NU Online News Service, Jan. 27, 2005, 9:13 a.m. EST

A coalition of 50 large companies has set up a special health insurance and health discount card purchasing program for company employees who lack major medical.[@@]

The coalition, the HR Policy Association, says member employers will be offering the new National Health Access program to about 3 million uninsured part-time workers, temporary workers, contract workers, pre-Medicare retirees, workers at franchises with more than 50 employees, and workers’ and retirees’ dependents.

The workers and dependents who join the voluntary health access program must pay 100% of the fees for the discount programs and premiums for the insurance programs themselves, but the HR Policy Association says it has negotiated better rates than most workers could negotiate on their own.

Organizers note that some products, such as major medical insurance, may not be available in all states.

Program options will range from a bare-bones drug discount program that costs only $5 per month and provides modest discounts on drugs to a high-deductible health plan that costs $300 per month and comes with a health savings account.

Participating employers include International Business Machines Corp., Armonk, N.Y.; Sears Roebuck and Company, Hoffman Estates, Ill.; and General Electric Company, Fairfield, Conn.

The HR Policy Association hopes to kick off enrollment for the access program Sept. 1.

The Uniprise of UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn., will be the main supplier of group health coverage, but CIGNA Corp., Philadelphia, and Humana Inc., Louisville, Ky., will supply coverage in some regions of the United States, the association says.