The NC Chamber is researching potential opportunities that will meaningfully establish Association Health Plans (AHPs) in our state, believing that they provide a valuable and essential coverage option particularly for small businesses who need this health care option to care for their people. This is imperative if we are to remain the top state for business while competing in today’s global economy.
That’s why our government affairs staff is currently holding meetings with other state chambers that have successfully implemented AHPs or similar plans and looking at the unique gaps specific to North Carolina. We have also commissioned a study led by MultiState Associates, Inc. to learn more about what is working well and not amongst states that have either implemented or are working to implement AHPs in their states.
In one such conversation with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Chief Experience Officer Morgan Law spoke about the success of the organization’s Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement (MEWA) health plan—a plan that operates similarly in many ways to AHPs.
The company’s plan—named the SMART Plan—has been running strong for five years and currently covers 50,000 lives, which includes local state chambers and Georgia Chamber members and allows employees to have valuable plans and an attractive premium.
“The SMART Plan is a response to many of our members asking us for help in securing affordable, quality health care insurance for their employees,” said Law. “Our members are very supportive of the effort as it is a meaningful employee retention solution and filled a gap in the market.”
Large businesses and government employers traditionally have access to higher value, lower costs plans, which smaller businesses in the current health care infrastructure cannot afford. However, MEWAs—like AHPs—allow both the local Georgia chambers and small businesses that participate in the program to band together and offer similar caliber health benefits as large company health plans.
One of the local Georgia chambers, Athens Area Chamber of Commerce has been part of the SMART Plan for several years now, and it has gotten extremely positive feedback from its small business members who take part in the plan.
David Bradley, president and CEO of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, provided one such example saying, “We have a restaurant member that has two locations with 40 employees, and this plan saved them $40,000 in the first year. This plan made our Chamber relevant to businesses where we were irrelevant before.”
As home to RTP, leading research institutions, a dominant insurance carrier, and some of the nation’s top medical systems and pharmaceutical manufacturers, North Carolina has every resource needed to drive change.
Organizations need options such as AHPs, because health care solutions are not one-size-fits-all. AHPs would allow smaller groups to gain regulatory and economic benefits of a large group plan—enabling them to band together to manage risk and lower costs. This provides businesses with significant savings when compared to a commercial small group market plan.
The NC Chamber team will continue to share success stories and developments related to AHPs with you as we hopefully edge toward developing a legislative bill that would benefit North Carolina local chambers and small-to-medium sized businesses.