On June 25, 2012, the Massachusetts Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives implemented the Chamber Health Co-op for small businesses to help reduce the costs of health care. The Chamber Health Co-op creates a group-purchasing program for small businesses with 1 to 50 employees, with the participating insurance providers offering substantial discounts. Small businesses that are members of more than 60 Chambers of Commerce and other associations are eligible to enroll in the Co-op. The Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber is the first Chamber of Commerce to offer the Health Co-op to its members.
Fallon Community Health Plan, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and Health New England are the participating health care providers in the Health Co-op. Fallon Community and Harvard Pilgrim service primarily businesses located in Eastern and Central Massachusetts, both offering 3% discounts off a company’s premium. Fallon offers 12 different plans to meet the needs of businesses, their employees, and families. The Co-op membership fee through Fallon is $5 per month per single subscriber, $10 per month per couple, $9 per month per single plus child, or $15 per month per family. Harvard Pilgrim offers 11 different health care plans and charges a flat rate of $20 per month as a Co-op membership fee.
The Co-op also assists individuals and families in leading healthy lives through wellness programs that can potentially bring premiums down further. Wellness programs offer policy holders personal health coaches to manage exercise and nutrition. The programs also integrate biometric screenings to measure blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, blood glucose, among other factors. These screenings can be used to raise health awareness and identify employees that might need additional aid from a health coach, ultimately reducing the cost of healthcare to the employer.
Small businesses make up a 99% of all the enterprises in the country and employ 52% of all US workers. While this statistic accounts for businesses with 51-500 employees as well, ensuring the vitality of these small businesses keeps millions of Americans employed while providing them with adequate health care. Any small business with a maximum of 50 employees that work 30 or more hours per week can enroll in the Health Co-op. Rising health care costs, in the face of a sluggish economic recovery, can significantly impede the growth and development of the state’s small businesses. Reducing the cost of health care is simply one means of allowing small businesses to flourish.