Letter to the Editor

Consortium offers health care

Sunday, June 17, 2007

To the editor:It was my pleasure to present at the health-care forum on June 7 that was sponsored by the Missouri Research Corp. and Providers Assuring Rehabilitation Efficacy.

I had the opportunity to discuss how 32 member manufacturers in the Southwest Area Manufacturers Association joined together to purchase health care and, for rating purposes, were viewed by the health insurance company as one large employer instead of 32 separate companies. All companies now have a common plan design and rating structure, and vulnerability to risks has been reduced by having a larger and more consistent risk pool. Six companies were able to access affordable health care for the first time. Together, they employed 68 workers, 34 of whom had no health coverage.

The success of the SAMA I Health Care Consortium, which was initially made possible by a 2-year waiver from the Missouri Department of Insurance, spurred the Missouri Legislature to pass House Bill 1827 unanimously in 2006 to allow associations throughout Missouri to form association health plans like SAMA's and give small employers the same options that were already available to employers with 26 employees or more.

Of approximately 700,000 uninsured people in Missouri, 80 percent of them are reported to be working. When more than 87 percent of all Missouri employers have fewer than 25 employees, it's easy to see the advantage for small employers. However, in the SAMA consortium, there were advantages for all participating employers, ranging in size from 3 to 500 employees.

RITA NEEDHAM, Springfield, Mo.