Government Offers Health Insurance Program for Small Businesses

PINE BLUFF, AR - Employees of small businesses who have had to go without health insurance will be able to get basic coverage under a new plan underwritten by the state and federal government.  Officials said yesterday at Pine Bluff that as many as 50,000 Arkansans could benefit.

The program, called ARHealthNet, would be available to companies with between two and 500 workers.  The program would provide coverage for six doctor visits, seven inpatient hospital days, two major outpatient services a year, as well as fill two prescription drugs a month.

John Selig of the state Dept. of Human Services says that when fully implemented the program is expected to cost the state about $2 million per year and cost the federal government about $10 million.  The program has a limit of covering up to 15,000 Arkansans.  By August 1, 2008, that limit will jump to 50,000.

Selig says the program will not cover catastrophic medical emergencies.

The program is now funded up to five years.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)