The purpose of the Virginia Healthy Small Business Initiative is to expand small business health coverage by market-testing a three-share health plan which will be supplemented by a wellness program for employees and their children, and promoted with a rigorous outreach and education strategy. This project will test the innovation of expanding small business health coverage by offering affordable health coverage products, emphasizing wellness, and explicitly demonstrating linkages between employee health, employee productivity, and business profitability.
The Virginia Healthy Small Business Initiative builds upon nearly two decades of incremental but forward-moving health care reform in Virginia that began in the 1990s. It also builds upon the recommendations from three major policy research and planning initiatives that began 2003: Virginia’s State Planning Grant, Virginia Commission on Small Business Health Insurance Costs, and the Governor’s Health Reform Commission. With the multi-year support of the State Planning Grant Program, Virginia undertook a statewide, collaborative effort to develop a plan for expanding health coverage for the working uninsured, culminating in recommendations to establish a three-share health insurance product for low-income workers called Virginia Share, and a Center for Health Coverage Education to help Virginia individuals and small businesses better understand health coverage.
These recommendations were consistent with the findings of the Virginia Commission on Small Business Health Insurance Costs (2004), and were further highlighted by the Governor’s Health Reform Commission (2007). Although Virginia has been unable to implement either option due to the subsequent severe downturn in state revenues, the private sector has stepped forward to keep both initiatives alive in a limited form. Virginia proposes to revitalize and substantially extend the work started through the Virginia State Planning Grant Program with an integrated strategy of health product innovation and small business outreach and education.
The anticipated accomplishments include:
The proposed plan is expected to have a substantial positive impact on providing access to affordable health care coverage to the proposed segment of the uninsured population because, if successful, it will create a paradigm shift among employers regarding the importance of employee health and health coverage. A transformation in the thinking of this hard to reach population is necessary in order to stem the tide of erosion of ESI that has taken place in the Commonwealth since 2001.