By: Joshua Danker-Dake | Category: Other | Issue: August 2007
Joe Landers and Mike Ziegenhorn have worked together to insure Landers’ employers at Heritage Veterinary Hospital through O-EPIC.
In the past few years, much has been made of the “health insurance crisis” afflicting our nation. The Oklahoma state legislature and Gov. Brad Henry have created and signed into law a state-sponsored program to help correct this problem. Those who own small businesses and those who work for them should be aware of O-EPIC, the state government’s program to help small businesses afford health insurance for everyone.
As a state, Oklahoma has the 43rd worst uninsured rate in the nation. Forty-two percent of businesses with 49 or fewer employees do not offer health insurance coverage. In addition, 17 percent of businesses with 50 to 249 workers do not insure their employees either. In recent years, however, Oklahoma’s state government has worked to remedy this situation.
In November 2004, Oklahoma voters passed State Question 713, the Oklahoma Health Care Initiative, which increased the sales tax on tobacco products in order to generate revenues to fund a state-sponsored health plan. From this, the Oklahoma Employer-Employee Partnership for Insurance Coverage, commonly referred to as O-EPIC, was launched.
Under the O-EPIC Employee-Sponsored Insurance program, the state pays 60 percent of insurance premium costs, the employer pays 25 percent, and the employee pays 15 percent. Additionally, an O-EPIC Individual Plan is offered. Self-employed workers, temporarily-unemployed workers and those whose employers do not offer insurance can purchase health insurance directly through the state. Premiums are determined by an income-based sliding scale.
The Holmes Organisation is an independent insurance agency that has been providing insurance and benefits for over 40 years. Its clients, which number over 2,500, are corporations, business and nonprofit organizations. The Holmes Organisation has an experienced staff that emphasizes customer service.
Mike Ziegenhorn, a Holmes Organisation insurance agent and broker, specializes in providing health benefits for businesses. “I like O-EPIC,” he says. “The cost of health insurance is rising, and O-EPIC allows Oklahoma businesses to give their employees more coverage.”
Many area small businesses have already begun taking advantage of the benefits of O-EPIC Employee-Sponsored Insurance. Joe Landers, a veterinarian at Heritage Veterinary Hospital in Tulsa, recently started using O-EPIC. “It’s a really great little secret,” he says. “It’s going to save us money. We believe in supplying health insurance for our employees. Through O-EPIC, the number of our employees with health insurance has increased by 50 percent. Therefore, benefits for the rest of the staff have increased. This is saving employers and employees money, and it helps our employees to have better health insurance.”
O-EPIC also provides excellent customer service. “The O-EPIC people are great,” says Landers, a whole-hearted supporter of O-EPIC. “They’re very nice, they’re courteous, and they answered all my questions. I would encourage other businesses to get O-EPIC. Offering health insurance has helped us to attract more people.”
Gov. Brad Henry recently signed into law House Bill 1225, which will extend the benefits of O-EPIC. Eligibility for workers will expand from those who earn 185 percent of the national poverty level to those who make 250 percent. While the passing of this bill is certainly good news, some people are saying “better late than never.” “This new bill should have come sooner,” says Ziegenhorn. “Salary guidelines were too low. Having this bill passed makes my job more enjoyable.”
O-EPIC is an excellent way for small businesses to provide affordable health insurance for their employees. For more information about O-EPIC, visit www.oepic.ok.gov. Information can also be found at The Holmes Organisation online at www.theholmesorg.com or by calling Ziegenhorn at (918) 359-6000.
The Holmes Organisation1350 S. Boulder Ave., Ste. 1000, Tulsa, OK 74119