The AVMA and AVMA Life announced this summer the return of a health insurance program for AVMA members. The program will be employer based and will initially be available only in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia. Veterinary employers in these states could begin enrolling in the AVMA Trust Association Health Plan on July 1, with an effective date as early as Sept. 1.
"We know that health insurance is a major challenge for many of our members as it is for so many Americans, and particularly for those who are small business owners. We also know our members have distinct health insurance needs as veterinarians," AVMA President John de Jong said in a statement.
"We're thrilled to bring back this important benefit for our members, and we're working aggressively to continue expanding our coverage areas," Dr. de Jong added.
To be eligible for coverage starting Sept. 1, veterinarians must meet the following requirements:
- Be an active AVMA member.
- Primarily conduct business in one of the nine eligible states.
- Employ between two and 50 people, which can include the employer, who work 30 hours or more a week.
- Offer coverage to all employees and enroll at least 75% of those who are eligible.
- Pay at least 50% of the premium of the lowest single rate per enrolled employee.
Coverage can apply to employers, employees, and their families. Designed with the unique health insurance needs of veterinarians in mind, the AVMA Trust plan offers six choices, an all-in-one enrollment and billing platform, and discounts on a payroll system.
While the plan is currently available in a handful of states, the AVMA and AVMA Life are navigating a complicated health insurance market and regulatory conditions to expand coverage as quickly as possible, they announced. Additionally, the AVMA is advocating for federal legislation that would allow the Association to work state by state to expand coverage and bring coverage to working owners without additional employees.
Early this year, Dr. Joe Kinnarney, AVMA Life chair, declared the return of the popular AVMA membership benefit during the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference. "This is a big win for our members," he said. "As the program gradually rolls out, more and more AVMA members will be able to provide competitive benefits to their employees."
Given the recent time frame of the launch, AVMA Life was not able to provide figures on how many had enrolled as of press time in mid-July.
History of association health plans
The AVMA offered health insurance for nearly 60 years until 2013, when provisions in the Affordable Care Act effectively ended association health plans. Roughly 17,500 AVMA members and thousands of their dependents lost their health insurance as a result.
We're thrilled to bring back this important benefit for our members, and we're working aggressively to continue expanding our coverage areas.
AVMA President John de Jong
The AVMA has since worked through its Government Relations Division to bring back association health plans. In conjunction with other professional associations, the AVMA helped launch the Coalition to Protect and Promote Association Health Plans to work with state and federal insurance officials to implement a framework for AHPs that will ensure the marketplace is viable and successful.
In June 2018, the Department of Labor issued regulations expanding the criteria for small businesses to band together to form association health plans.
In March 2019, however, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacated portions of these regulations after the state of New York, along with 10 other states and the District of Columbia, sued to block them, arguing that these regulations would undermine the Affordable Care Act. The government is currently appealing the court's decision.
"Although the legal challenge to aspects of the Labor Department's final rule has not yet been finally resolved, AVMA and AVMA Life have positioned the new association health insurance plan to be in legal compliance regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit," Dr. Kinnarney said.
In a statement, the AVMA and AVMA Life said the new health program "will meet the same high standards our members have come to expect, while also covering essential health benefits and not charging more for or excluding individuals with pre-existing health conditions."
Related JAVMA content:
Health insurance plans could soon return as AVMA member benefit (March 1, 2019)
AVMA GHLIT medical insurance to end after 2013 (Feb. 15, 2013)