Funding Questions Loom for Sacramento County Insurance Pool
Employer membership in SacAdvantage, a subsidized health insurance program for small businesses in Sacramento County, has more than doubled since 2006, less than 18 months after a similar statewide program for small employers shut down, the Sacramento Business Journal reports (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 5/5).
Pacific Health Advantage ended its statewide health insurance purchasing pool for small businesses, explaining that too many insurers had withdrawn from the program.
PacAdvantage was created by the state in 1992 as the Health Insurance Plan for California and was taken over in 1998 by Pacific Business Group. The independent, not-for-profit purchasing pool was intended to make a variety of health insurance plans more available and affordable for businesses with between two and 50 employees.
About 116,000 Californians had coverage through health plans purchased through the pool when it ended operations (California Healthline, 8/14/06).
In October 2002, SacAdvantage began as a two-year pilot program, financed through $2 million in a tobacco settlement, to help small businesses in low-wage industries provide health coverage for its employees.
A $695,000 federal grant in 2003 also boosted the program's funding.
Western Health Advantage -- a Sacramento-based HMO that also had participated in PacAdvantage -- became the sole HMO carrier for SacAdvantage in Jan. 2007.
Garry Maisel, CEO of WHA, said the HMO offered two plans through SacAdvantage at a rate of 5% to 10% less than what it normally charges.
Keith Andrews, county division chief for primary health services, said the county fund will be out of money at the end of FY 2008. The county fund covers half of the premium costs of the small businesses.
After the current fiscal year, funding will be up to the county Board of Supervisors and independent sources.
Premium costs for the program are about $2 million annually (Sacramento Business Journal, 5/5).