Unique Greater Miami Chamber health plan aims to go statewide

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce small business health insurance, Greater Health Trust, has been so far successful though it had a delayed start. The insurance covers businesses with two to 50 employees. Greater Health Trust plans to expand across South Florida eventually.

Since Greater Health Trust launched in 2021, about 120 companies have enrolled in the insurance. The number of individual employees plus their dependents covered is 1,637. Since this is the only such program in Florida, there was a delayed start to enrollment.

“We were supposed to offering the program in July,” said Alfred Sanchez, chamber president and CEO. “So, we had a bit of a delayed start. We’re the only one of our kind in the state, so we got a lot of scrutiny from the state Office of Insurance Regulation because of course they should checking everything out. So, there was a lot of delay with certification and approval.”

The health trust originally planned for about 250 companies enrolled for the year, but due to the delay it is only about halfway to the goal.

Moving forward, Greater Health Trust is expected to expand throughout the state eventually, starting with South Florida counties, expanding it throughout Miami-Dade and eventually reaching neighboring counties such as Broward and Palm Beach.

“I think the next step now is to start expanding it,” said Mr. Sanchez. “Hopefully next year we’ll be able to expand across Dade County and eventually we’ll see if we can expand our county and we’ll be able to offer this across the state. But of course, we want to walk before we fly. But, at some point I fully expect us to offer this for small businesses across the state.”

The estimated time to try to expand is the next year or two. People have already reached out to the chamber asking about the program.

“We’ve already had many requests from our chamber partners to the north,” said Mr. Sanchez. “Even within Dade County. So, in order to do those partnerships, we are trying to figure out what’s a good way to sort of bring them into the fold.”

Mr. Sanchez had been running nonprofit, small to midsize businesses throughout his 30-year long career. He noticed small businesses rarely had control over their health insurance. Once he took on his current position, he began to research the topic.

“As employers, almost everybody wants to give our employees health insurance. It makes us more competitive and makes our employees more productive,” said Mr. Sanchez. “It’s good for business. But the headache of trying to control those costs is really overwhelming especially for small businesses.

“So that’s why we got into it. What we hope will happen is more and more small businesses will opt-in to offering health care who may have not done it before. Those who were offering it before will be able to break from the cost which they can then invest in their business in another way. That will make our small businesses more profitable. And if covid didn’t teach us anything, it taught us the importance of having health care.”

Greater Health Trust is in insurance partnership with AvMed, one of Florida’s largest and oldest not-for-profit health plans, covering employer groups in 52 counties across the state. Their insurance is the exclusive health insurance of Greater Health Trust. The partnership came about around the time the Trump administration declared that organizations like chambers could offer association health care plan.

“So, I have been trying to put this together for almost five years now,” said Mr. Sanchez. “We looked at other healthcare providers, Florida Blue, AvMed, Humana and United Health. United Health originally wanted to partner with us but that fell through. AvMed came to us and said there was another way we could go about this.”

They wanted to partner with somebody that was known for great service and great healthcare. So, they partnered with AvMed through the multiple employer welfare association. AvMed does not make the chamber pay a fee.

Greater Health Trust aims to benefit individuals throughout Miami and eventually other parts of South Florida by providing health care that helps companies save money. The original plan was to help people save up 25% of open market costs, but some have been saving more.

“What we found is that most companies that enrolled were saving between 20% and 30%, some even 50%,” Mr. Sanchez said, “so we have had a lot of happy members.”


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