Trust connects members with medical, other insurance

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The AVMA Group Health & Life Insurance Trust is connecting thousands of AVMA members with major medical coverage and other insurance products via its new online exchange as well as its long-standing network of agents.

As of Jan. 28, the GHLIT exchange was selling medical plans in 46 states. Specific to medical plans, the exchange had received about 10,000 calls, provided more than 3,000 quotes, and issued more than 2,000 policies, with additional policies still being finalized by several carriers.

March 31 is the deadline for individuals to purchase health insurance to avoid paying a tax penalty under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

GHLIT CEO Libby Wallace assured members of the AVMA House of Delegates that the Trust is financially strong and will continue offering insurance products tailor-made for veterinarians.

Libby Wallace
Libby Wallace, chief executive officer of the AVMA Group Health & Life Insurance Trust, provides an update about the GHLIT to the AVMA House of Delegates in January. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

“We have been around for 57 years, and we strongly intend to stay around for many years to come,” Wallace said in brief remarks to the HOD Jan. 11.

Wallace’s assurances followed the much-anticipated cancellation of GHLIT’s medical insurance program on Dec. 31, 2013. The GHLIT board of trustees was forced to terminate the program after New York Life Insurance Co. chose to no longer underwrite major medical coverage for professional associations such as the AVMA as a result of requirements of the Affordable Care Act, and no other company was willing to take its place.

Since then, the Trust has opened a private insurance exchange as a free service to help members of the AVMA and Student AVMA shop for medical plans that meet their needs. “Changes brought by the Affordable Care Act made the Trust change the way we do business,” Wallace said. About 17,500 AVMA members and their dependents had major medical coverage through the GHLIT at the beginning of 2013, and the number remained above 13,000 at the end of 2013. The GHLIT exchange saw heavy usage at year’s end.

Dr. Bob Hildreth and his wife, Tammy, are among the thousands who had medical insurance through the Trust for many years. Tammy Hildreth spent hours over the course of a week navigating California’s exchange looking for a new plan before the GHLIT exchange was available. On the GHLIT exchange, she found 39 options that appeared to meet her and her husband’s needs. Feeling overwhelmed, she called customer service to help make the right choice.

“Wish I had called weeks ago, a lot of lost sleep for nothing,” Hildreth said. She complimented sales consultant Eric Holloway for assisting her with picking a plan, signing up, and paying—all within 40 minutes. He also has been responsive to follow-up questions, she said.

The GHLIT exchange sells both medical plans and other insurance products on an ongoing basis. Members of the AVMA and SAVMA may purchase insurance products through a GHLIT agent at any time. By comparison, the public exchanges for health insurance will close enrollment after March 31 until late in the year, except for individuals with a qualifying life event.

Wallace stressed that GHLIT has always been about more than medical insurance and continues to offer a range of products, including dental, vision, and hospital indemnity. More than 28,000 AVMA members currently have disability income insurance through the GHLIT, while close to 37,000 members and their spouses carry life insurance through the Trust.

“We really service more AVMA members with life and disability (insurance),” she said, compared with medical.

Although GHLIT is no longer collecting medical insurance premiums, the Trust will continue paying out medical claims for dates of service in 2013, according to Wallace, who added that the Trust is projected to have $30 million in claim reserves by the end of 2014.

Wallace said GHLIT is investigating expanding its product line. “The Trust has continued to look at the product mix and enhance those to really meet the needs of veterinarians,” she said. “It is a very strong Trust, and we are here to stay.”

The GHLIT exchange is online, and the phone number is 877-473-6017. To find a GHLIT agent call 800-621-6360.

Related JAVMA content:

AVMA GHLIT medical insurance to end after 2013 (Feb. 15, 2013)

AVMA Trust introduces private insurance exchange (Sept. 15, 2013)

GHLIT insurance exchange gets off the ground (Dec. 1, 2013)