Montana Chamber Choices was founded on three charters: to cover the uninsured; to provide choices; and to focus on prevention and wellness
Approximately ten years ago, employers throughout Montana realized offering quality health insurance and employee benefits helped attract and retain qualified employees. To respond to the growing demand of small business health benefits, Montana Chamber Choices was created in 2004 with contributions from First Interstate Bank and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana. Montana Chamber Choices was founded on three charters: to cover the uninsured; to provide choices; and to focus on prevention and wellness.
Chamber Choices is an association health insurance program, which works to provide an alternative to the small business group insurance plan. As of August 2008, Chamber Choices covers over 20,000 lives, half of which were not covered before.
This program has grown tremendously over the years. There were only two insurance plan options available during the program’s first year. As of January 2009, Chamber Choices offered eleven different plan options.
Chamber Choices reached over 400 businesses across Montana with the Health Promotion, Wellness and Safety Survey. Through this survey, the program is hoping to better understand the capacity for small business employers to implement worksite wellness programs. Along with understanding the capacity, Chamber Choices is working to discover both the facilitators and the barriers for creating and maintaining worksite wellness programs.
To help understand the barriers, facilitators, and capacity for small business worksite wellness programs, Chamber Choices implemented the Wellness and Health Promotion Pilot. The pilot began by working with the Assistant Office Manager. Who later became known as the “Champion of the Employer.” The Champion of the Employer helped spread information and gather support for the worksite wellness program from the other managers.
Once all the managers were on board with the Wellness and Health Promotion Pilot, they had one month to advertise for a health appraisal through emails, staff meetings, and flyers. The pilot program offered incentives for the employees who participated in the health appraisal. The incentives included a $25.00 cash card for all participants, and a random drawing for a weekend getaway for two. With 150 people eligible for the health appraisal, the pilot program had a 70% completion rate.
Through the Wellness and Health Promotion Pilot, Chamber Choices noticed small employer worksite wellness projects that have been conducted in Montana generally follow the same barriers and successes of standard large employer research results. Small employer projects do have an ability to have much higher participation rates, and success rates due to the ability for a culture shift and excitement to penetrate a small business much more effectively than a large employer. The next step of the pilot program will be to continue providing the employer resources and information to aid in their cultural shift. Once the results of the health appraisals are analyzed, they will be used to focus on that population’s specific health risks.