Benefit package aims to help the uninsured

Filed under: Health Care |

The working uninsured in El Paso County have a new option in the fight against escalating health care premiums and a lack of access to medical care.

The Healthy Workforce program is a collaborative effort between Peak Vista Community Health Centers and Provision Plus, a private administrator of employee benefits, allowing the uninsured or under-insured access to primary health care.

Nationally, health insurance premiums averaged $10,880 annually, or $907 per month, for family coverage in 2005, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research Educational Trust. Rising costs are cited as one of the contributing factors to the 20 million Americans who do not have health coverage.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in six states, at least one in five working adults is uninsured. In 38 states, at least one working adult in every 10 is uninsured.

In Colorado, there are more than 300,000 working uninsured – an estimated 100,000 live and work in El Paso County.

In 2002, Peak Vista incorporated a healthy work force model as part of its community outreach mission, said Lynn Pelz, director of external relations. However, there wasn’t enough time or staff to market the program.

Gary Smith and Larry Hargrave, owners of Provision Plus, have taken over the marketing effort and are offering the Healthy Workforce program to employers as part of a benefit program called Empowerpack.

Healthy Workforce is a primary care alternative for employees and their families. Peak Vista will become what Smith referred to as the employee’s “medical home.” Being able to access primary care could mitigate the factors that contribute to rising health costs, such as the misuse of hospital emergency rooms, Smith said.

Any employee can access the Healthy Workforce program if their employer participates. There is no cost to the employer, and member employees pay only a $15 registration fee and a $25 per-month membership cost ($20 for additional members). Participants have unlimited access to primary care for a $20 per visit co-pay.

Members also are connected to a community discount prescription drug program and other benefits. Low-income workers will be screened for eligibility to government programs. The program doesn’t cover catastrophic care.

“People no longer fear the system when they become a part of it,” Smith said. “It’s a sustainable program – the key to finding solutions to the health care problem.”

Smith and Hargrave would like the Healthy Workforce benefit to become part of the global solution to the nation’s health care woes.

But health care issues are just the tip of the iceberg for some employees, Smith said. The Healthy Workforce package addresses a variety of employee issues.

Empowerpack is modeled after America’s Family, the brainchild of Steve Bigari, owner of several Springs-based McDonald’s franchises and Mr. Biggs Family Fun Center. America’s Family addresses a variety of employee needs, from health care to rent to transportation.

Bigari hired Hargrave to build the America’s Family model. Hargrave connected with Smith and the two formed a benefit package based on Bigari’s concept.

Paying attention to the needs of employees benefits employers, Hargrave said.

Under the America’s Family program, Bigari’s profit levels increased by 11 percent and employee turnover declined from 400 percent to 50 percent, Hargrave said.

“His ability to compete was stronger … he created awareness on the part of his management team and built a loyal work force,” Hargrave said.

Half the fees negotiated with vendors are placed in an escrow account, Smith said. Employees or nonprofit organizations benefit from that account. Peak Vista will get $1 for each employer brought into the Empowerpack program.

“It’s about using the power of everyday commerce,” Smith said. “Using money to sustain programs … building community wealth.”

Wellness, alternative medicine

On Nov. 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce will present a seminar about alternative medicine.

Non-traditional medicine is becoming more popular as people begin focusing on prevention. Learn how alternative medicine can apply to you.

Dr. Joel Klein, the feature speaker, will address “Holistic Medicine, Applying it to Modern Times.”

Nutrition, exercise, ergonomics and cardiac care will be covered by experts in their particular fields, and a panel, which includes a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a doctor of naturopathic medicine and a Yoga instructor, will round out the event.

The seminar includes a healthy luncheon and takes place at the Sheraton Hotel at South Circle and Interstate 25.

The cost is $25 for chamber members and $35 for non-members. To register, call 575-4312.

Newborn Hope luncheon

The feature family at this year’s Newborn Hope luncheon is Matt and April Langenbahn and their 4-year-old son and 1 1/2-year-old quadruplets. The organization supports the advancement of maternal, fetal and neonatal health care.

The event takes place at the Broadmoor Hotel International Center on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8, starting at 11 a.m. both days. The cost is $65 per person and includes a luncheon and fashion show.

Call 439-1034 to reserve a spot.

For more information, call Nancy Ruppert or Kristen Porter at 579-8785.

Marylou Doehrman covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.