Partnership to Assist Small Businesses Launched by Blue Cross and the Small...

Partnership to Assist Small Businesses Launched by Blue Cross and the Small Business Administration


Thousand Oaks, CA–(HISPANIC PR WIRE – BUSINESS WIRE)–December 21, 2004–Blue Cross of California (Blue Cross) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) today announced a collaboration to bring assistance and education to small businesses throughout Southern California.

The joint program will focus on bringing valuable tools offered by the SBA to small businesses to help them succeed in today’s competitive business environment. An additional focus of this collaboration will be to inform small businesses about health care options that are available to them, offering more health coverage education to an uninsured small business marketplace.

Blue Cross estimates there are currently a half-million uninsured small businesses (groups with 2-50 employees) operating throughout the state. In addition to not offering health care coverage, their owners may have little to no understanding of how affordable small group health care is and what they are guaranteed under current state laws.

They may also be unaware of the various financing options available that may allow them to offer coverage to their employees, which contributes to the high rate of uninsured small businesses.

Blue Cross and the SBA will together focus on educating small businesses within the SBA’s TriCounty District which includes Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. It is the largest SBA district in the country encompassing thousands of small business operators. Blue Cross and the SBA will reach out to these groups by offering a series of co-sponsored, free informational seminars, developing and distributing of educational materials and creating a joint Web site.

According to a 2001 Small Employee Health Benefits Survey, 80 percent of small business employers surveyed believe that health insurance can help hire and keep good employees and 70 percent say it contributes to higher productivity.

“A large number of uninsured people in California are hard working folks employed by small businesses. Many of these businesses would like to offer coverage but aren’t sure if they can afford it or what, if any options, might be available to them and their employees,” said Leonor McCall-Rodriguez, emerging market vice president for Blue Cross of California. “We believe it is important to help promote and foster small business. We also want them to know that we understand their difficulties and have worked hard to provide health care coverage options that are affordable and meet their varying needs.”

The first phase of this project featured two small business conferences in early December, “Seminar for Small Business Success – Ready for Growth in 2005.” Additional seminars will be held throughout the area in 2005.

During these seminars the SBA and Blue Cross will provide valuable information to small businesses on issues such as managing cash flow, obtaining a business loan, free financial and technical assistance to help grow a business, boosting workforce productivity while reducing employee turnover, as well as information on health care options for small businesses.

“Small businesses give so much back to their local community through enhanced revenue, job creation and civic and business leadership. The SBA sees the tremendous value these small businesses bring to the local community, the state and our national economy and we want to bring them the tools they need to succeed in today’s business environment. California’s economy is driven by our small businesses and we will work hard to help them thrive,” commented Alberto Alvarado, district director, Los Angeles District Office, U.S.

Small Business Administration.

Additional SBA/Blue Cross seminars for 2005 will be announced as venues and locations are secured. Educational topics will include:

supplier diversity, corporate partnerships, financing, how to market your business, health insurance for small businesses, how to obtain a business loan, financial and technical assistance resources to help a small business and the secrets to boosting workforce productivity and reducing employee turnover and other relevant topics.

Blue Cross of California and its California affiliates, serving more than 7.6 million medical members, is an operating subsidiary of WellPoint, Inc. (NYSE:WLP), which is the largest publicly traded commercial health benefits company in terms of membership in the United States. WellPoint offers a broad spectrum of quality network-based health products including open access PPO, POS and hybrid products, HMO and specialty products. Specialty products include pharmacy benefit management, dental, utilization management, vision, mental health, life and disability insurance, long term care insurance, flexible spending accounts, COBRA administration, and Medicare supplements. Blue Cross of California can be found on the web at Blue Cross of California is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Association.

SBA’s participation in this co-sponsorship is not an endorsement of the views, opinions, products or services of any co-sponsor or any other person or entity. All SBA programs, services and co-sponsored activities are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.

Reasonable arrangements for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance.



Blue Cross of California

Michael Chee, (805) 557-6791

Partnership to Assist Small Businesses Launched by Blue Cross and the Small Business Administration