An innovative public-private partnership led by the UCF Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI), located in the College of Business Administration, will help Floridians secure more affordable health insurance through the small businesses that employ them.

On a small scale, the initiative can accomplish President Barack Obama’s push for more affordable and accessible health insurance for small businesses—while still providing that coverage through private insurers.

Eventually, we hope to offer the program statewide and as a national model.

The newly created Florida Small Business Resources Association (FSBRA) will connect area small businesses with discounted insurance and management services through a membership group, which can negotiate improved coverage and lower premiums.

So far, big-name companies Blue Cross Blue Shield, Insurance Office of America (IOA) and FrankCrum have signed on to help the new group—likely the first of its kind in the Southeast.

Because small businesses have so much trouble finding and buying insurance on their own, “this program provides us the scale that will give small businesses a voice with insurance companies,” said Richard Quinn, a CBA management instructor who helped develop the association.

Quinn expects the UCF-based association to help small businesses owners and employees save up to 20 percent on rates. Those savings will benefit the largest segment of Floridians who don’t have health insurance.

Of the nearly 4 million Floridians who are uninsured, more than 50 percent are either employees or dependents of employees who work at small businesses. Central Florida, Quinn says, is the small business capital of the state. October is Florida Small Business Month.

“We hope small business will take advantage of this opportunity to join with others and expand their insurance and resource options,” said Thomas L. Keon, dean of the College of Business Administration.

Here’s how it works: Businesses with 50 or fewer employees can join the FSBRA, giving them access to a broad portfolio of insurance products or human resources services from Blue Cross Blue Shield, IOA and FrankCrum.

Resources available include health care insurance, commercial insurance, payroll processing, human resources management and other support services. Members can also select benefits “a la carte” depending on individual needs.

Association members also will have access to UCF’s facilities and researchers, including education seminars, conferences and coaching programs offered through the UCF Executive Development Center and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and its partner agencies.

The association will be operated through the CEI, with support from the UCF Executive Development Center. The university simply plays the role of “matchmaker” and makes no money from referrals, Quinn said.

Annual membership fees that average less than $20 per employee will go toward the association’s operating costs and services for its members.

“By joining together, our collective purchasing power will help us achieve the same competitive agreements available to much larger companies,” Quinn said. “This will help fuel small businesses in the region and directly benefit an underserved but critically important market.”

To find out more, visit the Web site or call (407) 823-2642.