Help For Uninsured Workers

    6:27 PM, Mar 7, 2006   |    comments
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    2006 Poverty Guidelines

    Persons in family unit guideline:

    1.......... $9,800

    *For family units with more than 8 persons, add $3,400 for each
    additional person.

    Source: Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Secretary

    Related Links
  • DHHS Poverty Guidelines
  • They're calling it a safety net for workers who don't have health insurance. The governor announced Tuesday morning a one-of-a-kind health insurance program that will target small businesses that can't afford to offer health coverage. The program will enable 80,000 low-income, uninsured Arkansans to get health coverage through their employers. Businesses would have to contribute $15.00 a month for lowest income workers and $100 a month for higher-paid staff. At a news conference Tuesday morning, the Gov. Mike Huckabee called it the culmination of five years of hard work. He says no other state has anything like this. Huckabee says, "There are a lot of people who are literally one broken arm away from losing a job, and losing the ability to pay the rent." But what exactly does this means for Arkansas workers? Imagine working very hard at a low to medium level paying job and not getting health insurance from it. This new program will help your boss get you some coverage. At David Family Kitchen, the main order of business is serving the best fried chicken and peach cobbler possible. But behind most workers is a personal story that doesn't include health insurance. Owner Pearletha David describes the struggle to insure her staff, "One time, we had a health plan, for three years; and one of the employees got sick and had surgery and the insurance wouldn’t pay off." So, David was forced to cancel the plan, and like 26 percent of small businesses in the state, operates without health insurance. David says, "We would love to have health benefits, but at a reasonable rate." David gets plenty of visits from insurance agents trying to sell her a package, but it's never in her price range. David says, "They talk to me all this stuff on the phone and once they get here and start showing me figures, it just doesn’t add up, so we didn’t have any." At the state Capitol the governor says, "Today, we're very proud to announce the Arkansas Safety Net Benefit Waiver." At the announcement Tuesday morning, Huckabee was flanked by those who've worked five years to put this together; some who spent time with business owners. Dr. Joe Thompson, the director of the Arkansas Center for Healthcare Improvement, says, "We found farmers that were paying for the tank of gas and the hospital bill when their worker went to the hospital out of pocket because they couldn’t' afford the insurance products on the market for the small business perspective." David is anxious to enroll in the new plan—anything to make her workers, who are also her family members, happier. David says, "It could even be if it came out of, the employees pay their own benefit, but right now they can't afford it. And I can't afford to pay it for them." Implementing the program is still a ways off. Enrollment is expected to begin in 2007. This is available to both full-time and part-time workers. The program is based on legislation passed by Arkansas lawmakers last year that said the state would help pay for the benefits with proceeds from a court settlement with tobacco manufacturers.

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