Small businesses use subscription health care plan to comply with Obamacare mandate

Serendipit found a way to comply with the Affordable Care Act and to grow the company.(Photo by Bailey Netsch/Cronkite News)

Serendipit, a small marketing and PR firm, offers a health care plan to help recruit and retain employees. (Photo by Bailey Netsch/Cronkite News)

A Phoenix company that specializes in subscription healthcare options has found a new way for small businesses to comply with Obamacare.

“I don’t want to have to offer health care, it’s too expensive, I can’t, I’m going to go under,” said Melissa DiGianfilippo, partner and Vice President of Public Relations at Serendipit Consulting.

Many Phoenix companies feel the same stress when talking about health care.

“It was more of something I felt like I had to have to be considered a serious company. The Employer Mandate made start thinking about future plans,” said Mike Arce, founder of Loud Rumor in Scottsdale.

With the help of Redirect Health, a new healthcare company based in Phoenix, local businesses are now thinking differently about health care.

“My mindset has totally shifted since then,” said DiGianfilippo.

Today, Redirect Health has signed about 30 clients in Phoenix, approximately 8,000 individual employees, and just signed on its first New Mexico-based business. Clients range from construction companies, car washes, urgent care offices and even McDonald’s.

Redirect Health’s business is growing because it found a way to get rid of the “waste” in the health care system by “just making health care really easy. We guide them through the system,” said David Berg, chairman of Redirect Health.

Berg says by the beginning of January, Redirect Health is expecting 30 new clients. By March, they are preparing for another 50 businesses to join.

“Health care is a joy for us now. I am just so jazzed about my own business and other entrepreneurs, my friends, that I get to help,” said Berg.

His company offers both affordable health care plans and health insurance that complies with Obamacare.

“What happened over the years is that they have become the same thing, health insurance and health care. But you know what’s funny? No one ever confuses their car insurance with their car. No one confuses their life insurance with their life,” said Berg.

This new program has made it easy for small businesses to meet the Employer Mandate conditions. Arce said even the doctor’s office is easier now.

“I made an appointment, and the people on the phone, as soon as they found out I was with Redirect Health, they made stuff work for me,” said Arce.

He got a phone call two days prior to the appointment, asking him all the medical history questions normally answered in the waiting room. When he arrived for the appointment, no lengthy check-in was necessary, and the doctor met Arce in the lobby and accompanied him into the check-up room.

According to Arce, he avoided filling out forms and answering repeated questions by using ReDirect Health.

“It felt very catered. It was everything I needed. It’s more efficient, and with Redirect Health, it brought back treating customers with ultimate respect,” said Arce.

DiGianfilippo agrees.

“He has basically just taken it off my hands and shown me it’s possible to be compliant with federal laws and be able to afford healthcare, and to be able to give my employees something that they need,” said DiGianfilippo.

DiGianfilippo is now able to offer all of her employees and their families free health care and a reimbursement program for health insurance. Serendipit’s “subscription health care” plan includes completely free primary care, which encompasses doctor’s appointments and wellness check-ups. Instead of giving the doctor’s office a health insurance policy card, Serendipit employees use their company health care plan that simply pays for the services they need that day.

The plan also includes free chiropractic and a concierge system that may eliminate the need for employees to visit the doctor at all. Doctors can treat simple issues like sinus infections over the phone and call in prescriptions.

The cost is less than $100 per employee.

The company has increased its workforce during the past year and has experienced more interest from senior-level applicants.

“I’m actually using the free health care thing to grow my business. I am able to attract people,” said DiGianfilippo.

In a recent press release, another Redirect Health Client has expressed the same positivity. Bob Cunningham, the founder and CEO of RWC, an international truck dealership, said “the health care savings are even serving as a recruiting tool. We can actually use Redirect Health to expand our business.”

For more complex or emergency situations, employees buy health insurance that is then reimbursed by the company. Serendipit will reimburse monthly premiums up to $200. If copays or deductibles are included in the insurance, the employees are responsible for those payments.

Congress and President Obama passed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010. When The Supreme Court later upheld the law in 2012, many small business owners around the country worried because of the Employer Mandate included in ACA.

“There was so much misinformation when launched. It was just so confusing because of the sheer quantity of information and I didn’t feel like I really had a person I trusted to sit down and explain it to me,” said DiGianfilippo.

The Employer Mandate requires that all businesses with 50 or more full-time or equivalent employees offer 95% of those employees and their families health insurance. According to, an employee is considered full-time or equivalent if they work at least 30 hours per week or whose service hours equal at least 130 hours a month for more than four months of the year.

If a company doesn’t comply, it is subject to a fine in 2016 up to $2,000 for each employee each month. If an employee is offered a subsidy by the marketplace or government, that fine can be increased to $3,000. Originally, the deadline was 2014, but was extended to 2016 because of pushback from small business owners and lobbyists.

“It definitely did lift a lot of stress because not only am I covered, but my entire family is covered, and we have six of us. So it just feels phenomenal to know that I don’t have to worry when then get sick,” said Ariana Morales, a employee and mother of four.

Morales has been has worked for Serendipit for three years.

“If your employer offers secure health, medical insurance or health care, then I feel like employees are happier and will stick around longer,” said Morales.

Now the company complies with the mandate, and can grow beyond 50 employees thanks to the “subscription health care” plan.

DiGianfilippo hopes other small businesses will learn to navigate the complex health care system.

“Find someone that is a little bit smarter than you in that, get them to explain it to you. I really believe entrepreneurs today can use health care as a tool to grow their business, not as a hindrance,” she said.

“I am not scared of the 50 and over number anymore.”