Access to Health Insurance is not a health insurance plan; it is a way to help pay for health insurance. In addition to the cost sharing it offers the freedom to choose insurers and type of coverage – everything from basic, to limited, to comprehensive health plans.

To learn more about this program and to determine if you qualify, call your insurance agent today. You can also learn more by visiting the Idaho Health and Welfare website online at www.healthandwelfare.idaho.gov, or call their family Medicaid unit toll free at 866-326-2485.

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Author info

Angela Oakes Angela Oakes Angela Potts-Bopp is the owner of Summit Insurance Resource Group in Sandpoint, Idaho. A former professional ice skater, her passions are providing insurance for the uninsured, creating bike paths throughout town, and running marathons.

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