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Missouri chamber introduces health insurance program

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The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry teamed up with St. Louis-based Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield to introduce a new, self-funded health insurance option for small businesses across the state.

Eligible businesses may only have between two and 50 employees and must reside in Anthem’s service area. It covers 84 out of 114 counties in Missouri, including Greene County, said chamber Chief Operating Officer Brendan Cossette.

“It’s for any employer who’s a member of ours, the Missouri chamber, or of one of our chamber federations, which, as of my last count, there were 113,” Cossette said. “Our whole thing is, we talked to our members and we heard over and over, ‘God, our health insurance costs are killing us.’”

Cossette said the chamber worked through 18 months of research and planning before the option for small businesses went live on Nov. 1. The self-funded health care option, according to the chamber’s website, is called a multiple employer welfare arrangement, or MEWA. It allows small businesses to band together to share in an overall claims risk.

“It has the ability for a lot of employers to provide rates that are lower than the traditional health insurance plans right now under the Affordable Care Act,” Cossette said, adding the program offers a variety of plan designs, including 10 preferred provider organization plans and three health savings account options through both Mercy and CoxHealth.

The chamber’s new plan is modeled after the Southern Ohio Chamber Alliance’s health insurance program, which went live in May 2016. Today, the alliance has 785 businesses with 6,800 employees enrolled, the organization’s executive director, Matt Appenzeller, told Springfield Business Journal.

Roughly 20 businesses showed interest at the start of the Missouri chamber’s program.

“We’ve been rapidly adding folks since,” Cossette said. “I have yet to get the first census, though. Things are still trying to cycle through since this is so new.”

Cossette said he’s optimistic the program offers a positive alternative to “unbelievable insurance increases and rates.”

“Two years ago, (the Missouri chamber’s) health insurance costs increased 29 percent, and then last year they went up another 35 percent. This year they were going to go up another 35 percent, so in three years that’s a hundred percent increase,” Cossette said. “We joined the MEWA, of course, and it has lowered our rates 11 percent.”

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