City Councilman John Cranley has announced an ambitious health-care plan for the working poor.
The plan, which he wonâ€™t formally propose until after the Nov. 6 election, would use city funding to help provide health care for workers at a cheaper rate for both employees and business owners.
Cranleyâ€™s proposal â€” called â€śCincyCareâ€ť â€” would have premiums of approximately $1,500 per year per person, split into thirds among the city, an employer and an employee. That would cost approximately $10 per week for each employee, matched by the same amount for employers and the city.
CincyCare would provide unlimited access to Cincinnatiâ€™s six health care centers and insurance for an additional $25,000 of health care.
â€śThe studies show that $25,000 a year covers 98 percent of all health care claims,â€ť Cranley says. â€śBasically the model is that you have this huge gap of people between the ages 18-65 who are working and they donâ€™t have high-quality â€” or any â€” care. And what weâ€™re finding is that, by focusing on primary care and preventive care, we can focus on a lot of problems before they get serious, help a lot more people and actually deliver health care to people in a more effective way than what is currently out there.â€ť
The six health centers would be available at an 80 percent discount over the market rate under the plan, according to a packet prepared by Cranleyâ€™s office.
Additionally, participating employers would receive a $500 tax credit per subscription. Those credits must, however, be used â€śexclusively to contribute to the annual premium.â€ť
Taking $500 from the annual premium leaves roughly $1,000 to be split between employer and employee.
â€śAssuming a 50-50 split means that CincyCare is available to employers and employees at roughly $10 per week or $40 per month,â€ť Cranley says.
Cranley says the plan could give the city a competitive advantage in economic development over suburban jurisdictions.
â€śRight now (the city provides) health care to indigent people, and often times donâ€™t expect to get reimbursed,â€ť he says. â€śSo that care is there, regardless of whether we charge people for it. As a result, it occurred to me that we ought to be able to leverage the same capacity, charge something â€” but not nearly as much as the private market would charge â€” and then give businesses an incentive to locate in the city of Cincinnati because they would get this discount on health care for their workers.â€ť
That would also provide the health department access to a new source of revenue.
The lack of such a program has been costing those who do pay for insurance, because the cost of the unpaid care gets spread to others, according to Assistant Health Commissioner Hirsch Cohen.
â€śIf you donâ€™t provide health care as a community, the people who need it can end up in the emergency room at the cost of eight times what a primary care visit would cost,â€ť he says. â€śIf you give people a primary care home, they wonâ€™t end up going to the emergency room.â€ť
While itâ€™s unclear what kind of opposition the health plan will meet, last yearâ€™s budget standoff nearly ended in deep cuts for the health department.
Cranley says heâ€™ll only ask council if itâ€™s willing to commit to trying to create a program like CincyCare, then begin to find the savings elsewhere in the budget to provide the cityâ€™s share.
â€śWe will find the cuts before we ask for final approval,â€ť Cranley says.
Though the initiative has used at least four other programs from around the country for guidance, one expert said this version is distinct.
â€śThere are cities that have proposals, like Muskegon, Mich., based on similar formula or structure targeting low-wage workers,â€ť says Judith Warren, senior officer of Community Primary Care Health Foundation. â€śIn Hamilton, Health Share Select provides a benefit package for low wage workers but does not have contribution from city government.â€ť
Cranley also distinguished CincyCare from other plans.
â€śThe difference between San Francisco and Cincinnatiâ€™s plans is that San Francisco is adding mandatory tax for businesses for doing this. (CincyCare) does not.â€ť Â©