Small Businesses report savings through Common Ground

The Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative, a nonprofit organization selling health insurance plans on the new Affordable Care Act-created health insurance marketplaces, officially launched today, with some of its early adopters reporting they are saving costs for employee health care.

“I’m happy to report that at 12:01 a.m., the Common Ground website ( was live and able to enroll people for health insurance,” said Jim Wesp, vice president of the Common Ground board of directors.

The official announcement was made at a launch event this morning outside Hanson Dodge Creative in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. The cooperative today begins a “flyer blitz” to get the word out to potential customers and will be going door-to-door in the Third Ward and parts of East Town today, said Bob Connolly, president of the board of directors and vice president and managing partner of The James Company.

Small businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals can enroll in the Common Ground health insurance plans through the web site. The cooperative signed up its first six customers at the launch of its awareness campaign at Mount Mary College Monday night, Connolly said.

Connolly, a partner in The James Company, said he is the cooperative’s first customer.

“My premiums will drop 28 percent, and I’ll save $14,000 a year for the two people in the company who are on the plan,” he said.

Wesp, who is also the owner of Hartford-based Kettle Moraine Hardwoods Inc., said, “If all of our employees satay with similar plans to what they have now, we’ll save 20 percent, amounting to $9,000 in savings.”

Small business owner Dan Stemper, of the family-owned, 102-year-old, Milwaukee-based T. H. Stemper Company, said he will enroll his employees in the Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative’s health insurance plan.

“I am proud to hand Common Ground Healthcare Co-op my application for the best health insurance on the market that will lower my employees’ deductible significantly. I know my rate and the Common Ground Health Insurance Cooperative will save my company over 30 percent, which is about $72,000 per year,” Stemper said.

The cooperative began when it was approved to receive a $56.4 million loan from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Affordable Care Act in February, 2012, to establish an organization to help southeastern Wisconsin small businesses and nonprofit organizations provide affordable health insurance for their employees. It uses a nonprofit, member-governed organizational model, in which any surplus achieved goes back into the company for the benefit of its members.

For more information on the cooperative, read BizTimes’ special report from July of this year here and the BizTimes March, 2012, cover story here.

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