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Gallagher Creates New Committee to Explore Health Insurance Options for Florida’s Small Businesses


TALLAHASSEE - Florida Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher has assembled a 17-member task force - the Small Employer Benefit Plan Committee - to explore options and offer recommendations for making health plans available to small businesses more accessible and affordable. Gallagher cited concern for Florida's small employers struggling to pay for health insurance for their employees as the impetus for forming the committee.

"Florida's small businesses are facing double-digit increases in their health insurance premiums this year," Gallagher said. "I'm very concerned that employers will be forced to stop offering health insurance to their employees, leaving workers and their families with little or no options for coverage."

In 2000, health insurance premiums among Florida's small employers rose by an average of 16 percent. That number increased to 24 percent in 2001. For companies with fewer than 50 employees, health insurance costs are expected to rise an average of 30 percent this year. Self-employed individuals may encounter premium increases of more than 50 percent.

There are nearly 1.2 million Floridians who are covered in the small group health insurance market, which represents groups of 1 to 50.

Florida's small group law was established in 1992 by the state Legislature. Gallagher said that a full-scale review of the standard and basic health plans offered in the small group market had not been done since 1993. Florida law authorizes the state's insurance commissioner to form a new health benefit plan committee when changes are needed and appropriate.

"I expect the committee to pursue remedies which make health insurance plans offered to small groups more flexible, affordable and accessible," Gallagher said.

Gallagher's appointments to the Small Employer Benefit Plan Committee are as follows:

Kenney Shipley, Deputy Insurance Commissioner, Florida Dept. of Insurance (Co-Chair)

Randy Kammer, carrier, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida, Jacksonville (Co-Chair)

Joe Berding, carrier, Vista Health Plan

John Black, small employer, Meridian Consulting

Scott Fenstermaker, agent, Landrum-Yaeger Financial Services

Lane Green, small employer, Tall Timber Research Solution

John Hogan, carrier, Capital Health Plan

John Dwyer, carrier, United Healthcare

Sharon Jacobs, small employer and attorney

John Sinibaldi, agent, John Sinibaldi Insurance Inc.

Susan Tobin, small employer, Task Environmental, Inc.

Robert Watkins, small employer, Robert Watkins & Company (CPA)

Steve Wohlwend, carrier, Aetna

David Russell, agent, Rogers Benefit Group

Carolyn Pardue, small employer employee

Tamara Meyerson, carrier, Preferred Medical Plan

Glen Volk, actuarial consultant

The committee, comprised of representatives from small businesses, the insurance industry and the agent community, will meet through August 2002. The committee's first meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, June 6, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in Room 117 of the Knott Building.