AVMA Trust introduces private insurance exchange

GHLIT CARE offers personal guidance as Oct. 1 open enrollment nears
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AVMA members now have a private exchange to help them find medical insurance coverage customized to their personal needs, just as additional provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act begin to take effect.

The AVMA Group Health & Life Insurance Trust opened phase 2 of its private exchange, AVMA GHLIT CARE, in July during the AVMA Annual Convention in Chicago. Phase 1, which offered options for those currently 65 or turning 65, opened in March; phase 2 applies to all other AVMA members and to members of the Student AVMA. The tool is located on the Trust’s website.

Under the new law, most individuals who are not otherwise covered must purchase health insurance starting in 2014 or pay a penalty. Beginning Oct. 1, these individuals can purchase insurance through new public exchanges offered by their state, depending on the state, or the federal government. Private exchanges such as GHLIT CARE provide another avenue for exploring insurance options and enrolling.

GHLIT Chairman Dwight King of Wharton, Texas, says in a video message on the Trust website, “(The GHLIT) private exchange will be exclusively for veterinarians to use along with the (insurance) agents that you’re used to.”

The law also mandates that businesses with 50 or more full-time–equivalent employees provide coverage for those who work 30 hours a week or more, or face a heavy fine. On July 2, however, President Barack Obama announced a one-year delay, until 2015, for the business mandate.

GHLIT medical coverage will end for some 17,500 AVMA members and their dependents at year’s end because of New York Life Insurance Co.’s earlier decision to discontinue underwriting major medical coverage for bona fide association plans after 2013. The underwriter and other carriers GHLIT contacted cited the challenges involved in complying with provisions of the new federal health care regulations as the reason they are exiting the bona fide association health insurance market.

AVMA members covered by GHLIT’s term life, disability income, and other nonmedical insurance policies will not be affected. These policies will continue to be underwritten by New York Life.

The initial enrollment period for purchasing health insurance for 2014 will run from Oct. 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014. However, for coverage to take effect Jan. 1, 2014, carriers must receive completed applications by Dec. 15, 2013.

Although medical plans for 2014 will not be available to view until the Oct. 1 date mandated by law, GHLIT CARE encourages AVMA members to “practice shopping,” so that they will be better prepared when the plans do become accessible. They can do this by using a 2013 plan effective date, since there are plans available to purchase this year, but actually purchasing them would require medical underwriting.

Using the online tool, AVMA and SAVMA members can compare the benefits, costs, and features of various plans and receive personalized quotes. An array of insurance options are available from a growing list of top carriers chosen specifically for veterinarians.

The Trust has adopted a consultative approach for AVMA members by providing live customer support from a team of licensed insurance advisers via a toll-free call to (877) 473-6017 or by going to the GHLIT website and choosing “Click to quote” and then “Click to chat with advisor.”

An extensive FAQ page on the exchange answers many potential questions about health care reform, its impact on GHLIT insurance coverages, the nature of insurance exchanges, and implications for users ranging from veterinary students on up through individuals older than 65.

The GHLIT CARE exchange is also a communication tool to keep AVMA members apprised of ongoing developments with health care reform.

At the AVMA convention, GHLIT CEO Libby Wallace presented a health care reform update, and Trust representative Dr. Jody Johnson conducted a session on Medicare.