Like the public insurance exchanges, the private insurance exchange from the AVMA Group Health & Life Insurance Trust got off to a slow start in October. By November, the exchange for AVMA members was selling health insurance in most of the states.
As of Nov. 4, the exchange had received about 2,000 calls, provided more than 1,000 quotes, submitted 334 applications, and issued 198 policies.
Dec. 15 is the deadline to apply for medical coverage to take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
“We have plans available, and we’ve got the customer service staff to support that,” said Libby Wallace, GHLIT chief executive officer. “So if people have questions, or they’re unsure about the benefit design, they can call, and we can help walk them through.”
The GHLIT exchange is at www.avmaghlitcare.org
, and the phone number is 877-473-6017. In addition, many GHLIT policyholders have been purchasing new health insurance through their agents.
The Trust will stop offering health insurance for 17,500 AVMA members and their dependents at year’s end, because it cannot find an underwriter. Underwriters are no longer willing to take on medical coverage for association plans because of the challenges of complying with provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable
Among other provisions, the Affordable Care Act requires individuals to purchase health insurance starting in 2014 or pay a penalty. The enrollment period runs through March 31, 2014. Public and private insurance exchanges provide marketplaces for purchasing a plan.
As of Nov. 4, the GHLIT exchange was selling insurance via the website in 27 states and by phone in 42 states.
Wallace said insurance carriers had focused on providing plans for the public exchanges first, but more plans continue to become available on the GHLIT exchange. The Trust’s exchange targets all members of the AVMA and Student AVMA, not just GHLIT policyholders, and offers plans only from A-rated carriers.
The experience of GHLIT exchange users has covered a broad spectrum, Wallace said.
“There’s obviously frustration, and we understand that, from people that go to the exchange and can’t find plans in their zip code,” Wallace said Nov. 4. “Yet, we had one member call us last week and say it was a very easy process, and they were able to quickly get a new plan, and they’re ready to go.”
Wallace advised choosing a plan on the basis of individual needs rather than just the premium cost. Health insurance remains expensive, although it has become less expensive for some. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers cannot charge higher premiums for pre-existing conditions. Insurers can charge more on the basis of age, smoking status, and geography.
The GHLIT exchange is a free service. Trustees tapped operating expenses to set it up and are paying for ongoing operation of the exchange with royalties on sales of medical insurance through the exchange plus interest on the cost-stabilization reserve.
Some GHLIT policyholders have asked whether the Trust will return money from the reserve to policyholders after discontinuing medical coverage. Wallace said the GHLIT does not believe it will have excess money in the medical reserve after paying out claims.
Wallace added that the GHLIT exchange offers not only a marketplace for health insurance but also a one-stop shopping experience for the insurance plans that the Trust continues to offer. These plans include life, dental, vision, hospital indemnity, disability, and professional overhead insurance.