Benefits Program for Part-Time Workers Off to Slow Start
Although a coalition of 60 large companies last year announced the National Health Access program -- a plan to offer affordable health coverage to their part-time workers, who generally are ineligible for employer-based health benefits -- only 10 of the companies are actually participating so far, the Wall Street Journal reports (Fuhrmans, Wall Street Journal, 2/8).
Through the effort, the employers will use their collective bargaining power to negotiate low-cost health plans for about three million uninsured part-time and temporary workers, contractors, consultants and early retirees. Employers will not subsidize the coverage (American Health Line, 1/27).
The packages offered under the program vary from allowing workers access to discounts on physician services to a high-deductible major medical insurance plan, and the Journal reports that several of the options "are essentially bundled health care services rather than insurance." Major medical plans are not available to employees unless they have enrolled in another, less-extensive plan for one year.
Monthly premiums for major medical plans range from $70 to $390, while access to discounts costs $5 and workers pay $59 a month for the bundled health services.
There was an initial pool of 909,000 eligible employees from the 10 participating companies, including -- including General Electric, IBM, Sears, Roebuck and Avon Products.
Employers determined that 85% of the initially eligible workers had health coverage elsewhere, leaving a pool of about 133,000 workers who were uninsured. Of that pool, 5,726 employees with their dependents have enrolled; 4,000 of those work for Avon, the Journal reports.
There is a high rate of participation among men ages 55 to 64, and the participating companies are not yet able to say how the risk pool is balanced, according to the Journal. Six more companies plan to enroll this summer, but it is unclear why the remainder of the 60 companies have not signed up.
The health packages offered "apparently are not attractive to many workers," according to the Journal. Some companies said they might need to re-evaluate their products, while others said there could have been better marketing to promote the program, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 2/8).