Cost emergency averted: Chamber Benefit Plan helps ambulance service save 20 percent on health insurance

South Howell County Ambulance is a small but vital part of its south-central Missouri community.

“We cover about 500 square miles, and in south Howell County we respond to about 500 to 600 ambulance calls a month,” said Jolaine Lashley, the ambulance district’s HR manager and interim administrator.

The service staffs four 24/7 ambulances, a non-emergency medical transport division and an in-house dispatching center. Its education department offers CPR classes for the public as well as a paramedics and EMT course, along with continuing education required for license renewals.

But like many other small organizations across Missouri, South Howell County Ambulance struggled with the rising cost of providing health care coverage to its employees.

As a member of the local Greater West Plains Chamber of Commerce, the ambulance service was eligible for the Chamber Benefit Plan, a multiple employer welfare arrangement option available through the Missouri Chamber Federation. So when South Howell County Ambulance’s health insurance broker suggested it, the organization decided to try the plan.

The MEWA option works by allowing businesses with two to 50 eligible employees to pool together and share in the overall claims risk, resulting in potentially huge savings. This innovative model also offers more rate stability and financial protection backed by stop-loss coverage.

Lashley said the switch was practically seamless.

“Basically, the coverage is the same. Along with the cost savings, that’s probably the most noteworthy,” Lashley said. “I don’t have people coming in here and saying ‘Well, my previous provider covered this, but my new policy doesn’t.’ ”

About a year after implementing the plan, Lashley ran the numbers. She found her organization had saved 22.9 percent compared to their previous plan, amounting to about $105,000 in savings that year.

“I’m just glad that the chamber has made this available to small businesses,” she said.

She encouraged other small employers to consider joining their local chambers — and not only for the possibility of a better health insurance option.

“Your local chamber is kind of the hub of your city,” Lashley said.  “And to me, it’s the one organization that benefits us all. If anyone is not associated with their local chamber, they should be.”

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