Speaker Quinn, Council Members, Chambers of Commerce Call for Expansion of Healthcare for Small Business

Proposal Would Provide Insurance to 4,500 New Yorkers

Queens, February 21, 2008 – City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, together with members of the City Council and the Queens and Brooklyn Chambers of Commerce, today called for the expansion of Brooklyn HealthWorks, a program that currently offers affordable health insurance to small businesses. Due to the success of Brooklyn HealthWorks, the Council is advocating for the program’s expansion into Queens and Manhattan, which would provide insurance to an additional 4,500 New Yorkers.

The expanded HealthWorks program will work with brokers to enroll small businesses in the program. Both Chambers of Commerce will also do outreach in each borough to advertise the plan. Small businesses in Queens and Manhattan with 2-50 employees will be eligible for enrollment in the program. Additionally, 30 percent of a participating business’s employees must earn no more than $36,500.

“Quality health care shouldn’t be an impossible dream for hard working New Yorkers,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “This plan is a smart and economical way to help keep small businesses afloat, maintain neighborhood diversity and get thousands of New Yorkers affordable health care. I want to thank the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce for creating such an innovative solution to our healthcare crisis.”

“We all know that small business is the backbone of our economy, and for too long, has been unable to provide affordable health insurance for their employees and for their families,” said Council Member Helen Sears. “I applaud the efforts of our Speaker to address this issue and welcome her into my district. This initiative will provide the opportunity for members of the business community to avail themselves of these programs and extend these services to their employees and their families. Everyone has the right to have health care. It is the responsibility for all of us to see that affordable insurance is available to all. And this very bold step is making that possible.”

“Most uninsured New Yorkers work – and most work for small businesses,” said Small Business Committee Chair David Yassky. “We can’t wait any longer for Congress to act. New York City has to begin to fill this need, and HealthWorks is a terrific start.”

“Investing to increase health insurance opinions for small business owners is a healthy choice. So I’m proud the City Council is working to expand a program like Health Works,” said Health Committee Chair Joel Rivera. “Health insurance benefits for employees has proven beneficial to both the workforce and the financial bottom line of the business. Besides helping employees stay healthy, it can increase job satisfaction, which in turn can spur production and profit.”

“The Queens Chamber of Commerce is very excited for the opportunity to offer an affordable Healthcare program like the one being offered by our sister Chamber in Brooklyn,” said Al Pennisi, President of the Queens Chamber. “We applaud Speaker Quinn for her vision of insuring thousands of Queen’s workers who are currently unable to afford health insurance, and we look forward to working with the Speaker and her staff in integrating the Queens Chamber as full partners in this outstanding initiative.”

“The Brooklyn Chamber is excited to work with Speaker Quinn to expand the HealthWorks program,” said Carl Hum, President of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “Affordable health insurance allows small businesses to grow and remain sustainable and in Brooklyn, the program continues to be an asset. I am sure Queens and Manhattan business owners will find the program equally beneficial.”

Under HealthWorks, basic, maximum, individual and family plans will be available. For an individual enrollment, the basic plan will cost businesses an estimated $220 each month per employee, and the maximum plan will cost an estimated $235 each month per employee. For a family enrollment, the basic plan will cost an estimated $651 and the maximum plan will cost an estimated $691. The employer will decide how much of that cost is passed down to employees. Under the current Brooklyn program, employers typically pay up to 80-90% of the cost.

In 2004, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce joined with GHI and the State Health Insurance Department to develop Brooklyn HealthWorks as a way to offer a lower cost alternative to small businesses. According to a recent survey by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, more than 1 million New Yorkers remain uninsured. The Council and Chambers of Commerce will continue to advocate the needs of the community and will work with the State and City budget process to ensure that these needs are met.

###