Santa Clara Co. unveils health care plan

March 1, 2010 6:34:37 PM PST
A public-private partnership in Santa Clara County is rolling out a new low-cost health plan for small businesses.

Called "Healthy Workers," the program is designed to help companies with two to 50 employees provide coverage for $150 per employee per month, while employees contribute $75 per month. The hope is to have fewer people go to emergency rooms when they are sick and do not have health coverage. The program's administrators say those premiums are about half the cost of comparable plans.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss says while Congress and the White House have so far failed to produce a comprehensive program, she calls this "real health reform." She hopes to see its model replicated across the country.

There will be an initial cap of 1,000 participants as the programs starts. Only companies that do not provide health care coverage currently are eligible. Employees must live in Santa Clara County, work at least 20 hours per week and earn less than $18 an hour. In addition, half of all company employees must agree to participate in the plan and one-third of the company's workers must be earning less than $18 an hour.

Health care will be provided by Valley Medical Center, community clinics and a network of private providers.

Bob Brownstein, policy and research director of Works Partnerships USA, says a health work force will improve productivity and reduce financial pressure on employees who may run out of sick days as they cope with illness without benefit of a health plan.

The Health Workers plan benefits call for a $10 co-pay for doctor visits, a $750 annual maximum out-of-pocket, and a $5 payment for a 90-day supply of generic prescriptions ($15 for brand name prescriptions). There is no restriction for age or for pre-existing conditions.

Employers can obtain for information from Healthy Workers at 408-410-0811.