Over the past quarter of a century, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island has built an excellent reputation serving hundreds of thousands of Rhode Islanders who are eligible for Medicaid and Medicare/Medicaid benefits. But Neighborhood’s offerings extend far beyond those populations.
Since 2014, Neighborhood has been offering health care coverage to individuals, families, and small businesses. That expansion was a logical extension of Neighborhood’s mission, according to Elizabeth McClain, Neighborhood’s Director of Operations and Strategy, Commercial Products. Individuals and families who would not have been able to afford health care coverage, or whose jobs did not offer it, now have plenty of high-quality, affordable options thanks to Neighborhood, she explains. And the same thing is true for local businesses.
“We saw this as a real opportunity to offer coverage to small employers that may not have offered it in the past and who are looking for better options,” McClain says. “And a lot of those companies never offered insurance to begin with, so we’re actually creating an opportunity that wasn’t even there for these employers in the past.”
Emily Bottachiari, a Sales and Advertising Manager who works on McClains’s team agrees: “We have been able to come into this market and . . . fill that void. We’re able to give small businesses a solution that will allow them to offer insurance to their employees in a more cost-effective way.”
And part of the way Neighborhood reaches those small businesses is thanks to an ongoing partnership with the state’s health insurance broker community.
“I think it’s safe to say that most people at Neighborhood are familiar with the role of a navigator for our Medicaid population,” Bottachiari explains. “A navigator is someone that’s outside our walls who can assist our potential [Medicaid-eligible] members and our current members. The role of a broker is very similar to that, but they provide that assistance to small business owners. Their clients are the employers.”
One of those brokers is Jeffrey Brier, a partner at Providence-based Brier & Brier. He’s been working with Neighborhood for four years.
“We know that health insurance today is a major cost for businesses, particularly small employers,” Brier offers. “Our job as brokers is to really be a healthcare consultants and advisors to the owner of a business.”
From Brier’s perspective, Neighborhood is an easy partner to work with.
“I’m really happy to be with Neighborhood,” Brier continues, adding that a lot of his clients are eager to hear what Neighborhood has to offer. “There’s really a couple of things that stand out about the Neighborhood plan when I’m talking to an employer. Cost is one. Their premiums are noticeably less than the competition. An employer could have a ‘Neighborhood Prime’ plan with a $500 deductible for the equivalent of one of the competitors’ $1500 or $2000 deductible plans. So that certainly gets their attention.”
But price is only part of the equation. Broker Ray Creamer describes “buying health insurance [as] a triangle: Three parts to it, price the products quality, and the service.”
Creamer, who works as an independent agent, says it’s common to hear from small businesses who want to offer health insurance to their employees but cannot afford to do it – until they learn that Neighborhood ‘s plans fulfill all three needs of that triangle.
One of Creamer’s clients had to end his employees’ health insurance benefit after decades of offering it because it was too expensive, Creamer says. But the business owner kept searching for a way to reinstate it.
Creamer continues: “The next year, [the client] said, ‘Ray, I have to find a way to get healthcare back! How can we do it?’ And I said, ‘Well, we have to look at Neighborhood’. He said, ‘I don’t know anything about it.’ So, we educated him, we showed it to him, and now Neighborhood has been in there for five years. And his employees love it.”
Creamer says a switch like that is only possible because Neighborhood’s network of doctors and hospitals is comprehensive and fits clients’ needs.
Broker Steven Shuster, with Brewster & Shuster Associates in Providence, points to another Neighborhood advantage: “They’re one of the few companies with a local presence.”
Shuster says Neighborhood’s customer service stands out “compared to the competition, where a lot of the competition is not available or not local. Neighborhood is unbelievable to work with!”
Broker Jeffrey Brier agrees, adding that he’s proud to have Neighborhood as an option in his overall portfolio.
“I think once you show an employer what the choices are, I think every small business should have Neighborhood as an option for their employees,” Brier concludes.