Sacramento County To Launch Program To Help Small Business Employees Purchase Health Insurance
Sacramento County on Friday will launch a two-year program that uses tobacco settlement funds to subsidize health insurance premiums for small business employees, the Sacramento Bee reports (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 10/30). The program, called SacAdvantage, will target low-income individuals employed at businesses in the county that have between two and 50 employees and have not offered employer-sponsored health coverage for at least one year. Under the program, small business employees who have annual incomes less than 300% of the federal poverty level -- about $53,000 for a family of four -- and do not qualify for other public or private health coverage could receive a subsidy based on their incomes (California Healthline, 5/7). Subsidy amounts will be based on an employee's earnings relative to the federal poverty level. The program will pay a set percentage of the premium for the least expensive plan offered, and workers will have the option of paying more out of pocket for plans with additional benefits or a wider network of doctors and hospitals. The program will pay 40% to 65% of the premium, the Bee reports (Sacramento Bee, 10/30). The program, expected to cost about $1 million, will be limited to 500 small business employees and their dependents. County officials predict that many individuals who apply for SacAdvantage also might qualify for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families (California Healthline, 5/7).
To keep the program running after the initial $1 million in tobacco funds is exhausted, county officials intend to make the program a not-for-profit organization and solicit funding from the state and federal governments, as well as private foundations. SacAdvantage is the first program in the state to use public funds to subsidize health benefits at private firms. Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, said, "If it works, it will be attractive to other counties and other states" (Sacramento Bee, 10/30). The Healthcare Leadership Council extended its "Honor Roll for Coverage Award" to the program today. The award recognizes "exemplary community programs that provide access to health coverage for uninsured Americans" (Healthcare Leadership Council release, 10/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.