Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communications Office
Governor Ernie Fletcher Announces Start of ICare Enrollment, Urges Employers to Participate

Press Release Date:  Monday, October 30, 2006  
Contact Information:  Jodi Whitaker

Enrollment for small business health insurance program begins November 1

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Ernie Fletcher today announced that small business owners can begin enrolling in a new program on November 1 that will assist them in providing health insurance to employees.  The Governor made the announcement during a news conference at the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce.

The program, Insurance Coverage Affordability and Relief to Small Employers (ICARE), will provide monetary assistance to help employers pay the monthly premiums for employee health insurance plans.  ICARE will specifically target small businesses and employer-organized associations with 2 to 25 employees. It was approved as part of the budget during the 2006 legislative session.

“As premiums increase, many small businesses can't afford to make the employer contributions to a health plan, even though they want to provide for their workers. This is especially true if one or more workers have a high-cost condition, which traditionally drives up group rates,” said Governor Fletcher.  “We believe that ICARE holds great promise to provide assistance to the small business community and will help reduce the number of people in the state who currently rely on Medicaid.”

ICARE is expected to benefit 4,000 businesses throughout Kentucky, employing 20,000 workers.  The program authorizes the state to subsidize a small amount of the premium for employers who could not otherwise provide health insurance.  ICARE targets two types of employers: small businesses that have not offered health coverage in the past 12 months are eligible for a $40 incentive per employee per month, while those employing someone with a high-cost condition are eligible for $60 in monthly support.

“One of the biggest challenges faced by small business owners is offering competitive benefit packages,” said Sen. Garry Tapp (R-Waddy).  “ICARE will help businesses provide quality health insurance to their employees and help make Kentucky businesses more competitive.  It’s a win-win for employers and their workforce.”

Specifically, the program is open to employers that have not provided health insurance in the past 12 months where the average salary, excluding the owner, does not exceed 300 percent of federal poverty level.

Along with Tapp, the ICARE legislation was sponsored by Rep. Tommy Thompson (D-Owensboro) and Rep. Brandon Smith (R-Hazard).

“This was a gesture on the part of Sen. Tapp, Rep. Thompson and myself to let small businesses know how much we appreciate them,” said Rep. Smith.  “We created ICARE to help our small business owners become more competitive and to let them know that we understand the issues they are facing out there.  This program is long overdue and hopefully it is the start of a lot more that we, as public officials, can do to help the small business community.”

“I’m excited that the ICARE program is launching. It will help small businesses throughout Kentucky attack the most significant problem they face today - the high cost of providing health insurance for their employees,” said Rep. Thompson.  “This program will hopefully bring more Kentuckians from the ranks of the uninsured to the ranks of the insured and it will help restore health benefits and security to more Kentucky families.”

“If we are going to improve the health status of our state, we must also increase the number of people with health insurance,” said Health and Family Services Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell.  “ICARE will provide coverage to more Kentuckians who, in turn, will have better access to quality health care.  I strongly encourage businesses that qualify to explore the program.”

ICARE is currently a pilot project and will not be available to all small businesses that qualify.  Employers who are interested in participating should enroll in the program as early as possible.  Further information on the program can be obtained by calling the ICARE hotline at 877-ICARE-07 (877-422-7307).