Small businesses that are members of the Guam Contractors’ Association will be able to offer their employees health insurance in the near future.

GCA is in negotiation with PacifiCare Asia Pacific to offer its membership health-insurance coverage — the first such group plan in the business community.

James A. Martinez executive director of GCA said GCA is now seeking detailed information from its membership. “We did a survey of our members who have shown an interest in getting health coverage under a group plan. Now we are getting a demographics listing from each of these companies and we will submit those to PacifiCare for them to give us a formal proposal.”

Once GCA receives all the surveys the association’s health-coverage committee will review the proposal and the coverage and will negotiate the rate. The proposal will then be presented to the GCA board of directors and then open enrollment will take place.

Martinez said small business contractors approached GCA inquiring about the possibility of getting health insurance for its members. “The whole thing started with small businesses that came to my office asking if we could look into a group health plan for businesses that have less than 10 employees versus bigger companies who would get a discounted rate for having a larger group ” he said.

Martinez said the health-care offering had additional bonuses for GCA.

“While we are looking at the process we are also looking at the marketing aspect — for Guam Contractors’ Association certainly it’s going to boost our membership enrollment or membership applications without a doubt.”

The association must tread lightly on boosting membership Martinez said because its bylaws stipulate the makeup of GCA must consist of 60% licensed contractors and 40% associate members. “We can’t just bring everybody in who wants to come in because we have an insurance program that is beneficial for their company.”

While the association signs up its membership for the health-insurance plan the individual member companies will be billed and not GCA. “We can’t assume that responsibility because we don’t have deep pockets. We don’t have those reserves ” Martinez said. He said PacifiCare continues to be the only insurance company that is keeping its doors open for GCA to discuss offering this benefit to its membership but in 2006 the association may choose to put out a request for proposals for health-insurance providers.

Martinez said the Guam Federation of Teachers the Chinese Merchants Association and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce have all entered into similar contracts.

“We’re looking at about 2 000 participants that can be enrolled in the program once we launch. We were looking to launch on June 1 but we’re still collecting the data. We haven’t received a formal proposal yet because we haven’t gathered all the information they would need to give us a favorable rate for the remainder of the fiscal year ” he said.

The association hopes to now launch the program by July 1. Once the survey information is gathered the information will be forwarded to PacifiCare. PacifiCare will then provide the formal proposal to GCA. David Hicks owner of AB Electric and chairman of the health-insurance program committee at GCA will then have the committee review the proposal and negotiate with PacifiCare. The final proposal will then be presented to GCA’s board of directors for their disposition.

Martinez said “We will eventually go into 401(k) and other benefits that we can go in as a group but we’re going to start with the health plan first.” MBJ