MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — New funding in the state budget will help expand an affordable health insurance program in Muskegon County.

Access Health says $1.2 million in state funding will help meet that need.

“We hear it time and time again. We see it in our members. We see it in the community. We hear it from the businesses,” said Samantha Cornell, the director of community-based services.

Cornell said the money will help working families who often struggle to find health insurance.

“We know that Medicaid exists, we don’t need to replace what already exists and commercial coverage exists, but there is that gap of people who are being left behind and it’s not only the workers but it’s the businesses,” Cornell said.

Health insurance can be too expensive for employers with few employees, so the Access Health program was created 24 years ago to provide assistance.

“These small businesses, which we know are the lifeblood of our community, who want to offer coverage of their employees but they’re priced out of it as well and that’s why Access Health exists,” Cornell said.

The program is not free health insurance but provides zero deductible coverage.

“It’s called a tri-share program, so the employer, our business partner pays one share, the individual member pays another share, and then there’s been a public share so the community has been funding that public share since it was lost and that has created a limitation in the amount of people that we are able to cover,” Cornell said.

While the state funding will meet the need for now, the nonprofit is looking for a long-term funding solution.

“We are now able to reduce our costs to our members and to our businesses,” Cornell said.

The monthly contribution is being reduced from $82 to $72 for both the employees and the employer. Access Health no longer has to put a cap on the number of people in the program.

“For the first time in many years, we can fully open enrollment,” Cornell said.

You can learn more about the program and the qualifications on the Access Health website.