Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Meeker County pilots health care program for eligible area businesses
NOV. 15, 2010

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

MEEKER COUNTY, MN – Small businesses in Meeker County that currently do not offer affordable health care may now be eligible through a community-based health coverage program offered by PrimeWest Health.

PrimeWest Health, a county-based purchasing health plan serving 13 rural Minnesota counties including Meeker County, received federal grant dollars to help those under- and uninsured.

Through this funding, Values Health, a community-based health coverage program, is being offered for the first time to small businesses in Meeker County.

Values Health is a multi-shared program, which helps buy down the premiums, according to Matt Magnuson, PrimeWest Health’s member services manager, who spoke to Dassel Chamber of Commerce Tuesday about the program.

It is a comprehensive health plan that focuses on preventative health care in an effort to reduce uncompensated care and emergency room visits, according to Magnuson.

Since the program is currently only being offered in Meeker and Douglas counties, those insured through Values Health must use participating providers unless additional services are referred outside the county, Magnuson explained.

In Dassel, for example, the participating provider would be Meeker Memorial Clinic.

The plan is being offered on a first-come,-first-served basis for a five-year term, which can then be rolled over into the federal health program. It was noted that this criteria meets that of the federal health program and the grant was applied for prior to the passing of the reform bill.

Who does the plan benefit?

Values Health is being offered to Meeker County businesses (corporate office must be located in the county) having from one to 50 employees, that do not currently offer health coverage to their employees, or have offered coverage 12 months prior to the date of application. Average wages of the business applying must not exceed $18.22 an hour to qualify.

The employee must work at least 32 hours a week, must not be eligible for medical assistance or be enrolled in, MinnesotaCare or Medicare, and must not be enrolled in or have available health coverage (with the exception of catastrophic health care coverage).

From the small entrepreneur to the farming community, “it’s a pretty broad area of what type of business can participate,” said Suzanne Hedtke, executive director of the Meeker County Economic Development Authority, who sees this as an economic growth tool.

Businesses eligible for Values Health can now offer affordable health insurance “which, in turn, helps attract new employees to their business,” Hedtke said.

The preventative care aspect can also help a business’s bottom line by reducing loss of productivity due to illness, Hedtke explained.

At the county and city level, the Values Health program can also be a marketing tool for attracting new businesses to the area, she said.

Informational meeting Thursday

For those interested in learning more about the Values Health program offered through PrimeWest Health, there will be an informational meeting Thursday, Nov. 18 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the Dassel History Center, located on County Road 4, Dassel.

Also that day, there will be a meeting at Meeker Cooperative from 10:30 a.m. to noon and at the courthouse from 5:30 to 7 p.m.eld.

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