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How’s Business?: Health Coverage

Business can be pretty tough if you get sick, especially if you are the sole proprietor. And that leads us to the topic of health coverage for those going it alone.

Insurance premiums alone can make you sick, registering into the mid to high hundreds of dollars a month; however, a new state law has come to the rescue of the sole proprietor and present-day gallant entrepreneurs. Access to these lower health insurance premiums can be found via the various chambers of commerce and some business associations, too.

Recent New York legislation signed in September says that health insurers that offer plans of group coverage to companies with between two and 50 employees must now do so with a company with only one employee. This is great news for the one-man show.

There is one catch to the bill: Insurance carriers will be allowed a 20 percent markup on the premiums. And here lies the glue on this piece of flypaper.

Insurance carriers appear to be standing pat in a hold pattern to secure this additional 20 percent. At the same time, the additional premium request adjustment has become somewhat locked in the jaws of government bureaucracy.

And if that’s not enough, we then enter into cooperative difficulty with HMOs, which appear to lack enthusiasm for the program. And why? Because HMOs want an automatic 20 percent increase, while legislation requires justification.

And with these developments, everyone appears to be out to lunch, leaving the single proprietor in limbo. Checking further into this, I spoke with our very own Bill Egan of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, at 75-20 Astoria Blvd. in Jackson Heights. Egan said the chamber uses GHI and already offers sole proprietor coverage, he said.

The only carriers offering this type of coverage are GHI and HIP, with other insurers yet to come forward; however, GHI has the lowest premium around and is a good value, but a larger selection would be an excellent added feature, Egan said.

So how’s business for the sole proprietor who wants affordable health coverage? You’ll just have to hold off getting sick or injured until further notice. But if anyone is to survive this lapse in time, it will be the ever-enduring one-person company.

Joe Palumbo is the fund manager for The Palco Group, Inc. and can be reached at palcogroup@aol.com or 718-461-8317.

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